One of my favourite authors on the topic of neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change right throughout life, is Susan Begley. She emphasizes that what we and think from moment to moment changes our brain either positively or negatively. At any given moment, our brain reflects the lives we have led. She writes that “Like sand on the beach, the brain bears the footprints of the decisions we have made, the skills we have learned, the actions we have taken.”
Begley also uses the concept of mind – sculpting. This means that we can change our brain with no influence from outside but only as a result of the thoughts we think. Interestingly she says that brain changes can be generated by pure mental activity. Thinking about playing a piano leads to measurable, physical change in the brain’s motor cortex.
The neuroscience findings hold bring hope to individuals suffering from conditions like OCD, depression, anxiety etc. These are often the result of errant neurochemistry and can be remedied by thinking differently. Begley further writes “Something as seemingly insubstantial as a thought has the ability to act back on the very ‘stuff’ of the brain, altering neuronal connections in a way that can lead to recovery from mental illness and perhaps to a greater capacity for empathy and compassion.
I certainly do not intend to imply that mental problems like depression should not be treated with medication where necessary. I firmly believe in minimum medication for maximum effect. My experience has however been that individuals rely too heavily on medication to solve mental conditions and are often reluctant to do the hard work on changing faulty thinking patterns. Results then tend to be less satisfactory than they could be.
Keep the following pointers in mind:
- The most important job we have to do in life is attend to our thinking in meticulous ways. This is the only route to fulfilment and happiness. Previous entries on thinkingfit.co.za provides practical steps.
- Doing this requires the same effort we would need to complete studies or run a marathon successfully. It is a matter of daily exercising our mental muscles.
- To start the process it is helpful to enlist the assistance of a professional in the field.
Good luck with this amazing journey. It is worth it and can open many, many new and exciting doors in your life!