Unbend Your Tree of Life: Screw the Cradle Proverb
Neuroscientists are constantly astounding us with their research and statements about our lives, how experiences physically shaped our brains and our lives. I say screw it all and begin to turn your life around. Yes, if you see that as experiences shaped your life then, now you can begin pruning away that brain clutter and making real change. As long as you have breathe in your body, you have potential for change both mental and physical. How could that not be? Did the neuroscience stop after you left the cradle and your parents’ home? No, it didn’t. Is there only one way to do things? I love the following quote:
You have your way. I have my way.
As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way,
it does not exist. FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE
No lectures here about the hippocampus, the neural circuits, the dentate gyrus or any other brain portion. They can sit and be well in your head for all time. You will, however, begin to move them in new directions and, in the process, increase the number of neurons up there (but you won’t get a fat head), open new or older, unforgotten connections and get on with your new life and its possibilities. Watch a video of brain development called “Brain Hero” and get a quick visual of how the brain branches out in response to early environmental factors. Remember, however, that doesn’t limit you; you limit you.
You can do it. Don’t tell me that “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” means the cement has dried and you are who you were bent to be early in life. I don’t buy it. If I did, life would be a series of the same old fears, limited motivations and abilities and that won’t do for me OR FOR YOU. I refused to buy the old myths or wives’ tales about life.
Everything Is Possible, If You Believe—Not Quite But Almost
Dancers and musicians learn basic music and steps. It’s part of their training, but are they then limited, once the muscle memory has set in, to never create new music, new steps and new ways of doing their craft? Your craft is you and it is your most precious creation.
The product you began with, the basics if you will, the learning steps, set you off and now you need to learn to run, even if you felt you were never born to run. Bruce learned he could and it’s waiting for you. And no performing at The Stone Pony for you to get right into it. The music of life is within you, so start playing the new music of your soul.
Research is fine, but we need to remain a questioning individuals even in the face of formidable academic credentials. You don’t need an advanced degree, or even a degree, to learn to question knowledgably. Questioning leads to new knowledge and, if we don’t question everything, we accept less than we can have in our lives and in our scientific breakthroughs. Stagnation is the enemy here.
I refuse to believe that childhood poverty or domestic violence in the home or inadequate schools create a brain structure that is resistant to change. I don’t think I’m alone in this. My message to you here is one of optimism regarding what you can change in your life.
I believe our brain craves change and novelty as do our eyes. Early experiments with kittens (sorry about that) showed that if the eye did not experience constant novelty, it shut off vision centers, atrophied and the result was blindness. Can these centers be brought back into play?
I don’t know if they followed up on that, but there is promise and our brain, in fact, does constantly provide itself with visual novelty via extremely subtle movement of something called saccades, making multiple visual changes per second. These are back-and-forth swipes too minimal to be noticed and are only seen in persons addicted to drugs when the brain’s wiring goes haywire, as it were.
What You Can Do to Change Your Brain
The quick review of the brain and some of its attributes was a prelude and now it’s time to look at what you can do to help yourself. The brain shaping begins here. Authors of many stripe have dipped their toes into the research and found that the following are ideas worth exploring:
1. moderate to vigorous physical exercise stimulates brain neuro-genesis, meaning the birth of new brain cells. Read more about it in “The Athlete’s Way”
2. constantly challenge your brain with new learning such as a language, computer coding or any new activity whether a sport or something more cerebral
3. "open your nose" to new sense because we know scent memory is strong and can reinforce memories that may have faded and which can prove useful to us. These memories spark the associations that lie within and that’s another key to brain rewiring or restructuring.
4. determine if you’re an “owl” or a “lark” in terms of your body’s circadian rhythms. The test is in my book “Sleep, Insomnia, Stress.” You will work at anything best if you are within that golden time of day that your body clock has set for you. Yeah, we all have one and we need to know its settings.
5. recognize your life’s trauma and turn it around to see how it can benefit you. No pain, no gain they say and it may be true.
6. bring organization into your life and stick to a routine
7. use “defensive motivation” to negotiate risky situations, handle your anxiety and get better outcomes
8. be more aware of your cognitive bias (working against stereotyping)
9. take a $19 course with active exercises aimed at brain rewiring and neuroplasticity
10. banish negative thinking and force yourself to turn those those around to find the positive where it may thrive
Ok, you’re all set for the ride of your life, so get on your way and begin to carve out new joys, new creativity and healthier, happier days for yourself.