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Mind you, we are talking about the brain.
And if you don’t like the one you have right now, I come bearing good news. You can change your brain. Yes! It’s incredible but absolutely doable. And I’ll show you more than 10 ways to make your brain sharper, better and more agile.
Contrary to what was believed until recently, new research proved that the brain can form new neural pathways and drop the ones of no importance, leading to functional and structural changes in the brain well beyond the formative years. This ability of the brain to form new neural pathways and adapt to changes over time is called neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity means you can rewire the brain and train it to think, react, feel a certain way, master a new skill, become sharper, and stay positive or depressed. When you repeat an action, the neural pathway associated with that action gets reinforced, meaning you have trained your brain to use that neural pathway or shaped the brain in a certain way.
When you learn a new skill or adopt a new habit, the brain develops a new neural pathway or structure. This means creating a habit is difficult because the brain needs to shape itself differently. This also means that a new habit, pattern or practice shapes the brain in newer ways. The neural pathways which aren’t used are dropped. So you can train it to forget switching to the victim mode.
Now, suppose you practice gratitude every day for a few days. You are training the brain to form and use the neural pathway associated with it. After a few days, say about 21, your brain will start looking for positive things in everyday life. It will make you feel happy. If you were to go over an awful experience repeatedly, you would train the brain to feel sad and depressed.
Neuroplasticity is fascinating.
American psychologist Carol Dweck says a growth mindset is imperative for enhancing the brain. In her Harvard Business Review article, she explains, “Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts).” By challenging our brains to solve more complex problems, we practice the growth mindset. In her popular Ted Talk on the subject, she shares that the students who were told that they hadn’t found the solution to a problem yet were more likely to succeed. That ‘yet’ could make all the difference and shape us to have a new approach to life and problems.
Meditation is yet another potent tool to change the brain. You have experienced the benefits, and science endorses it, too. In 2011, Harvard researchers found that eight weeks of mindfulness meditation increased cortical thickness in the hippocampus (the seat of learning and memory). It also improves mood, concentration, and cognitive functions.
As I said, it is possible to physically alter the brain. You don’t need to do anything monumental about it. In a study conducted by University of Adelaide neuroscientists, it was found that even a single session of 30-minute aerobic exercise sparked changes in the brain. Although changing a habit is itself a monumental task, for it requires an alternate neural pathway.
Pranayama has also been proven to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system that signals the body to calm down and relax. Reading, travelling, solving a problem, creating art and learning a new instrument are great ways to keep the grey matter growing.Here are more than 10 ways to change your brain. tell a friend
Our weekly round-up will show you 10 more ways to fire those neurons. Psst! Including one by Hindi film writer Mahendra Jakhar. These have been personally tested by our community members.
Using the Brain to Access Infinite Imagination: Popular film writer Mahendra Jakhar says that the story came to him in visuals which later became scenes in the film Manjhi — The Mountain Man. Upon further inquiry, he figured that a rested brain allows the mind to find answers from a higher realm. He shares the secret.
How Fear Affects the Brain: Fear stimulates the amygdala, the part of the brain that activates the flight or fight response of the body and releases stress hormones. Swati Gunwant dives into the workings of the sympathetic nervous system and offers ways to deal with fear. She shares tips to help stay calm.
A ‘What’ for Controlling Emotional Response: Charu Joshi writes that the simple act of translating our emotions into language — versus simply experiencing them — can help us stay in control of our response. To check the brain from activating the flight-or-fight response, ask ‘what’, not ‘why’.
Get the Brain to Alter Habits With a Simple Why: Asking the right question helps the brain understand the cause of addiction or even see hurdles on the path to altering a habit. Aditya Shahi got rid of his addiction with a simple ‘why’. He pens a few insights for us.
Learning a New Language Faster: Learning a new language improves the brain’s cognitive functions and improves creative thinking, besides many other benefits. Suchali Lotlikar shares her personal experience of learning Marathi. One of the unconventional things she did to become fluent was mopping the floor.
Mind Your Brain: Listen to the mind, gut, or intuition (whatever name you like), and the brain will help you achieve it. For instance, Komal addressed her gut feeling and used her brain to ace her exam.
Willpower to Train the Brain For Better Decisions: Willpower activates the prefrontal cortex (the front part of the brain) responsible for making decisions. The more you practice willpower, the stronger it becomes, the better decisions you make. Varun Om Khosla writes about sankalpa shakti (willpower) and why you should protect your vow with all your might. He shares his own daunting sankalap that he saw to a logical conclusion — it involved bathing in cold water twice a day in Delhi’s winter.
Deep Breathing to Enhance Brain Power: Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system that signals the body to calm down. It also releases endorphins — neurotransmitters that give us a sense of pleasure, well-being, and safety. There are several other benefits that Jayshree Om lists down as she shares her personal journey of coming out of depression using breathwork. She also shares an effective technique that she has tried, tested and found to be beneficial.
Booked This Week
Our brain is a dynamic organ.
Change Your Brain Change Your Life by Sondra Kornblatt is a fantastic book to understand how the brain works and alter it to suit our needs. This book lays out a practical plan to help make the brain sharper, stronger, younger, and more flexible. It lists several boosters and activities to improve cognition, creativity, and life quality.
Here are a few simple things I picked up from the book:
- Cross-crawl is an effective way to get the left and the right hemisphere to connect. Simply touch the right leg with the left hand and vice versa to link the two hemispheres
- Brush with the non-dominant hand to fire new neural connections
- Rearrange the furniture to stimulate the brain
- Even thumb wrestling keeps the brain agile (and my kids happy)
Wisdom From Swamiji
Realizing Your True Potential: Working to our full potential is the key to lasting happiness. But how does one tap their full potential? Swamiji’s invaluable insights to the rescue.
How To Increase Brain Power: Three simple steps to harness the power of your brain. The possibilities are infinite! Read this fabulous article by Swamiji.
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Quote of the Week
‘My brain is the key that sets me free ~~ Harry HoudiniWe are talking about the brain! If you don’t like the one you have right now, I come bearing good news. You can change your brain. tell a friend
I loved curating this editorial! For our next, let’s share some tips on manifestation — how to, tips and tricks, success stories, un-success stories, and everything in between. As always, personal stories make the cut.
I hope you enjoyed reading this round-up as much as I delighted in putting it together. What did you find helpful? Do you have any hacks to hack into the walnut in the head? Let’s discuss.
Make it a September to remember!
PS: Did you read this Healthline.com article yet? Swamiji shares insights about the vow of silence 🙂