If you were to look for a definition of neuroplasticity, you would see it means “the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.” But what does this mean? In more simpler terms, it means that the brain has to ability to rewire and repair itself.
Previous research taught that “we are who we are,” and what happened to us in the past, will affect us for the rest of our lives. However, recent developments in research, now tell us that this isn’t true. Neuroplasticity shows that we are not bound to maladaptive thinking and behaviors and our brains can change its neurological arrangement through learning.
Learning is critical to changing the brains structure because it is through learning that we develop new neuropathways. Neuropathways are like trails in a forest. Multiple individuals have stepped on a specific area so much, that now there is a trail. This is likened to a neuropathway in the brain, in that, you have thought the same thing so many times (repetition), that now it has become programmed into the brain. Intense emotions coupled with a stimulus in the environment can also create neuropathways, instantaneously, as seen with patients with PTSD.
The thing to understand about the brain is, what you program into the brain, will automatically be fed back to you. This is called automatic thoughts or thinking. You may not be aware of this, but many of the voices you hear in your head are not your mind talking, but automatic feedback being fed to you by your brains current programming.
Just as this information has been programmed into the brain, new information can be presented to the brain to allow for the development of more healthier neuropathways.
The mind is very critical to this process, as it is the mind that interprets and provides meaning to our experiences. The mind can be seen as the “mother of the brain” and it directs the brain on what should or should not get programmed. This is why mindfulness, positive thinking, positive affirmations and a correct interpretation of reality are all important.