Change Your Brain
Only twenty years ago, psychologists believed that our brains were fully developed by adulthood. Everything was left up to parents, the environment a child was brought up in, and of course, genetics.
Guess what? They were wrong! Functional MRI technology– where awake people go into those big whirring machines which scan the brain– allows neuroscientists to understand that in fact that brain is VERY capable of changing.
There was no way to improve your mood disorder without medication and therapy. If you were diagnosed with depression, that is it, you are now “Depressed.”
Now, however, there is hope that we CAN change our brain, improve our mood, and live a happier, more fulfilling life.
Improve Your Mood By Allowing Life to Change You
Incredibly, our brain actually changes itself physically. All we have to do is make sure we are giving it the right kinds of opportunities. Scientists call this process “Neuroplasticity.”
Neuroplasticity can improve your mood symptoms, problem-solving skills, emotional regulation skills, and even your relationships. We don’t need to fully understand exactly HOW it works (I’ll leave that to the “brain scientists”, but we can respect that it DOES work… and give it a try!
When I shared this concept to a 19 year old client the other day, her eyes bugged out. She was clearly shocked…and relieved! She thought she was stuck with her low moods and problems forever. But she’s not, and neither are you. Read on…
How to Change Your Brain
- Have new experiences, such as traveling. Just being in a place where you don’t instinctively know how to get somewhere is a chance for your brain to make some new connections.
- Learn something! When was the last time you tried a new hobby, sport, or craft? It can be super frustrating at first, but that is just because your brain is confused about how to do it. Practice, repeat, and be open to learning: neuroplasticity ensures you will get the hang of it before too long… and the results will spill over elsewhere in your life.
- Change your diet by adding healthy, brain-boosting nutrients and minerals. Your brain, and body, will thank you. There’s a good chance you will improve your mood, as well.
- Pay attention! Your parents and teachers were right: if you pay close attention when someone is talking, or focus exclusively on an activity (rather than multitasking), your brain has a better chance of changing and growing.
- Get Social! Spending time with others opens your brain to new ideas and ways of thinking. Even better if you expand your social circle beyond your region, culture, and religion.
- Exercise. Working out not only builds muscle, but it helps the brain create new neural connections. Repetitive movements, such as yoga or Tai Chi, provide even more opportunity for neuroplasticity to work its magic!
- Meditate! There are so many benefits to meditation that go beyond just feeling great. Meditation loosens old connections in the brain, and literally makes room for new ones. It is kind of like taking an old Lego set and breaking it apart, so that you can build it again in a new, perhaps more helpful and interesting way.
- Feel ALL the feels. Many people are afraid to feel emotions, especially negative ones like sadness, disappointment, or hurt. But, allowing ourselves to feel our emotions– to ride the wave— is one incredible way to allow the brain to make new connections.
Need Some Motivation and Extra Support?
Making changes like this can be hard without extra support. Although it can change, our brain is hard-wired to keep taking the SAME paths it has always taken.
Think of the brain as a forest filled with hiking trails. Which one would you be most likely to travel down? The ones clearly labeled, well-worn, and marked with signposts telling you exactly how far until you reach your destination? Or, a barely-there towpath with an unclear direction?
Rarely will we pick the unfamiliar over the familiar. We are creatures of habit. It often takes a major life event, trauma, or crisis to shock us out of our usual patterns and thrust us into the realm of the unknown. But here is exactly where the growing happens.
Having some support for the journey is the money ticket. A guide for the road less-traveled. With the support of an online therapist you can safely explore even unmarked trails of your mind and make sense of new experiences and emotions.
Your mind will do the rest of the work through the amazing process of neuroplasticity. At the end of a few short weeks, you may find not only did you improve your mood, your relationships, and your outlook on life, but you may even have found strengths and skills you didn’t know existed.
Let’s get started.