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Neuroplasticity- Part 2: How to Rewire your Brain

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Five Steps to Rewire your Brain

Do you want to create a richer, more positive worldview or self-image? You can by rewiring your brain.  In Part 1, What is Neuroplasticity, we learned how Neuroplasticity works. Here we learn 5 steps to use to rewire your brain.

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Suppose what is keeping you from accomplishing your goals is this nagging internal voice telling you that you can’t do it. Where does that voice come from? Is it a parent, a teacher, or an incident in the past? Possibly, but who cares! What matters is that you see it for what it is—an outdated, faulty neural network.

1) Memorise Neuroplasticity's Cardinal Rule

What caused this faulty neural network? We can figure it out by applying the cardinal rule governing neuroplasticity. Neurons that fire together become wired together

Sometime in the past, an experience of yourself occurred at the same time an experience of failure happened. Your “self-image” neural network fired at the same time you experienced failure. Neurons that fire together become wired together. Your “Failure” and “Self” neural network fired together, so wired together. 

And now, because you keep thinking, “I am a failure,” you recruit more neurons into the counterproductive ” I am a failure” neural network.

2) Shrink your Negative Neural Network

So, let’s get rid of it. Let’s let this old neural network slowly wither away. Don’t give it attention, and don’t interact with it. Bring mindfulness to your thoughts and when a negative self-image thought comes up, bring awareness to it. Awareness without judgement and, let it go. The less “I” and ” failure” neural networks fire together, the less they will wire together. Over time, the neural connections between them will dissipate.

3) Grow Your Positive Neural Network

Meanwhile, let’s grow our new “positive-self image” neural network by wiring “Positive” and “Self-image” networks together. How do we do this? We make them fire together so they will wire together. We achieve a goal that matters to us. 

Start with a simple goal. My goal was to dock boats in busy marinas. I grew up on boats but always feared docking and maneuvering them in crowded areas. To overcome this,  I use these two very powerful tools to build my new neural network: 

Visualization and  


4) Use Visualization

To learn a new skill, you practice and practice until you eventually “get it.” You ultimately “get it” because you have created a new neural network that connects all the parts of your brain needed to perform that skill.

Now, this is the weird part. When you visualize performing that skill in detail, you create the exact same neural network!!! Think about that for a moment. You can create a new neural network through practice or create the exact same neural network through visualization. Detailed visualization. Back to my goal last summer, getting a boat out of a tight moorage spot. I visualized the moorage spot, the space between me and the neighbouring boats. I visualized looking back at the engine, ensuring it’s in line before popping the gear into reverse, then back to neutral. Look forward, look back, look forward. Once it looks like the bow will clear the neighbouring boat, turn the steering wheel to straighten out.

It works. Professional athletes and entrepreneurs use visualization to succeed. Therapists use visualization to help heal physical and mental illnesses. Visualize that cancer being fried away as you sit on the radiation table. It works! Think of visualization as your little helper clearing a path between where you are now and where you want to be. The more detail in your visualization, the more brush and bramble your helper removes from the path. Once that path is clear, your neural network has literally and physically formed. All you got to do now is walk it. Visualize every step to success, then visualize success.

4) Rewards

In the deep central part of your brain lives your emotional centre, the limbic system. Here, emotions and memory are processed. Imagine your eyes taking in a beautiful, idyllic ocean scene, your favourite place. Suddenly, this massive shark comes from nowhere and starts twirling this helpless, screaming swimmer around and around until she disappears into a pool of blood. Yes, we are watching the movie “Jaws” opening scene.

What’s happening in your brain? Your amygdala, the fear centre inside your limbic system, is firing like crazy. At the same time, your visual cortex is taking in images of the ocean.

What happens when different neurons fire together? Yes, they wire together. You are wiring your amygdala ( your fear centre) with your perception of the ocean. You are creating an “Ocean is scary” neural network! Is that what you want?

Instead of creating a destructive neural network, use the same principle and pair “self-image” with the “feel good “part of your limbic system. Make these two things fire together, and, in time, they will wire together.

How do you get the “feel good” part of your limbic system firing? Use the same tools that social media, games and language learning apps use on us to make us feel good and keep us coming back for more. Rewards! What do you think all those “likes” are? The fake gold coins, the extra lives, the confetti and celebratory music when you win a game.

Tech companies are fully aware of the power of rewards. Rewards make us feel good. They make us feel good because they stimulate the feel-good parts of our brains.

Don’t think of your typical rewards like chocolate cake or an exotic vacation. The reward must be as simple as a “like,” easy to apply and happen at the same time you achieve your goal. They must fire together to wire together.

Use the same rewards that professional athletes and entrepreneurs use to motivate themselves. Use a fist pump, a high five, or a heartfelt “Yes” when you accomplish a goal.

Break down your goal into a series of tiny manageable steps. Then, you reward yourself every time you take a small step toward your goal. You fist pump yourself. Don’t just fist pump and say in your mind, “I did it .” Feel it! Get all those feel-good chemicals flowing as you admire your success. You did it. You found your running shoes, your first step towards achieving your marathon goal. Yes!

When you reward every step towards your goal, you create an association, a neural network, between feeling good and successful and working towards your goal. Whatever your goal, running a marathon, a new career, taking time off and seeing the world. Break the goal into a series of manageable small steps. 

Visualize in detail, doing all the steps. Visualize how good you will feel when you do each step. Get those feel-good juices flowing simply through visualization, and celebrate yourself.

Visualize and reward your way to success.

Of course, there will be times when you have no desire to take the next step. Learn to listen to yourself. You don’t want to grumble the whole time you take the next step and wire “negative” emotions with working on your goal. Take a break, and see the glass half full. “I already have taken two steps towards my goal. I’m much further on than I was two weeks ago”. And reward yourself.

And yes, there will be times when your negative self-image tries to pop up. Visualize it as one of those annoying pop-ups on your computer screen, and take your big, fat index finger and press DELETE!

Everything you do, everything you encounter, everything you experience and think about is rewiring your brain. Rewiring it in a productive or counterproductive way. Bring awareness to how you are choosing to rewire your brain.

Life is a Journey Let Health Be Your Guide

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