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Neuroplasticity: 6 Ways to Flex Your Brain
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you have likely been hearing about brain science and the benefits of neuroplasticity. But what does that really mean, and more importantly, what does it mean for you?
Thanks to the development of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in the last couple of decades, neurologist have been able to learn a lot about how the brain works. It’s new information that our brains are capable of both adaptive and proactive. It was previously believed that the adult brain is pretty much a static organ.
Plasticity is the quality of being easily shaped or molded. In terms of the brain, it means establishing new neuropathways and reorganizing synapses. It is the responsible for the way we permanently learn. It also enables people to recover from a stroke or other forms of brain damage or deficits.
For those of us who are not in recovery from a specific condition, neuroplasticity offers some benefit. Think of the brain like any other part of your body—the more we nourish it, the longer and better it functions. Tapping into neuroplasticity can keep the brain growing, increase mental acuity, improve focus, and even lower stress and improve mood.
Here are 5 Ways to Flex Your Brain
- Brush Your Teeth with Your Non-Dominant Hand
Most of us haven’t thought about it since grade school anatomy lesson, but the brain tells our bodies how to move. When we do something daily, it becomes a habit. We literally don’t think about it. Dislodging the pattern forcing your brain to think about what you are doing, how it is moving your body means you are forging a new neuropathway. Brushing your teeth, signing your name, opening doors with your non-dominant hand, are all ways to force your brain to focus.
- Drive a Different Route Home
Just like it tells our body how to move, the brain also directs us through our environment. Habitual travel, like to and from work, means that the brain is in a groove. The task of navigating a different route than usual requires your brain to fire synapses in a new groove. For added disorientation, you might reverse your sleep position with your head at the foot and your feet at the head of your bed.
- Double-up on Senses
Stop and smell the roses…while you listen to your favorite CD. Eat a delicious chocolate bar…while you look at a gorgeous sunset. Sensorial multitasking stretches your brains processing capabilities. Make a regular practice of doubling-up on your sensual experiences. One easy way to do this is to take a few extra minutes in the morning while you eat your breakfast or drink your coffee and play music.
- Magic Happens Outside Your Comfort Zone
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, actually you can. It’s common knowledge that kids learn more easily. Although it requires more patience to learn when we are older, acquiring new skills as an adult is not only satisfying and exciting, it’s a great way to grow your brain. Whether it’s learning to knit a sweater, speak a new language, play a new sport, or play an instrument, there’s magic to be found the expansion of your talents.
- Sleep Sleep Sleep
Slumber in and of itself will not rewire your brain, but it will prime it for success. A tired brain needs to allocate resources to keeping us safe. If you want to increase your brain’s neuroplasticity, nourish it with plenty of restorative sleep.