Supporting Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is our capacity to change, regardless of how old we are. Daniel J. Siegel’s superb book, Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology: An Integrative Handbook of the Mind offers the following aspects of our life that can support neuroplasticity.

“. Aerobic exercise – when medically possible, voluntary exercise can support continued brain growth.

Good sleep – we consolidate our learning from the day when we get a good period of sleep with plenty of REM states for dreaming.

Good nutrition – the “soil” of the brain’s structure requires good food and water, including safe sources of omega-3’s in order to function properly and allow the “seed” of good attentional focus to work well.

Relationships – our connections with others support a vibrant and plastic brain.

Novelty – when we get out of a rut and expose the brain to new stimuli, when we are playful and spontaneous, we keep the brain growing and young.

The close paying of attention—when we avoid multitasking and distractions and care about what we are focusing on, we can actually stimulate the release of chemicals locally and widely support neuroplasticity.

Time-in. When we focus on our inner sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts, reflecting inwardly, we encourage the growth of regulatory, integrative neural circuits.

And, possibly, humor—some preliminary studies suggest that when we laugh we promote health growth of the brain.”1

My personal endorsement of the benefits of humor is less tentative and much stronger. Laughing entails breathing in healthy amounts of air along with what is frequently a healthy social interaction. Humor also involves the switch of contexts that implies the use of unanticipated circuits in the brain. See the healthymemory blog post, “Paraprosdokians and a Healthy Memory.”

1Siegel, D.J. (2012). Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology: An Integrative Handbook of the Mind. New York: WW. Norton & Company, pp. 8-8 to 8-9.

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