How long does it take to learn something, what does that actually mean to learn something and what process do we undergo when we’re learning? What learning do we do consciously but more importantly, what learning do we do sub-consciously? Why do we repeat patterns of behaviour that are often not good for us and what can we do to change that? Can we actually rewire our brain?
The real clues lie in Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity. There is some controversy about how it all works among the scientists but I’ll work on keeping this article simple. This is a term that refers to our brains ability to re wire, and to grow new neural pathways that create the underpinning for our behaviour and the way we view the world. Sexy hey? This ability for our brain to do this lasts the entire course of our lifetime and has major implications for how we recover from trauma and adversity among a multitude of other things.
Long before I knew what this was, (26 years ago in fact) I was using it in my own recovery AND what I was recovering from was largely down to what the Neuroplasticity ability of my brain had laid down in the first place; my wiring. Are you still with me? This is how we build resilience but also how we are vulnerable which I always say are two sides of the same coin working in an interplay, a dance if you like. Vulnerability and resilience, dancing together through our lives.
In other words, Neuroplasciticity works both ways. It can create neural pathways that tell the story of negative and self harming things like ‘the world is a bad place because I have experienced that enough times for that to become my natural mode of thinking.’ Equally, neural pathways that tell us that the world is a kind and happy place because I have experienced that so many times, becomes my starting point. Are you still with me?
Every time you use each pathway you strengthen it. You use it or you lose it so the saying goes.
The key to everything of course is awareness because so much of our thinking goes on within us on a sub-conscious level. How can we begin to change something if we don’t know its there? Once we have that awareness however, we can ‘rewire’ and change the default pattern of behaviour, the way we view the world and therefore the way the world reacts to us.
The key to rewire our brain, the magic key, is repetition. Whether we are doing this for ourselves or in how we wire and shape a baby’s and a child’s brain, repeat repeat repeat. This builds strong pathways that shape the world view and perspective and ultimately, how we behave.
I used affirmations back in the 1990’s and they were powerful. I was about 20/21 years old and my brain was still very much growing (the brain reaches maturity at 25 years old although the ability to change our wiring goes on through a lifetime.)
I repeated the same sentences over and over again. I smiled at people when I wanted to growl, over and over again until the world smiled back at enough at me to alter my perception of the world we live in to one that is a happy place rather than a hostile and dangerous one. The change came from me, not the world. Bing! Light bulb moment….thank you very much!
The stages of applying this:
- Awareness (which is why we all go on about mindfulness and meditation because that enhances self awareness as well as calming us down)
- Understanding the narrative that underpins what it is that you have become aware of
- Changing that narrative to a positive (or the opposite of the negative)
- Repeat, repeat, repeat
- Rewire our brain
I think the other thing that I must add is that this process is a long game. Your commitment to this is vital. This is not something that belongs in the quick fix department (does anything?)
Enjoy your journey, understand the process and relish the opportunity and the gift that is the chance to change that creates a better life for you and the people around you.