Self-directed brain neuroplasticity? As I have explored the concept of brain fitness, two words keep popping up over and over, neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.
Neurogenesis describes the birth of new neurons in the human brain. The discovery of neurogenesis not too many years ago overthrew a lot of previous dogma and theory about the human brain and the human experience.
And I think it gives some of us Boomers a bit more confidence as we age into our 60's and 70's about our ability to maintain our mental effectiveness.
I guess I should speak for myself, and I am relieved to know that I have new neurons appearing in the memory centers daily. Now to get them locked in.
The other term, neuroplasticity. refers to the brain rewiring itself based on usage.
Somehow I had gotten the idea that that neuroplasticity happened when a critical mass of knowledge was reached, and then the brain changed somehow, than knowledge needed to be poured in until another critical mass was reached, and I had another new addition added somewhere in my neural architecture again, like a wing to a library.
Imagine my surprise to learn that brain neuroplasticity does not have as much to do with stored knowledge as it does with neurons reaching out to each other to connect when new information is processed or a new topic is learned about, which is a CONSTANT process, ongoing, ceaseless, sort of what I would imagine the Dance of Shiva to look like.
New connections can be formed, according to Simon Evans, Ph.D. co-author of Brainfit for Life, in minutes and hours, not after some critical mass is reached once per year, or something.
I am delighted to know that my brain is letting its dendrites and axons do the walking, to paraphrase that old Bell Telephone commercial, all the time.
Self Directed Brain Neuroplasticity
Now there are folks out there talking about self-directed neuroplasticity which is apparently the administration of sound, light, taste, smell, and tactile stimulus to the brain so that its change or building of connections is not so random, hence self directed.
Seems to me that has been around for a long time, whether you call it meditation or nlp or cognitive behavioral therapy.
Why for example, would a mystic spend a lifetime contemplating an icon, or a guru spend a lifetime practicing meditation in isolation?
I know I have used sound and light technology and biofeedback to accomplish something similar, the establishment of habits which are strong and deep, which must strengthen the connection between the neurons.
S.A. West writes the following in her blog....,"As we will often mention here, our brains are constantly changing, rewiring, making new connections between synapses. These changes are a result of the brain's neuroplasticity, its impressive ability to reorganize.
As these brain remodels take place, we have two choices. We can let them happen with our "self reduced to its bare minimum." Or we can awaken "our faculties," direct the changes, and turn neuroplasticity into self-directed neuroplasticity (a phrase coined by Jeff). When our brains are engaging in neuroplasticity without our knowledge, direction, or awareness, our brains are changing accidentally. When we are employing self-directed neuroplasticity, we are changing our brains on purpose. Accidental and on purpose are two very different ways of being in the world, and only one allows for autonomy and maximum performance.
The people adept at sculpting and rewiring their brains on purpose are better at facilitating dispute resolution. They may have greater levels of resilience, spontaneity, creativity, concentration, observation, and other traits and skills instrumental in moving towards agreement. They can use their higher faculties and are not a slave to habit. They are on purpose." Part of what I want to do in my life is exactly what Ms. West describes.
She goes on the outline some paper and pencil kinds of mindfulness exercises.
I think it is important to do the mindfulness in brief bursts. My mind is supposed to pay attention to movement in the environment. That is called the human orienting response, so maybe I do mindfulness exercises to engineer brain neuoplasticity using computerized brain fitness programs, and the meditative aspects of mindfulness can happen when I am exercising and breathing deep. That can happen while pushing the lawnmower in the yard, if I focus on something, like a mantra.
Would You Share Something That You Are Grateful For?
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.