I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. This represents the idea that as we get older the harder it is for people to change and learn new things. Well, scrap that, because psychologists have discovered that precisely the opposite is true.
Neuroplasticity describes the brain’s ability to change and rewire itself based on new experiences across our lifetime. This is quite a revolutionary discovery as it contradicts previously held views of the brain as a more rigid structure. Neuroscientists used to believe that the brain stopped developing in adolescence. However, research has shown that our brains are actually far more malleable than was initially thought, and this has exciting implications for people of all ages and genders.
What Is Neuroplasticity?
Another way to explain neuroplasticity is to say that it’s the capacity of our brain cells to change in response to our behavior. As we engage in an activity or repeat a behavior, our brain begins to build new connections around this experience. The more we repeat the experience, the stronger our neural pathways around this activity become. This is how people become “skilled” at something.
Athletes are a good example of neuroplasticity in action; if you look at the likes of Serena Williams, it is only by practicing her tennis game relentlessly, that she was able to become a world-class champion. During her training, neuroplasticity was helping her to hone her craft.
Now although not many of us have excelled to the same feats of sporting champions, we are all still experiencing neuroplasticity every day, even though we are not conscious of it. Even during tasks that might not seem “a big deal” like cooking a new recipe, driving a new route to work, or beginning a meditation practice, our brains are making new connections.
The Real World Implications of Neuroplasticity
The most exciting part about neuroplasticity is that it challenges draconian, often negative beliefs about what’s possible. For example, it’s common to hear the saying “people can’t change” or “I’m too old to learn something new”. Neuroplasticity is the scientific proof that in fact, people can change, they can literally change their minds, themselves, and their behaviors by deciding to take action to do so. And also, it means that you’re never too old to pick up a new craft, hobby, or talent. This fact opens the door to endless possibilities for our own potential.
And it’s fascinating to think that an individual’s brain can change so dynamically throughout their lifetime. Meaning that we can have several different versions of our own brains across our lives.
Furthermore, neuroplasticity provides hope for those who have experienced mental health issues as it confirms the brain’s ability to change, heal and make a full recovery from conditions like anxiety and depression. All that we need to do is provide it with healthy practices and positive environmental stimuli that support recovery.
Therefore, our health and well-being are much more in our control than we might have previously thought, and we can purposely select and guide our behavior toward activities that will increase our personal well-being and even increase our happiness.
Men Can Literally Do Anything if They Put Their Minds to it
So on a practical level, what does this mean for men? Well, it means that no matter what age you are, it’s not too late to change something about yourself or your life if you’re not happy with it. Whether you’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression for years or hate your career path; you have the power to make changes that can see you heal and start living a happier life.
There is one key component here though that is essential to fuel the process of neuro-plastic change – and that’s ACTION. By taking new action toward your goal, whether that’s learning a new language, recovering from depression, or becoming a mechanic – you must engage with new learning processes that will establish new neural connections in your brain. So in practical terms that might translate as going to Spanish classes, seeing a therapist, or attending a car mechanic course.
If, for instance, you wish to become a calmer, more relaxed person, beginning a regular meditation practice can help you to achieve this. It is through neuroplasticity that meditation causes the well-documented changes in the brain over time that cause people to feel calmer and more relaxed.
Tips to Maximise Your Neuro-Plastic Potential:
- Choose something that you would like to learn; it must be something new to you and NOT all that easy for you to learn. Novelty and challenge are key components for neuroplasticity to occur.
- The skill or task should have some meaning to you; neuro-plastic change occurs best when we feel rewarded for carrying out the new behavior.
- Repetition and intensity: we need to repeat the skill or task regularly and specifically focus on learning it.
- Be patient: Neuro-plastic changes do take time, but before you know it you will notice incremental changes toward your goal.
So whatever it is that you might want to change about your life – have confidence that it is possible and your brain is waiting to receive whatever neuro-plastic changes you desire.