It’s always assumed that we cannot control what we like or dislike, as well as our opinions. We explain away our biases or bad habits by telling ourselves “This is just how I am.” However, this is only half true. Even though your preferences or biases are how you are right now, it is not something that is completely wired in your brain.
The brain is one of the most remarkable organs and is also the most complex one in the human body. The brain has an incredible ability to change. It is known as neuroplasticity, which refers to the tendency of the brain to create new pathways in response to experiences we have.
The article will cover the ways in which we can refresh our brain, and what neuroplasticity is in detail.
How To Refresh Your Brain?
The following are the techniques to empower and help your brain to refresh or reset itself.
- Developing Healthy Sleeping Habits
- Following a Healthy Diet
- Going Outdoors More
- Categorising, Organising, and Managing Stressors
- Connecting With Others
- Doing more Non-dominant Hand Activities
We will look at each of them individually in detail in the course of the article. Let us first understand neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is an umbrella term referring to the ability of the brain to modify, change, as well as to adapt to the structural and functional changes throughout life in response to experiences. It is said that there are individual differences in regard to the observed structures and functions of the brain (Gu & Kanai, 2014).
However, new literature suggests that the rules that govern cortical plasticity remain similar across individuals. Plasticity means that we are able to change our neural pathways. All that it really takes for this to happen is the repetition of actions in order to reinforce the new neural pathways.
Hence, we have the ability to “reboot/refresh” our brains and create these new neural paths in our brains.
Detailed Techniques to Refresh the Brain:
Developing Healthy Sleeping Habits
Sleep is the natural method for the body to reset and replenish itself, including the brain. Studies have shown that sleep shrinks the brain’s synapses in order to allow for more learning (Cirelli, 2013).
These synapses grow when you are aware, and shrink while sleeping. This enhances learning and makes the brain to become more elastic. Not getting quality sleep causes problems for the brain in resetting itself. Rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep is particularly important for neuroplasticity.
Following a Healthy Diet
There is a connection between the brain and the gut (Lerner et al., 2017). They are connected by neurotransmitters, around thousands of them, that send messages back and forth. This is why when we think about food, our mouth water, and good-tasting foods tend to trigger the release of dopamine.
Hence, when we change what we eat, it can improve our moods by having a significant effect on brain functions. Eating protein-rich diets, and more probiotics are recommended for healthier brain functioning.
Research has shown that long-term meditation causes long-term changes in the structure of the brain. Meditation trains your brain to be focused on the present and helps you not get overly attached to your thoughts. Thus, this way, it improves your ability to create new pathways and change the existing neural pathways.
Going Outdoors More:
Humans have evolved on this planet in our natural outdoor environments. Thus, the more time we spend in nature, the more our brain improves. It reduces stress, improves our mood, leads to more creativity, as well as increases our energy and spirits!
It has been found that exercising enhances neuroplasticity as well as offsets or delays Alzheimer’s disease. Exercising increases the grey and white matter of our brain (Lin et al., 2018).
Grey matter represents actual neurons present in our brain, and white matter refers to the connections between these neurons. Thus, exercising every day for 30 minutes or more is recommended for a healthy brain.
Categorising, Organising, and Managing Stressors
Stressors can be of two types; good and bad. You can enhance the good stressors and eliminate the bad stressors in order to improve the functioning of your brain. Firstly, you will have to identify the good stressors in your life, all the bad stressors, and then the stressors that you cannot control (e.g. ageing, behaviours of other people towards you, etc.).
Good stressors are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant to your goals, and time-bound. Some examples of good stressors include; learning a new skill, running a marathon, enrolling in courses to improve your performance at work, planning a wedding, learning a new language, writing a book, etc.
Learn to enhance these stressors more so than the bad stressors that set you back and cause you anxiety.
One way to deal with your stressors is to journal. You can write your problems down, and release the stress from doing that. It is a cathartic exercise that benefits your brain in the long run. It helps your brain understand that you’ve written it all down and expressed it, and hence it can then easily move on or look beyond the particular situation.
Connecting With Others
Talking to a friend, and connecting with your community help the release of oxytocin which is essential for healthy growth. Thus, staying connected to others helps our brain to experience what it is wired for – social connection.
Doing more Non-dominant Hand Activities
Studies have shown that when we use our non-dominant hands in doing regular activities like brushing our teeth or polishing our shoes, it increases neural connectivity between cortical areas. This indicates that using our non-dominant hand can help our brain create new neural pathways for doing our regular tasks and thus make us smarter.
This article covered the various ways in which we can refresh, reset, and reboot our brains. It also discusses what neuroplasticity is in detail, and ways to strengthen and enhance the same.
Frequently Asked Questions: How to refresh your brain?
How long does it take the brain to recover from addiction?
It takes the brain about one week of time to recover the lost grey matter volume once you stop engaging in the addictive activity. Other areas of the brain along with the white matter in the pre-frontal cortex may take several months or sometimes even longer to recover.
Can I train my brain to think positively?
Yes, it is possible to train your brain to think more positively. Every day, take out 2 minutes and write at least 3 new things that you are grateful for. Do this for 21 days. At the end of 21 days period, your brain will be rewired with the pattern of scanning the world and finding positive things to be grateful for.
Can anxiety damage my brain?
Yes, pathological anxiety, as well as chronic stress, do lead to both structural degeneration and impaired functioning of the hippocampus and the PFC. This accounts for an even more increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders like depression or neurological disorders like dementia.
Is it harder to learn new skills after the age of 25?
It is commonly believed that the brain’s plasticity solidifies by the age of 25 and can thus make it more difficult to create new neural pathways. This makes it more difficult to learn new skills. However, it is not impossible and newer skills can be learned post 25 years of age as well.
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Cirelli C. (2013). Sleep and synaptic changes. Current opinion in neurobiology, 23(5), 841–846. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.conb.2013.04.001
Gu, J., and Kanai, R. (2014). What contributes to individual differences in brain structure? Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8:262. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00262
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Lin, T. W., Tsai, S. F., & Kuo, Y. M. (2018). Physical Exercise Enhances Neuroplasticity and Delays Alzheimer’s Disease. Brain plasticity (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 4(1), 95–110. https://doi.org/10.3233/BPL-180073
Philip, B. A., & Frey, S. H. (2016). Increased functional connectivity between cortical hand areas and praxis network is associated with training-related improvements in non-dominant hand precision drawing. Neuropsychologia, 87, 157–168. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.05.016