Maybe you’ve heard about neuroplasticity from science journals, health magazines, or from the news. The term may sound technical, but it actually refers to your brain’s ability to adapt to the environment. It’s a lifetime process of “reorganising itself by forming new neural connections,” according to MedicineNet.com.
Why Neuroplasticity is Important
When your brain gets injured or damaged by disease, neuroplasticity allows you to recover. Your brain reorganises its physical structure and the way it functions according to your environment.
Evidence in the last 30 years shows that the brain is not as fixed as medical experts initially thought. Studies have also shown that your mind can repair and rewire itself.
What’s great about this discovery is this also means that neuroplasticity will not only help you recover from traumatic brain injury or stroke, but it can also help you make your life better as you can rewire your brain to establish better habits that contribute to your health, success, and well-being.
While your brain undergoes changes with or without your consent, you can control and set the direction for these changes. Here are five ways to increase and harness the power of neuroplasticity:
1. Get enough quality sleep.
Your brain needs sleep to reset brain connections that are important for memory and learning. Just one night of losing sleep impedes the brain’s ability to reset itself, which impairs your memory. For adults 26 to 64 years old, the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day.
2. Continue learning and keep moving.
Whether it’s learning a new language or a type of dance, the process of learning something new improves brain plasticity. Learning and practising a new language has been found to strengthen the brain. You can also learn a musical instrument or an art skill.
The brain benefits from learning the way your body benefits from exercise. One study reveals that “the brains of the successful learners had undergone functional changes — the brain network was better integrated.”
But exercise itself is also beneficial to the brain. Cardiovascular exercises boost oxygen supply to the brain and increase brain volume. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week.
3. Reduce stress.
Stress is a silent killer, and it also diminishes neuroplasticity. If you can’t reduce the sources of stress in your life, you can change how you respond to it. An excellent way to de-stress is to surround yourself with nature or to travel. Meditation is another way to control your stress responses.
4. Find a strong purpose for what you’re planning to learn.
Dr Michael Merzenich, author of Soft-Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life says that brain change will be more significant if you’re motivated and alert. If you find a good reason for learning, then you will try harder and focus more on the task. This has been found to enhance neuroplasticity.
5. Read a novel.
Researchers at Emory University have found that reading fiction creates heightened connectivity in the brain. Apart from this, reading stories provides a chance for you to relax.
You can reshape your life by reshaping your brain. Start doing the tips above to increase neuroplasticity at any age.