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Neuroplasticity in a nutshell.


Human capital is the collective resources of an individual and the degree of capacity to bring them to bear for the highest good of all.


Intention: To help people optimize their human capital: more great, less grind.


Source: Life so far, a career in financial services, domains of positive psychology, high-performance sport, mindfulness, neuroscience, and compassion.


Insight Three: Neuroplasticity ... in a “nutshell”

Executive Summary: our sometimes nutty brain changes itself throughout our lives by our thoughts, experiences, and the environment. USER CAUTION: the good news and bad news is that the brain is indifferent: what we feed will become more pronounced. Our mind directs our brain: good input, good output, bad input, bad output.


William James, a famous American philosopher and psychologist, considered to be the leading thinker of the late 19th century, knew that "The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his mind's attitudes. As you think so shall you be."


The term neuroplasticity was first used in 1948 by a Polish scientist. And in 1949, Donald Hebb, a Canadian neuropsychologist, became famous for saying, "neurons that fire together, wire together." It wasn't until about thirty years ago that it became widely accepted that the brain changes throughout a lifetime and is not a "fixed" organ after childhood.


In my previous Insight, I spoke about my journaling theme going from madness to magical. In 2010, I woke up to doing my life differently: from stress, depletion, and related health issues to an overall healthier physical and mental outlook. I began to practice being aware of and writing about magical things in my life, in effect, something for which I was grateful.


Within about three weeks, I felt good more often, felt more at ease, and more easily saw and appreciated what was good in my life: an example of neuroplasticity.


Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "You become what you think about all day long.”


What we dwell on and experience, changes the brain to create thoughts that support those influences. Given that about 70% of our thoughts are negative, it is critical not to believe and dwell on every thought we have.


"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." - William James.


I found my thinking (challenges, frustration, and tough stuff) conflicted with my real intention or my inner aspirational voice: what I wanted. Misalignment. Turbulent thinking. I could have ramped up the bad feelings, and it wouldn't have made me happier. Only feeling happier through an altered perspective and dwelling on that made me happier (and healthier).


No amount of feeling bad is going to make us feel good, and berating oneself for things not completed, or not done as skillfully as we would have liked, dishonours that which is good and part of our highest ambition.


Before COVID and self-distancing, I played doubles tennis with my wife and two friends beside a singles game. One guy, who I can only assume, was Andy kept berating himself out loud. "Oh Andy, that was a bad shot," "Andy, WHAT are you doing!", "Andy, you KNOW better!" It felt like a Seinfeld episode: a hostile self-talking tennis player. How could that be enjoyable? Andy seemed to be completely ignoring his many great shots, let alone the possible perspective of being hugely excited just to be playing at a fantastic club. There was no, "Andy, wow, beautiful shot!" "Andy, SWEET serve!" "Andy, that was a perfect shot, and it felt SO good!'


My message to Andy is to consider the good and great shots: learn from others. It matters what we pile into our brains. Your future depends on it. Let go of what doesn't serve us. Practice awareness to bring into alignment our self-talk with our highest ambitions. Focus on what is going on that is good, not what isn’t good. Hold the goal in mind, lean in, while embracing the good. Use good facts as super fuel.


Once in the car on the way to school, my daughter said, "Oh, Dad, I'm sorry. I forgot my assignment. I'm so mad at myself. I'm so upset." I said, "just now, my love, you remembered, the forgetting happened a while ago. You are a very good rememberer. Let's go back and get it!"


Right thoughts, aligned to our true and most inspired dreams, change the brain in the right direction, and support a more comfortable "ride."


Consider:

  • It's ok to take a break, to close your eyes. Suggest sitting quietly, ideally with your eyes closed, and allowing your body to relax and experience doing nothing for three minutes, except breathing.

  • To regain balance and calm, try a breathing exercise of an inhale for four, hold for four, and exhale for four and hold for four, five times.

  • At the end, each day after the lights are out, review three good facts from the day and why they were good.

  • Start a gratitude journal, writing down things for which you are grateful.

  • With a big smile, say to someone, "I am so grateful for …"


May you be well. It’s better that way,

John

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