Have You Heard of Neuroplasticity?
Our amazing brains through the process of neuroplasticity can form new neural connections or pathways. It sounds amazing, but by understanding neuroplasticity and coupling this understanding with mindfulness we can become happier. Science has proven that the brain and the thought work synergistically. Your brain is like the hardware of your computer and thought is the software. We can reprogram the software through mindful conscious awareness. And that our amazing brain through the process of neuroplasticity can reorganise itself, forming new neural (nerve) connections or pathways. In fact Neuroplasticity is happening naturally inside our brains everyday as we encounter new experiences.
Mindfulness and Neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity is a new and exciting buzz word in the world of mindfulness and science. Scientists are linking this ability of our brain to build new neural pathways to the practice of mindfulness and meditation. This means that by creating new neural pathways we have the possibility to ‘develop happiness’ and overcome ‘depression’. Mindfulness assists us in developing greater AWARENESS and learn to WITNESS experience while remaining calm. This lessens the automation of our stress or reactive responses, allowing us to learn and build new pathways of response. By remaining steady and calm rather than reactive we can build resilience allowing greater emotional contentment and presence. Rick Hanson is a Neuroscientist and he says in his book ‘Buddha’s Brain’.
“The remedy is not to suppress negative experiences; when they happen, they happen. Rather, it is to foster positive experiences—and in particular, to take them in so they become a permanent part of you.”
“Neurons that Fire together Wire together”
We can build up and strengthen a muscle groups by exercising regularly. In the same way we can strengthen neural pathways by using them. And in fact build and nurture fresh neural pathways through new experience… And then strengthen those pathways by repeating that positive experience, such as the practice of gratitude.
This Fact Opens Up AWESOME POSSIBILITIES.
Science has now proven what yogis have talked about for thousands of years: that Meditation not only changes the mind’s responses it also changes the Brain itself.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) has revealed that experienced meditators had thicker cortex than non-meditators. This was particularly true for brain areas associated with attention, interception and sensory processing.
So what does this mean to us?
In a positive light this means we can change ‘our responses to life’ in POSITIVE ways ON PURPOSE.
As a mindfulness and meditation teacher I have noticed with myself and students who practice meditation daily, experience;
- Less emotional reactivity to stressors.
- A greater sense of relaxation during daily duties.
- Greater ability to focus on tasks.
- An increased ability to adapt to changes.
- Increased Joy.
We can alter the way we react to life by becoming more present and ‘resilient’ to the thoughts and emotions that are passing through our body/mind by remembering that experience of any kind is ‘transient’ .
It is the developed neural patterns of our brain and mind that hold us stuck to old ways of reacting and responding. Meditation and active Mindfulness teaches us to develop the ability to witness, allowing thoughts, feelings and experience to flow through without identification. Choosing to identify with every thought can create confusion and ignite negative patterns of looping thoughts and feelings that can exacerbate depression. The mantra “This Too Shall Pass” can be a great reminder as we develop the ability to let go and move in the present moment.
From here we can begin to consciously choose which thoughts to grow, and which to let pass, thus giving us the choice to be happy or stuck. We can begin to ‘Choose Happiness’. So lets build ‘happiness neural pathways’ by increasing the amount of pleasant and joyful experiences in our life. Choosing to do what we love and what makes us happy is a great beginning.
The practice of mindfulness helps to retrain the brain.
Through the practice of mindfulness we stop living on Autopilot and begin to live more consciously. It takes time and effort to grow new neural pathways of happiness but it can be done.
WARNING: Mindfulness is not a quick fix, it requires a conscious effort and commitment.
Soraya Saraswati – is a Spiritual Mentor and Yoga Therapist who supports people in awakening to live in peaceful presence.
Helpful contacts if your in need of support.
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 https://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au/
Lifeline 13 11 14 http://www.lifeline.org.au/Get-Help/
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 http://www.kidshelp.com.au/
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78 http://www.mensline.org.au/Home.html