Changing Our Brains Through Neuroplasticity
However, neuroplasticity also means that we can intentionally strengthen and repair our positive neural pathways.
This concept is a foundational principle in mindfulness: by intentionally utilizing mindful practices on a regular basis, we strengthen positive neural pathways that help us feel present and good. The practice of using affirmations is a powerful example of this. An affirmation is a positive “I” statement, like “I am calm and happy.” We practice affirmations by repeating them regularly. The first time we say an affirmation it may be difficult to truly believe, but with repetition, we begin to strengthen the neural pathway of that affirmation. This actually builds physical structures within our brains that call on that information even when we aren’t actively thinking about it. Eventually, “I am calm and happy” becomes a guiding inner-mantra, something we believe with ease.
Neuroplasticity is both the process of learning and un-learning. When we abstain from drinking alcohol, we strengthen the neural pathways that will eventually help us to do so with ease. We can also support our alcohol-free path by using mindfulness tools like affirmations and meditation, which help to rebuild positive structures in our brains. Neuroplasticity is an amazing tool in our alcohol-free toolbox.
Davidson, R. J., McEwen, B. S. (2012). Social influences on neuroplasticity: Stress and interventions to promote well-being. Nat Neurosci. 15(5): 689–695. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3491815/
Fuchs, E., Flugge, G. (2014). Adult Neuroplasticity: More Than 40 Years of Research. Neural Plasticity. 2014, Article ID 541870, 10 pages. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/np/2014/541870/