Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to change how it processes information based on experiences*. Understanding neuroplasticity can feel pretty empowering. Neuroplasticity gives you the power to change the way your brain operates. By intentionally cultivating experiences for your brain, you can positively take advantage of neuroplasticity.
Stick with me. Imagine you have an upcoming presentation/ project at work that will likely advance your career if you can nail it. You know you have the skills and the knowledge to knock it out of the park but there’s this nagging thought/ feeling that you’ll botch it. We all know this feeling: self-doubt, anxiety, whatever you want to call it. I can feel it in my chest as I write this. It’s my brain telling me that subconsciously there is a negative experience that my nervous system is responding to even though I consciously KNOW I am capable. Yes, your nervous system is also alerting you to the fact that this is important to you but you don’t really need that alert because you are very aware this is important and, frankly, it’s starting to psych you out, diminish your confidence, and hold you back from showing up at full capacity -it needs to go.
Neuroplasticity to the rescue! First, identify the negative belief that is associated with the nagging feeling - in this case it boils down to “I’m not good enough” (again, I KNOW I am good enough but the feeling in my body and the anxiety I am feeling is telling me otherwise). The antidote is simply “I am good enough/ confident.” But how do we get our subconscious to buy into this so we can get out of our own way and kick some major ass? Answer: Repetitious intention with visualization. You can rewire your brain and use neuroplasticity to your advantage by spending 5 to 10 minutes every day for the next 30 days visualizing 3 different times that you were “good enough and confident.” Remember the first time you got hired for a job you really wanted? Visualize that moment, feel the relief and validation, and let yourself bask in the glow of that achievement. What about a time when you set a goal for yourself and you achieved it or you scored points in youth sports? Anything that feels like healthy confidence that you can visualize and reinforces the idea that you are good enough and confident. Get it? Good.
The goal is to be focused on the visualization and fully experience the confidence, if you are getting distracted because you have a busy day and you’re thinking about it or you have a kid asking you for the 30th time if they can have a lollipop this won’t be particularly effective. However, if you can find time to fully focus on the visualization and positive emotional and physical experience of feeling good enough and confident you can shift your nervous system’s response so that your subconscious is more closely aligned with your conscious state based on what you know to be true about you and your capacity. If you can, give it a try. Remember this takes commitment, you won’t see results overnight but if you practice repetition intention with visualization you do have the power to rewire your subconscious in ways that can release you from past experiences that are stuck in your nervous system and are holding you back!
For a quick but more in depth explanation on neuroplasticity, check out this Huberman short.
*Mateos-Aparicio P, Rodríguez-Moreno A. The Impact of Studying Brain Plasticity. Front Cell Neurosci. 2019;13:66