Rewire your brain for more happiness

Rewire your brain for more happiness

by Scott Crabtree for Positive Psychology News Daily

Until recent years, the story of your brain was pretty discouraging. When I was getting my degree in Cognitive Science in the 1980s, I was told what you may have heard: you are born with billions of brain cells. Your brain sets like concrete as you become an adult. Neurons die throughout your lifetime, and then you die. So suck it up!

Neuroscience is rewriting the story of your brain to be much more encouraging. Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to rewire and restructure itself due to learning and experience. Few scientists believed in neuroplasticity until recent years. Now the consensus is clear: under the right circumstances your brain physically and significantly changes throughout your life.

One dramatic example of this comes when a person loses sight as an adult due to an injury, and learns to read braille. Portions of the brain devoted to visual processing shrink dramatically. The portion of the brain involved with processing touch on the right index finger grows substantially.

Many other examples and studies document the significant ability of our brains to rewire. It doesn’t take a significant injury or incident to rewire your brain. Maguire and colleagues reported on a study of London cabbies whose brains changed in response to learning the complex map of the city. As described below in detail, simply learning something new and challenging will likely do it.

Significant brain changes don’t happen overnight, but we don’t have to wait a lifetime, either. Studies have shown physical changes in human brains in a few months and even weeks. For example see the 2006 study by Draganski and colleagues on brain structure changes during extensive learning. Science is clear we can re-wire, IF we have the right mindset.

Adopt a Growth Mindset.

Neuroplasticity means we all should adopt what Stanford professor Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset. She divides people into two groups.

Those with a fixed mindset believe that their talents are essentially set. People don’t significantly change once they are adults. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Those with a growth mindset know that real change happens all the time. With the right focus and repetition, brains rewire to enhance or add pathways that result in new skills, knowledge, and habits.

Dweck’s work shows that choosing a growth mindset is extremely important. It’s not what you know as much as how you grow. By choosing a growth mindset, you open the door to continued learning and change all of your life. You open the door to rewriting the story of your brain.

Choosing a growth mindset means you continue to learn new knowledge, skills, and behaviors. You can improve your brain’s ability to do your current job and prepare your brain for your next role.

So what do you need to do to most effectively rewire your brain? Perhaps surprisingly, it starts with relaxation.

First, Relax

Excess stress kills neurons, the opposite of the brain change most of us want! To be primed for learning and growth, you need to feel safe and relaxed. To relax under stressful conditions, try visualizing or focusing on your breathing. Both are scientifically shown to reduce stress.

Exercise is fantastic for brain function, learning, and managing stress…

…keep reading the remainder of this and the full & original article HERE