NEW YEAR 2009 – THE YEAR OF POSSIBILTIES FOR CHANGE
I am reading a new book called “The Brain that Changes itself” by Norman Doidge M.D. It was first published in 2007 in the States so it won’t be new for many of you reading this!
It is a wonderful new insight for the New Year. It’s all about neuroplasticity which tells us that the human brain is not fixed, hardwired or incapable of change. In fact, it’s the opposite! It is a marvelous organ, able to change its own structure and function – even into old age. YAAAA! See why the book is such a new year blessing?
As the back of the book says, there are stories in it of a “woman labeled as retarded who cured her deficits with brain exercises and now cures those of others; blind people who learn to see; learning disorders cured; IQs raised; aging brains rejuvenated; stroke patients recovering their faculties; children with cerebral palsy leaning to move more gracefully; entrenched depression and anxiety disappearing; and lifelong character traits changed.”
What fabulous news for anyone who has struggled with these issues! Happy 2009! Read the book and find out how to contact those mentioned and your life may change.
Yesterday, I was visiting a friend of mine in Australia – and for those of you who have been following my journey back to Oz, I have been here now nearly 2 months and it’s hot! We live near the beach and that is wonderful, although I miss my friends and colleagues and many aspects of the USA. But it is good to find my old friends and family and to be able to walk on a gorgeous beach and swim in beautiful warm ocean waters! Thank you to all of you who sent good wishes! But, back to my friend!
She lost her sight when she was about 18 and went on to become a brilliant lawyer. With homeopathic remedies, she has regained much of her sight recently (www.healerswhoshare.com). Because she had not seen for so long, she still struggles with perceptual issues and looking at things moving – it puts her off balance and is overwhelming. I am so excited for her because she now has access to knowledge that will give her specific exercises to help her brain re learn how to naturally do those things and she should be back to living a life where she can drive and do the things most of us take for granted. How exciting!
I have been studying neuroscience and neuroplasticity for some time now in relation to the corporate world – how we CAN change our behaviors and beliefs – most simply by FARCing! With Focus, Attention/Awareness, Repetition and Celebration. These are the secrets for those of us who are not affected as severely as those listed above.
I somehow knew this capacity of the brain even as a young physical therapist. My stroke patients and I would celebrate like crazy when they first were able to move a toe! I would explain to them that the first time they actually isolated a movement like that, a tiny scratch was etched on the brain.
Because it was a shallow scratch, they had to concentrate and work very hard to repeat the same movement; it had to be very conscious. But as they practiced – focused on it, paid attention to it and were aware of what they were doing and repeated it, the scratch would become deeper and deeper.
Each time they repeated the same movement, it would become easier until finally the repetition had created a groove – not just a scratch and now the nerves would fire off automatically down that groove and the movement became easy.
Now science has proved that it’s true! Our brains create all sorts of new pathways that replace the damaged ones. Our brains LOVE to learn – they love it! It stimulates them – and us. Learning keeps us alive, vital and motivated. Learning really new stuff is the best. If you have never played a musical instrument, like me, learn one. After Mum died, I bought a harp from my inheritance and at 54, having never been taught to read music or play any instrument; I was a music teacher’s nightmare!
However, Mum sent me a saint in Vermont who has patiently and lovingly and creatively taught me to read music (sort of!) and begin to play the harp. It’s not pretty but I love it! It is also completely exhausting! And stimulating at the same time. So many other parts of me integrate I am sure as the research shows performing one new action triggers the development of others.
And of course, use it or lose it is true of the brain. The neuronal connections we make when we learn new patterns need to be reinforced. If they are not repeated fairly regularly, the ever efficient brain ‘prunes’ what is not being used so other new things can be learned. I have not played the harp for a few months sadly and I know that when I start again, it will take a while to re deepen those scratches I made originally.
So happy NEW year to all of you – with the emphasis on new! Make this the year of learning new things – a foreign language; dancing; brain surgery (ok I am kidding!); carpentry; music; a sport; singing – anything! You’ll be amazed at what you can do with focus, attention, repetition and celebration of the changes!
Oh and ps. Any behaviors and perceptions you want to change? Work at that too – reading this book will help you…and remember we CAN change. Anything. It’s a choice and takes conscious effort but we can do it.