You Can Teach Old Dogs New Tricks
Conventional wisdom used to be, that once you hit adulthood the brain your basically set in concrete. We now know that this isn’t the case and there’s lifelong potential for new brain growth. This is called neurogenesis or brain plasticity.
As the brain changes, so does the mind. But the reverse is also true. It’s known that too much stress can increase the chance of general mental decline, and even dementia. But practising positive mental habits like gratitude is linked with the precise opposite, which is thought to be due to such attitudes stimulating the release of Norepinephrine.
No. Not even close
Fool Your Brain into Happiness
So. Can you then control your thoughts to control your brain health, happiness? The answer it seems is yes.
The technique is called “self-directed neuroplasticity”, and it appears the key is controlling your attention. In a way it’s intuitive, but if we tune our attention to the things that annoy us, the things that make our life difficult, we are training our brains overdevelop the neural substrates (foundations, essentially) of those things. But if we instead tune our attention to the things we’ve got to be grateful for, we overdevelop a whole different set of neural substrates.
In other words we build our brains from the foundations up to be geared towards positivity and happiness.
Savour the Positive
All of which begs the obvious question. What’s the best way to effectively “tune your attention” to the positive?
Every day, dozens of little positives occur that we often gloss over. Take every opportunity to savour them. As we linger on them, we make stronger cognitive associations. You can strengthen this by imagining visual associations to the positive event as well as the emotional.
What do you think? Could more time spent “savouring the positive” events in our life really influence our underlying brain structures for the better?