In this post I will discuss what neuroplasticity is and why it is so important.
Neuroplasticity was first coined by Italian psychiatrist Ernest Lugaro in 1906, according to Plasticity Brain Centers (wow, history). The term describes the brains ability to change, adapt, learn, fix and recover. Neuro-plasticity, neuro means brain and plasticity comes from the Greek word plastos, which means moldable.
Most of us know that the brain is an ever changing organ(ism), how else could we learn, remember, and apply? Despite this, it is more important to know how the brain changes and adapts than to just say it does. Our neuro network of a million billion circuits are constantly flowing and flying through the brain. The connections of neurons are created and also eliminated through a process called synaptic pruning (a great video explaining this by Quantum University is accessible here). Synaptic pruning is basically the process of keeping the neural connections that you use the most while eliminating the ones you do not use to maximize efficiency and energy. This relates to the brains love of survival.
The brain and mind do not want pain or discomfort. (Emphasis on that period). They seek comfort and familiarity. The neural connections are created and deeply embedded in comfort and familiarity. The only thing rational to our minds is survival. This was great back in the day, but we no longer have saber tooth tigers to run from or need to hunt woolly mammoths. Being inclined to seek comfort is now working against us.
Look at our brain in terms of dirt pathways. If you use one pathway more than the others, it will become more worn and clearer to walk through. However, if you stop using the same pathway and choose another, then the old pathway will start to become overgrown with grass and weeds while the new recently chose path will clear up and become easier to walk through. The creation of myelin on nerve connections contributes to the creation of easier pathways through repetition and other factors (a great book on myelin and creating ‘greatness’ is The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle). More than likely you use the path that originally seemed easier to walk through than the others, but like was said before and will be said over and over again throughout this blog, the easy pathway is stifling your growth.
So not only do our brains seek comfort, it also ignores pain, disposes of non used neural connections, and keeps highly used neural connections. Seems like everything is working against you to go out of your comfort zone and become that ‘new’ you. Well, it technically is, at first. We know it is not easy to go outside our comfort zone, to walk into the unknown and face your fears. We know this so well. However, our brains are plastic and can change. Once we make that first leap, making it again becomes easier. That new neural connection starts to be used more and more and therefore creates a stronger connection that your brain wants to keep. I’m sure you understand what I am saying, but let me say it again. Your brain will make a physical change, allowing you to get outside your comfort zone easier! It’s a scientific fact! Like holy shit, realize the weight of this. You have the power to literally do anything you want. Your brain will fight you at first, as you put it through a little pain and discomfort, but it will soon change to help you. It will grow as you have grown while experiencing extreme uncomfort.
An interesting video on training your mind can be found here, it’s a TED Talk called “To Reach Beyond Your Limits by Training Your Mind” by Marisa Peer.