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  • Writer's pictureSusan Cimino

What is the Meaning of Neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity is a term that describes our brain’s ability to change and adapt throughout a lifespan. In essence, each time we have a thought, feeling or experience, some of our neurons (brain cells) gather together and form a connection based on that thought, feeling, or experience. When particular thoughts, feelings and experiences are repeated, more neurons gather together and form a neuropathway. As an analogy, we can imagine walking across a grassy meadow. When we only walk across once, there may be no evidence of our walk. However continually walking along the same line, will form a path. That path will become deeper and wider the more we (and perhaps others) walk across it. Likewise, when we have more and more thoughts, feelings and experiences along the same neuropathway, it will become deeper and more imbedded which will eventually effect our perception of ourselves, others and the world.

If we have a history of trauma, or numerous disturbing thoughts feelings or experiences over time, our perception of ourselves, others and the world are likely very bleak. We will often experience automatic negative thoughts occurring throughout each day, overwhelming emotions and continued disturbing experiences that create a neural network of pathways that can make life very difficult. This can cause low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, severe anxiety, difficulty trusting others, troubled relationships, fear of the future and numerous other symptoms. It is important that we realize these are symptoms, not characteristics. Fortunately symptoms are treatable!

It is necessary to become aware of our negative thoughts. When we become aware of them, we can redirect them. For example, if we have thoughts of feeling worthless, we can catch ourselves having that negative thought and replace it with a positive affirmation “I am valuable.” We can then repeat to ourselves “I am valuable.” Over time, we will create a new neuropathway that believes we are valuable, which can improve our sense of self-worth. It requires diligence to rewire our brain. In fact, when we begin implementing positive affirmations, we will unlikely feel or believe the affirmation because that pathway has not yet been created. It might take a couple of months if we are diligent, to grow a new neuropathway. That means repeating something over and over to ourselves that we do not necessarily believe. However, if we understand the concept of neuroplasticity, we can trust the process and have motivation to make changes to our perception, in order to improve our life experience.

Our brain believes what we tell it! Let’s tell our brain things that will enable us to feel better about ourselves, others and the world!

By Susan Cimino

LPC


Photo Credit: https://www.theothub.com/article/neuroplasticity

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