Until about 50 years ago, scientists believed that the brain didn’t change after childhood. Now we know instead that the brain can and does change throughout our life. It keeps adapting and reconfiguring its structure, in response to new information, sensorial and environmental stimulation, thoughts and even damage. The brain’s ability to do all this is called neuroplasticity.
The scientists who study it and its impact on people’s lives are called neuroscientists.
The brain of a child is more plastic, which is why it’s easier and quicker for them to learn compared to adults, but this shouldn’t make us give up on learning new skills as neuroplasticity is always happening, every day, regardless of our age.
There’s a large amount of scientific research that show that with neuroplasticity it is possible to rewire our brain. For example, we can choose to build positive thoughts and emotions and become less habituated to negative ones. How does this happen?
In the brain, there are cells called neurons. Every time we do, or feel, something, the neurons connect. These connections enable physical movements, thoughts and emotions. The more we make those connections happen the more they become stronger. It’s like exercising muscles – if we make them move, they become stronger.
So, if we feel anxious, a connection in our brain builds up. If we keep being anxious that connection becomes stronger making, as a result, the “non-anxious” connections weaker. When the connections become strong, they become second nature so, in this case, anxiety would belong to us.
When we’re learning a new language, new connections in our brain are created. The more we practice, the stronger these connections get, and over time, we will become more fluent, and the “new” language will seem to come easier. The same happens when we learn how to play a musical instrument.
Depending on what connections we want to happen, depending therefore on how we use our brain, we can change and rewire it. In other words, we can shape our brains in beneficial ways by having healthy habits in the mind.
So, this is what neuroplasticity is and what we can do with this magical brain activity.
Now, if you want to read more about this topic, which is a scientific one, you might be tempted to read this book. I’d advise you to think twice. Be warned that the author is not a scientist or a medical doctor. The letters “Dr.” in front of his name on the cover of the book are deceiving.
I had a suspicion he was not who I thought he was (i.e. a neuroscientist – because studying neuroscience doesn’t make you one) when I read: “Can we accept that the long-term effects of our habitual thinking just might be the cause of how our body moves to a state of imbalance, or what we call disease?” .
It reminded me of Eckhart Tolle, when in his book “The power of now”, he says that emotional pain is the main cause of physical pain and physical disease. I’m wary of these kinds of statements. As I mentioned in my review of that book – what about people who have a genetic syndrome or are injured in an accident – their emotions are certainly not to blame for their disease! And just to clarify, Tolle is not a doctor nor a scientist either. He’s a “spiritual teacher”.
But let’s get back to the author of the book this post is about “Evolve your brain“. If you go to his website, this is how you’re welcomed, with a nice “SHOP NOW” call-to-action button.
I wish I had investigated this author’s credentials before I started reading the book and not while I was already reading it. He’s one of those gurus who tells a woman struggling with infertility that to solve this issue she must focus on how bad she wants a baby. Yes, we all know that how we feel can impact our lives and it’s been scientifically demonstrated that this can even help to heal, but you don’t encourage people who have a medical problem to substitute this for real medical doctors’ treatments. He does this in the book too, for instance, he speaks about an apparently life-saving surgery that he avoided because he preferred to do mental rehearsals instead. This is too dangerous to convey as a message because not only does it not solve the problem and, in some instances, it can make it even worse (to the extreme of death as well), but it might potentially add another one, by making feel people responsible of their illness given that they don’t feel or think the “right feeling or thought”. For this reason, I’m not going to read anything else by this author.
In the end, despite my strong resistance towards this book after having read who the author is (not), it wasn’t a bad read, the main topics are most interesting and it’s well written. A big part of it is dedicated to brain biology and the rest to how we can be in control of our lives by using our brain more consciously through self-observation and mental rehearsal. All based on this amazing ability of the brain called neuroplasticity.
The biggest thought I had while reading the book was “what if spiritual reality exists but some people, like me, don’t experience it just because they don’t use the part of the brain meant to perceive it?“.
I overall liked this book, but I do not recommend reading it nor anything else written by this author.
Title: Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind
Author: Joe Dispenza
Year first published: 1999
Ever wonder why you repeat the same negative thoughts in your head? Why you keep coming back for more from hurtful family members, friends, or significant others? Why you keep falling into the same detrimental habits or limiting attitudes, even when you know that they are going to make you feel bad?
Dr. Joe Dispenza has spent decades studying the human mind, how it works, how it stores information, and why it perpetuates the same behavioural patterns over and over. In the acclaimed film What the Bleep Do We Know!? he began to explain how the brain evolves, by learning new skills, developing the ability to concentrate in the midst of chaos, and even healing the body and the psyche.
Evolve Your Brain presents this information in depth, while helping you take control of your mind, explaining how thoughts can create chemical reactions that keep you addicted to patterns and feelings, including ones that make you unhappy. And when you know how these bad habits are created, it’s possible to not only break these patterns, but also reprogram and evolve your brain, so that new, positive, and beneficial habits can take over.
This is something you can start to do right now. You and only you have the power to change your mind and evolve your brain for a better life, for good.