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Unlocking the Power of Neuroplasticity for a Sharper Mind and Healthier Life

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Neuroplasticity refers to the malleability of our brain, or more simply, its capacity to change.

We used to believe that the brain reached its peak potential in adulthood and didn’t change until it degenerated later in life. Now, we know that everything we do and experience changes the brain.

This article will help you understand the brain’s adaptability and provide a blueprint for unlocking greater potential.

What Is Neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity happens when our brains adapt and change in response to our behaviour and environment. And with healthy habits, you can literally rewire your brain.

Increased mental exercise strengthens the brain and forms more connections, spanning gray and white matter. 

Gray matter supports muscle control, sensory perception, memory, emotions, speech, decision-making, and self-control. While white matter serves as the connective framework linking various regions of grey matter.

When you train your brain through exercises like meditation and learning a new language, you foster more resiliency by increasing the amount of gray and white matter.

Real-World Examples Of Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize and adapt, can be leveraged through many daily practices. Here are some real-world examples. 

  1. Linguistics: Learning a new language stimulates neuroplastic changes. Bilingual individuals often exhibit increased grey matter density in language-related areas.
  2. Mindfulness Meditation: Regular mindfulness practice improves focus and resilience by changing your brain’s regions associated with attention and emotional regulation.
  3. Musical Training: Musicians, through repetitive practice, reshape their brains. This happens in your brain’s auditory processing, motor skills, and coordination regions.
  4. Stroke Rehabilitation: The brain can rewire after a stroke to compensate for damaged areas. Rehabilitation exercises like constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) leverage neuroplasticity to enhance motor recovery.
  5. Sensory Adaptation: Individuals who lose one sense often experience heightened abilities in other senses as the brain reallocates resources. This adaptation is a testament to the brain’s flexibility.

The Benefits Of Mindfulness And Neuroplasticity

When we engage and challenge our mind and body, we build resiliency.

Practicing mindfulness, or being fully present at any moment, increases our self-awareness, self-compassion, focus and attention and can increase gray matter in areas of our brain that control these functions. 

Andrew Huberman’s 8 Practical Strategies To Activate Neuroplasticity

Getting your blood flowing and becoming alert is important before you sit down to do a task. Tony Robbins, a life and business strategist, encourages people in his seminars to get into a ‘peak state’ before approaching an important task. This typically means short bouts of jumping up and down, shaking energetically, running on the spot and then sitting down to tackle your task.

Tony’s peak state formula is backed by science and intertwines with Andrew Huberman’s strategies for nurturing neuroplasticity in your brain.

  1. Get Alert: We must be alert to trigger neuroplasticity. One simple way to become more alert is 25-30 deep breaths (inhales through the nose and exhales through the mouth). Then exhale your air and hold your breath for 15-60 seconds. Then inhale once and hold your breath. Return to normal breathing once you feel the impulse to.
  1. Get Focused: Mental focus follows visual focus. To prepare your mind for the task you are about to do, stare at a point on a wall, screen, or object for 30-60 seconds before starting.
  1. Generate Repetitions: For some types of learning, “repetitions” will be actual repeats of something- learning scales of music, for instance.
  1. Expect & Embrace Errors: Errors during learning are terrific because they increase activation of the neural circuits that increase alertness. When we make errors, it feels “stressful,” but that is just an increase in attention that puts us in a much better place to perform and execute learning.
  1. Insert Micro-Rest Intervals: Studies in humans have shown that when we are trying to learn something if we pause every so often for 10 seconds and do nothing during the pause, neurons in the hippocampus and cortex—areas of the brain involved in learning and memory, engage the same patterns of neural activity that occurred during the actual act of reading, musical practice, or whatever you were focusing on.
  2. Limit Learning Sessions To 90 Minutes: Solid research shows that 90 minutes is the longest period to maintain focus and effort toward learning. Shorter bouts are fine, but after roughly 90 minutes, take a break.
  1. After A Learning Bout, Do An NSDR (Non-Sleep Deep Rest) Protocol: Two studies on humans published in the last 2 years show that shallow naps and/or NSDR can enhance the rate and depth of learning. This is an easy practice to incorporate. Within 1 hour of completing a learning bout, do a short NSDR protocol, like a 20-minute yoga nidra session.
  1.  Get Quality & Long Deep Sleep At Night: The actual rewiring of neural circuits that underlie learning occurs during sleep and NSDR. Think of the learning bout as the “trigger” or stimulus for the possibility that we might learn, but sleep and NSDR are when the actual learning—the neural circuit rewiring, occurs.

How Do I Activate Neuroplasticity In My Day-To-Day Routine?

It’s natural to do what feels comfortable. We brush our teeth and hair with the same hand, we put the same shoe on first, and take the same route to work every day. Our brains need novelty to thrive.

So consider these:

  • Learn a new language
  • Learn to play an instrument
  • Visit a different part of the city, state or country
  • Go to a museum or concert
  • Cook new foods or listen to different music
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Use your alternate hand to brush your teeth or write
  • Put your sock on while balancing on the other leg

Anything you can do to challenge and interrupt the hard-wired patterns in your brain will help activate neuroplasticity. 

Embracing Novelty In Daily Life To Unlock Neuroplastic Potential

Embracing novelty is the key to cultivating neuroplasticity. Our brains are wired to thrive on new experiences, constantly seeking stimulation and challenges to break free from routine.

You’re now equipped with the tools and knowledge to experiment in the wild. Put these protocols into action and begin to rewire your brain.

About the author
Picture of Gabe Fontana

Gabe Fontana

A freelance writer who strives for clarity, brevity, and humanity. He takes complex topics and make them approachable and fun to read. Find him online at www.fontanacopy.com to view the breadth of his work.

Gabe Fontana

A freelance writer who strives for clarity, brevity, and humanity. He takes complex topics and make them approachable and fun to read. Find him online at www.fontanacopy.com to view the breadth of his work.

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