What? I Can Change my Brain?
by Cecilia Ray
Recent research tells us that not only do we continue to grow new brain cells, but we can also reprogram areas of our brain to serve new functions. Our brain has plasticity. Joe Dispenza D.C., author of Evolve Your Brain, puts it this way, “We are only beginning to understand the brain’s ability to change both functionally and structurally.” Sounds terrific, doesn’t it? Maybe yes, depends on what you change.
From what I understand, our brains are much like a topographical map with different areas devoted to a lifetime of knowledge and skills learned from our environment through our senses. The more we study or focus on a certain subject or situation, the larger that area becomes on the map, and the less space other less active areas occupy.
I find the example of a garden an easy analogy to understand how this works. Like plants in the garden space, each part of our life has its designated space while connected to the whole map. When we plant new seeds or fertilize an area of the garden, it grows and spreads. Our brain map acts the same way when we take up a new interest or focus on a particular subject or activity for a period of time. The activated region begins to encroach on other areas that are not activate and overtake their space.
Babies have very plastic brain maps because they are in the early stages of filling in knowledge, skills, and beliefs. They learn quickly. Once a person has matured, it becomes harder to learn an entirely new language, skill, or change beliefs. The map has been written, and something has to be encroached on to allow for the new information. Think of trying to pour water in a full glass. If you continue to pour, some of the new water will find space and push out the some of the old water.
Continued in next column.
The concept of plasticity goes back to 1763 when Jean Jacques Roussear, a Swiss philosopher, wrote about it in a book on child development. The idea was not recognized by most scholars or scientist for over two centuries. More recent discoveries have allowed the concept of plasticity to be more accepted. Books like Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Daniel J. Seigel M.D., describe experiments and case studies where major changes happened in people’s lives when they changed beliefs or developed new habits. Even a 92-year-old man was able to create a more balanced life by focusing on activities that expanded his ability to feel emotions. Seigel states, “Neuroplasticity is possible throughout the lifespan, not just in childhood. Besides focusing attention, other factors that enhance neuroplasticity include aerobic exercise, novelty, and emotional arousal.”
How might this ability to change become a negative factor? It can happen if we get caught in a spiral of depression, dwell on a traumatic incident that happened in our life or are exposed to too much negativity or violent energy. The world, the news, and our communities are full of negativity, but the opposite is true as well. We can feed the weeds, or we can tend to the flowers and vegetables we plant. When we feed the weeds, they will overtake the areas that bring us peace and happiness. We have a choice, but we must be conscious of which areas we want to expand and shift our focus when necessary. If you want to have a better life, tend to your brain map like it is a garden. Remove the weeds and replace them with more positive thoughts. Spend time affirming, visualizing, staying aware, meditating, or whatever it takes to expand the areas that bring more joy into your life. Your brain map is your garden, and you are the gardener.
Sources: Dispenza, D.C., Evolve Your Brain, health Communications, Inc., 2007.
Doidge M.D., Norman, The Brain that Changes Itself, Penguin Books, 2007.
Siegel, M.D., Daniel J., Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, Bantam Books, 2010.
Word Search #2
Put your brain to work. Test your Aromatherapy knowledge. Hidden in this word search are 20 names of Essential Oils. Two are two-word names.
Cecilia Ray, MA is the owner and publisher of A Lighter View. She also owns Gems of Gaia, the parent company of World of Gaia, an online retail business specializing in rocks and books.
Cecilia holds a Master's in Education and has taught in the public schools and the personal development field. She founded and owned Vision Quest Educational Center and Bookstore in Everett from 1995 to 2005. She and her husband opened World of Gaia, a retail gift and rock store, in Oroville in 2011. In 2019, after her husband passed, she closed the storefront and maintained the online division.
Her background includes a variety of trainings and business ownerships. She is now working with writers and businesses to serve the creative, spiritual and holistic community with this magazine.