We are what we repeat.
Neuroplasticity is the science behind our capacity to rewire our brains. This 7-minute episode looks at four simple steps that can help refresh our mental map and put you on the path to positive progress.
Today’s conversation is going to look at the art, science, and practice of incremental improvement. This episode explores the means and methodology to enact positive change. So the bottom line on top, or the BLOT, is that just like birthdays mark passages of time, our scars, both the visible and the invisible, mark milestones on this hard-earned journey of ours.
A personal experience with a recent medical procedure brought this insight to life, both from preparing for it and then watching the progress after.
I was at a doctor’s visit when she asked me if I was interested in a scar revision. This is a simple procedure, she explained, to correct and minimize prior damage to the skin. It’s a chance to clean it up, she said. Surgically, it was pretty straightforward. There was minimal discomfort and it was fairly inexpensive. But I never even knew this option existed.
There was this intersection of medical intervention meeting with my own personal readiness. As I’ve watched the healing from this scar revision, I’ve been struck by the similarity of how this could potentially apply to our lives, our goals, our habits, and to the progress we want to make in all of these areas. It led me to consider, is there a procedure for mental revision? Yeah, indeed there is.
Neuroplasticity is the science behind our capacity to change in our brains. It is where our neural networks within our brain can change their connections to one another in response to behavior, to new information, to stimulus, to repetition, and even to environmental influences.
The human brain has about 80 billion, that’s with a b, neurons. So the brain’s ability to reorganize itself is done through forming new neural connections throughout the course of our life. Now, that can certainly apply to large scale changes that the brain is adapting to like enhanced multi-sensory abilities, such as when somebody gains increased hearing ability after losing their vision.
It can also be applied to daily nuances we experience like when you remember names and details of new people you just met. Or when you find that you no longer need a recipe for your favorite dish when you’re cooking. And for new parents, it’s those times when you can interpret those nonverbal cues of their child that only you seem to understand. Or you can even have a smell bring up an old memory. So like a practiced surgeon, there are actions that we can take to help revise our mental neural map.
The first is look at how you can turn up the volume of your other senses. In our digital age, we have lots and lots of visual stimulus. Too much probably. So where you can introduce color, music, smells, movement, even taste, to expand your cognitive connection, you have entered a mental playground.
The second thing you can look to is hydration. Your brain is approximately 75% water. And water is used to transport oxygen to your brain, that allows it to better communicate with the rest of your body. It’s like making sure the microphone isn’t muzzled when you’re speaking. Better hydration can increase your concentration and your cognitive skills in addition to all those beautiful physical benefits as well.
The third is sleep. That is the original revision source. When the body rests, the brain reboots. The brain will move through four stages of sleep, each of them equally important, because this is restorative cycle that really helps with the brain’s neuroplasticity. And if that sleep is disrupted, it’s going to interfere with it’s ability to do the rest.
Sleep also helps us unlearn. It’s our mental filtration system, how we can downscale all of the information and stimulus that was collected during the day. Think of it like cleaning your brain off with a lint brush and leaving behind just what’s important. Similar to a HEPA filter that removes air pollutants around us, sleep can filter through the best information needed for your brain and make way for space to prepare for tomorrow’s inputs.
Finally, revision comes through repetition. Your brain has a catalog of previous responses – action, reward, outcome. Noted on each. Unlearning comes through the same imprint as the original notation. Action, repeat, action, repeat – then progress.
All of this comes back to you, looking to be the best version of You. Just as a scar revision doesn’t remove the experience of what caused the scar in the first place, this mental work, whether it’s through habits or through development, isn’t meant to be an eraser. It can, however, adjust what was there, minimize the old that no longer serves us, and reorganize itself into something new. That’s also the key ingredient to what helps us do fewer things better.
Your daily thoughts, habits, and decisions are tools for revision.
We are what we repeat.
We have the power to change what no longer serves us.
We have permission to explore what’s possible.
And we have the opportunity to change for good.
That’s the beauty of our brain and our body, and even our hearts.
Revise your scars, rewire your brain, revitalize your life. That’s the revision recipe to try.
Until next time, take good care.