Most of us don’t think about our brains much beyond school. I get it. School having overlays of ‘less than happy’ experiences for many, we readily leave unpleasant learning associations behind. We get on with our lives, giving attention only to the things which attract our attention.
It’s good for us to look up and round beyond our self-chosen thinking topics occasionally. And today I’d like to tell you three things about your brain we’ve figured out recently. Not for any schoolish reasons: because they have implications for you and the life you’re living! Or maybe want to live. Here’s an overview of some of the latest learning from brain science and research, and what it means to you.
Our brains are plastic!
Well, sort of. Not the ‘bad for the environment’ type of plastic. And our blood and neurons/the biological parts of us aren’t replaced by it either. But ‘plasticity’ is a relatively new concept with regard to brain science, and a hot topic within research.
Plasticity refers to the ongoing changeability of our brains. You see, once upon a time it was thought that your brain only grew and developed whilst your body did. Which meant – pretty much – that it was all over red rover by your early 20’s. Whatever you’d learnt by then was it, and any effort you put in after that age would have limited benefit. What’s more, injuries to the brain were considered permanent. Therefore, a stroke or a car accident was a life sentence.
Now we know that’s just not true. And since our brains are plastic, we’ve never ending potential. Even should part of your brain die, other areas can take over, learn, and help you adjust.
What’s that to you? Well, even people who struggled in school can be confident that, with some application, they’ll be able to learn anything they decide to. Further study? Another set of job skills? Yes, it’s possible for your brain to take them in. Sorry you never learnt business at school? Start learning it now! Don’t like a particular memory? Learn how to change it. (Yes, it’s really possible!) Your options are wide open.
Our brain affects everything, including our health
We kinda knew this at one level already. I mean, it was obvious that our brain would have something to do with the way our body functions. After all, the nerves come out of your brain and stretch down your spine before extending to everywhere else. But, now we know there’s a strong connection between our mind and our heart – both the physical one pumping your blood round and the feeling part of you. And they together, greatly impact your health.
The University of Minnesota’s ‘Taking charge of your health and wellbeing’ site says that especially our negative thoughts and feelings can make us sick in a range of ways. In fact, Dr Caroline Leaf claims that 75-95% of our illnesses can result from what she calls toxic thoughts. Anger, fear, unforgiveness – these all have implications for the state of our physical bodies, as well as our emotional health.
That’s a good reason to work through and get beyond the hangups we all suffer from on occasion! They’re unpleasant, with negative consequences in even more ways than we thought. That’s one of my motivations for both this blog and my associated HeadSetGo! training site. I want us all to be able to live our best lives, and the way we think and feel can limit us greatly. Making adjustments in the way your brain thinks can improve your situation! Why not check out some options today?
What you think you become
This final truth is one I find confronting. If our brains are, indeed, plastic, then what we put into them matters. For whilst all areas of your brain continue to operate, the ones which show up most actively in a brain scan are the ones you’re constantly using. So, if you’re always dreaming about an upcoming holiday, that particular area of your thinking becomes busy. Neuron networks build themselves up to help you do that more easily. If you’re working on a new exercise, that area gains some strength.
But if you’re obsessing about something less helpful – like how someone did you wrong – well, the same thing happens. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a worry or an offence or sadness, those parts of your brain are strengthening their feedback loops in ways you’re not aware of but which’ll make getting over it so much harder. That’s why some people don’t seem to be able to let go and move on from past experiences. See why I think it’s confronting? We’re unwittingly shaping ourselves into the people we become with every choice we do (or don’t!) make!
To turn this back to a more optimistic thought, this gives you a massive degree of control over your future. No particular trait – from laziness to anger management – is beyond your shaping. You can choose to put uplifting content into your head and know it’ll bring you benefits. Further, the more you do this the better it is for you, and the better it’ll be for those around you too.
So consider what songs you’re listening to, what stuff you’re reading, what videos you’re watching. Who are you talking with, and about what? What’s your inner voice saying? Choose to pay attention to those things this week, and then decide if there’s better options you’d rather take.
Improve your world from anywhere, in the comfort of your own armchair? Now that’s something worth thinking about!