17 Feb 9 neuroplasticity exercises to retrain your brain
via the Ladders by Jonathan Thompson
Yes, you really can “rewire” your brain for optimal performance at work and home.
By the time you finish this article, your brain will be different.
The reason for this cerebral shift is neuroplasticity – or the brain’s ability to change and restructure itself. Every time the brain processes new information, neurons fire, new pathways form, and the malleable brain alters its shape and structure.
In recent years, several researchers have posited that it’s possible to consciously direct neuroplasticity to optimize your brain function, improve your work performance, and even influence your team’s performance.
Once you understand how neuroplasticity works, you’ll discover that the concept is much simpler than it sounds.
What is neuroplasticity?
In a nutshell, neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to learn and adapt. Until relatively recently, experts believed that our brains were fixed by the end of adolescence and that, in terms of neurons, it was all downhill from there.
But the latest research has proved the opposite: that our brains can actually grow and change throughout adulthood. That is, if we treat our neural pathways right.
“The main point of neuroplasticity is that you can actually form and reorganize connections in your brain,” says Dr. Marsha Chinichian, a Los Angeles-based clinical psychotherapist and the brains behind acclaimed mental fitness app, Mindshine.
“For a long time we thought that humans were born with a ton of neurons, synapses, and connections, and as we got older, they simply died off. But now we’ve learned that isn’t true. We can actually make changes to further develop our brains. We’ve learned we can actually rewire our brains.”
Dr. Chinichian’s enthusiasm is echoed by other leading cognitive experts around the world, including Natalia Ramsden, a business psychologist and founder of SOFOS Associates in London, the UK’s first and only brain optimization clinic.
“There’s something hugely empowering about the idea that we, as individuals, can actually change the structure of our brains for the better,” says Ramsden. “There’s so much we can do to develop their function, which in turn can dramatically increase our productivity in the workplace.”
Make better decisions and prevent cognitive fatigue
Ok, that’s the concept of neuroplasticity. But how do we put it into action in our day-to-day working lives?
Imagine your brain as a colossal power grid. Billions of pathways light up every time you think, feel, or do something. Putting neuroplasticity into action means carving new pathways, while strengthening the best of the existing ones – and not reinforcing the pathways you’d rather avoid. This is captured in an aphorism: “Neurons that fire together, wire together; neurons that fire out of synch, fail to link.”
Neuroscientist Dr. Tara Swart, a senior lecturer at MIT and author of bestselling brain bible The Source, recently compared this process to road building.
“Think of it as going from a dirt road to a motorway,” Dr. Swart told European CEO. “I could say, ‘I’m going to work on that pathway, which is currently a dirt road. The more I use it, and the more I repeat activities, I can build it up to a motorway.’”
That newly-built motorway will not only able to help you process information faster, it will also be better equipped to stave off mental fatigue. That means less stress and fewer mistakes.
“It can help to think of your brain in terms of a muscle,” says Dr. Lynda Shaw, a chartered psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist who is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Medicine and an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. “If you do enough bicep curls you’ll increase the size of your biceps. It’s the same process with your brain. If you exercise your brain correctly and often, neuroplasticity means it will become more powerful.”
From a remote working perspective – especially with companies like Atlassian deciding to make the arrangement permanent – experts say that neuroplasticity is an even more valuable tool, as daily office stimuli dramatically decrease, and new routines and rituals come to the fore.
“We need, as bosses, to encourage our people to embrace change and adapt by being innovative and creative,” says Dr. Shaw. “Neuroplasticity is a great way of doing that, and of teams staying ahead of that curve.”
Below, our experts suggest their top tips for harnessing the power of neuroplasticity for yourself.
Here are 9 techniques to “rewire” your cognitive pathways…
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