What do alcohol addiction recovery and brain plasticity have in common?
Focus would be the keyword that comes to my mind.
Early in my recovery, I learned phrases like, "Gratitude is the attitude" and "Kiss", which I transformed into "Keep it Stupid, Simple," as a quick tool to keep from making things more complicated than I needed to.
Other phrases were, "Let go and Let God", "One Day at a Time", but the one that made the most difference for me, and it was a feeling difference was "Gratitude is the Attitude". Even though I did not have much in the way of material goods in those days, when I said that phrase to myself, I remembered that I was no longer experiencing hell, and I felt relief, strongly at first, and then fading, which I have come to understand, is the way I am supposed to work in regards to strong feelings of pleasure.
They were not meant to hang around for long, those feelings of pleasure and relief, so I need to repeat them frequently, for short bursts of internal satisfaction.
I did not learn that lesson overnight though, and if there is a gift that I have for those in recovery, it is that you need to practice your favorite recovery phrases like mantra's, frequently, but not to the point of drudgery.
And now, through the writings of Sharon Begley, who wrote about how the brain can be changed through attention, I know that all those repititions of thoughts and feelings changed my brain. Neuroplasticity in action.
My brain will strengthen the connections between neurons that fire together frequently, and the parts of the brain involved in those gratitude thoughts will get larger. That's right, they grow.
My ability to practice steadily is impacted by sleep, nutrition, commitment, physical exercise, and stress management.
And it turns out that there are now tools available that provide the opportunity for me to enhance the attentional circuits in my brain and make them stronger so that practicing my gratitude will be quicker, so healthy plasticity spirals in a positive direction, just like addiction spiraled in a negative direction.
Part of what Begley says in regards to neuroplasticity is that the challenge fomenting neuroplasticity must remain novel, which is what neuroscientists like Evans and Burghardt, who wrote
Brainfit for Life, meant when they talk about learning a new language or a new instrument.
There are always new languages and instruments or subtleties of the current challenge to master.
Michael Merzenich, Ph.D. of Posit Science, who has been a part of the neuroplasticity discovery process says the attention and challenge necessary to enhance neuroplasticity and neurogenesis must be of the right kind at the right time and delivered in the right way to induce the right brain chemistry.
His program, the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program, tested with lots of Senior Citizens, challenges the auditory system and its neurons.
I have that program because I have a 61 year old brain, and I fear losing it to Alzheimers Disease. That is a very primal fear, and I also want to see about enhancing what I have been practicing for the last three decades.
I also want to learn how to program the VCR and DVD player. Oh, there is no more VCR? Guess I missed that one, but if you are working on your recovery, then I suggest you look at the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program.
When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
Would you share what you are most grateful for? Your story could be just what another person is searching for to renew themselves? Thanks.