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What is neuroplasticity, and how can you improve yours?

Our brain. The most intriguing and complicated part of our body.

Neuroplasticity is also better known to some as brain plasticity. Don’t think it has anything to do with the brain being similar to plastic or something. 

It refers to the incredible adaptability of your brain. To change according to your experiences. According to what you have experienced and or are experiencing. Your brain creates pathways and minimizes others. These new pathways and new connections between the neurons in our brain let us react better to new circumstances. This happens on the daily, and thankfully can be stimulated too.

Neurons: are the cells that our brain and nervous system is constructed of. 

Plasticity: the ability to adapt an organism to changes in its environment or differences between its various habitats is the literal biological definition. 

Brief history behind neuroplasticity 

The history behind neuroscience is quite fascinating. And we mention it in this blog because it showcases how what we know about the brain has changed over the years. 

In the early 1900s, and in 1948 neuroplasticity was mentioned to describe the neuronal structure changes in the human brain. It wasn’t used significantly until 1960. In 1960 it was discovered that the neurons in your brain can reorganize after having experienced something traumatic. Which was contrary to the popular belief among scientists that the brain wasn’t able to change after adulthood, which turned out to be very false. Neurons can disconnect and erase certain pathways in the brain. And also connect to new ones to improve certain brain functions for a specific purpose. 

So you can imagine how new of a development it is that we found out this aspect of the human brain. 

As an example. Blind children have increased connectivity and reorganized neurocircuits in their brain. This makes them able to receive more information about their environment through their other senses. Much more than regular children who are not blind. This is a crucial example on how the brain can drastically adapt to the situation to increase the body’s functionality. 

Benefits of neuroplasticity and practical use for us

When we learn new things, the connection of new neurons and new pathways can be created. Thinking processes can be altered. Learning and neuroplasticity is therefore very much crucial. Of course there is a significant difference between what you learn and the effect of neuroplasticity. Learning new interesting facts will not have a significant effect on neuroplasticity. But as an example learning a new language or learning to play an instrument or learning to drive a new type of vehicle. These are fundamental learning processes that go deeper and stimulate neuroplasticity. They can change the way you operate when doing certain activities due to neuroplasticity. It mainly depends on how intensely we do the learning activities. The more intense they are and the more serious we take it the more effect it has on the positive neuroplasticity. 

It is worth mentioning that your environment and genetics play a major role in the amount and intensity of neuroplasticity in your brain. Thankfully we can improve our environment. And also our amount of willingness so we can stimulate brain neuroplasticity. 

What benefits does neuroplasticity have? It has an positive and improving effect on the following activities for us: 

  • Learning new things
  • Recovering from heavily damaging brain injuries like strokes 
  • Strengthening some brain functions when others are lost due to various reasons
  • Activities that stimulate proper brain function and fitness
  • Improving new and enhance new cognitive brain functions 

How to stimulate brain neuroplasticity 

Having a growth-mindset is the fundamental start. Recognising and genuinely believing your brain can improve is the basis. Because when you truly believe your brain can improve for the better you tend to be more open and stimulative to change. 

An olympic medalist genuinely believed that one day he could and would win a medal. This creates the will and almost a must for your brain to be pressed to find and use pathways. These neuron connections stimulate your performance in this field. If you actively pursue these activities on a regular basis it can have a significant effect.

We have to make clear that it has been shown through research that in children there is a better ability for positive neuroplasticity. Hence why you’ve probably seen some wonderkids play 12 instruments or speak 10 languages despite your young age. Young adults experience this benefit also slightly more than older adults. But this certainly doesn’t mean you can’t stimulate your brain for neuroplasticity as an adult. 

There are some specific activities that have show to stimulate brain neuroplasticity:

It is mainly because these activities intensely make use of your senses, memory, focus and attention. Which all stimulate positive brain activity and thus also positive neuroplasticity. 

Traveling: Surprised? Well, think about it. When traveling your senses are quite on alert. You’re most likely in a good mood and mindset (open to growth mindset) and you’re speaking a foreign language. Which uses your memory and cognitive skills a lot. You also are bombarded with new interesting stimulants. And because you realize very well you’re in a new environment your brain works harder to remember certain things and locations. Perhaps you’ve noticed it when you get back from your trip on vacation to your home country. You’re more alert and are more observant of your surroundings. Why? Because your brain has been getting used to guiding you through a new environment and the new people as much as it can. For your safety and functionality sake.  

Reading: We all have noticed that when you don’t read often, you’ll become a slow reader by default. When you do read often and read intensively for long periods you become a fast reader. And you become able to extract much more information at the same time than you used to. Because reading is such a brain stimulating activity. It is considered a great way to create a positive stimulative environment in your brain. Which in its turn stimulates possible neuroplasticity. 

Creative activities: Playing an instrument is a great example of the use of many senses. Reading the notes on paper and coordinating your hands and mind to play the notes on paper is not easy. And it has a positive effect on your brain, stimulating adaptability and focus. Also creative activities like painting and drawing or molding clay stimulate the brain functions. Because you try to create with your hands what your brain is visualizing.  

Sleeping: Listen carefully. Because I mean the following I am about to say:

You are greatly underestimating how much effect sleep has on your brain functioning and recovery. Getting enough sleep on a daily basis is so extremely important for your brain to work optimally. So if you want to start stimulating growth and neuroplasticity so you can be the better version of you. You really need to start to get your minimum of 8-9 hours of sleep every day. Perhaps sometimes even more if you woke up early the day before or had a night out. Because when we sleep, your brain gets to rest too and grow. And let’s be honest. How relaxed and focused do you feel when you catch up on your sleep? And how bad do you feel when you don’t sleep enough. So follow good sleep hygiene and routine and you’ll see yourself perform better in every field. Including stimulating brain plasticity to become the best in what you do. 

Exercise: Exercising has been linked to increased neuron production in the brain. It has also shown to keep the brain from breaking off existing neurons. It has been seen to increase protein sending to the brain that increases nerve growth in the brain. Most researchers claim that 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise can have a beneficial effect. Regular sports or weight training already has a beneficial effect on brain plasticity. But if you want to be certain you are stimulating your brain optimally on the regular. We advise you to acquire a standing desk. As standing throughout the workday has an incredibly beneficial effect. Of course combined with regular exercise. You will be more than certain that this part of stimulating brain plasticity is going optimally!  

As a daily way to stimulate our brain we at Fitnest use standing desks at our office. It is a great way to stimulate blood flow to your brain. It is a great way to start to increase all the variables that could lead to positive brain neuroplasticity. Have a look at our site for the best standing desks around fit for everyones needs. https://www.fitnest.eu/fitness-sierra-electric-standing-desk-pro-model/

Find out how to fuel your brain and body effectively by reading our blog about power foods! Part II has just been released! https://www.fitnest.eu/great-snacks-and-power-foods-for-at-the-office/

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