How to Leverage Neuroplasticity in your Morning Routine
neuroplasticity; noun: neuro-plasticity
the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.
As defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, neuroplasticity is the (natural) ability of the brain to form and reorganize connections, especially in response to learning, experience, or following injury. I added natural to the definition as there is an inherent ability pre-wired into the brain that allows this process to occur. In short, it is our birthright to be stakeholders and stewards of our brain and brain functioning, within limitations of course.
Knowing this, we have the ability to learn the conditions in which we can promote healthy brain functioning and literally nourish our brains. I believe that establishing a healthy morning routine can promote the conditions for neuroplasticity to occur. If we can align with these conditions, we can rapidly change our brain, for the better.
The best and most direct way to do this would be through a morning routine that includes a few variables. I will break these down here for you:
Meditation. Most leaders in the field of neuroscience can agree that meditation, and the committed practice of meditation, is a foundational skill that can promote healthy changes in your brain. Simply said, by focusing your attention on your breath or particular regions in your body, you are giving the mind something to focus on rather than having it wander through all sorts of disconnected and distracted states. By focusing, we give our minds a rest as well as our bodies the time to rest. During this process, our stress levels lower and we promote the conditions for our brains to wire in a more regulated state.
Hydration. Our bodies are comprised mostly of water and is the main method of transportation of nutrients and waste throughout our bodies. Think about your blood, saliva, mucus, crying, sweat, etc. Another important aspect of hydration is the chemical and electrical connections in our brains, which is how our brains neurons wire together and fire together. Staying hydrated, along with maintaining healthy electrolyte balances, promotes the conditions in your brain to form synapses, a tiny junction between nerve cells that allow for electrical and chemical signals to pass throughout the brain (and the rest of your body as a result). Being under-hydrated, on the other hand, limits the formation of synapses and there fore limits the passage of electrical and chemical signals in your brain.
Movement. Runners often say that they find freedom through running and that the world just disappears. Cyclists, swimmers, skiers, etc can also say something similar. There is something really important about movement that we know is true down in our bones. A way to thing about WHY this is important is called bi-lateral stimulation, which is the stimulation of both sides of our brains in a rhythmic and repetitive manner. Trauma therapists have utilized bilateral stimulation, a process called EMDR therapy, using lights and vibration pads to give the brain something to do in order to process the difficult emotions and sensations associated with trauma. In a similar way, stimulating both sides of our brains (bilateral) in a rhythmic pattern (walk, run, bike, etc) gives our brains something to do that is deeply nourishing and natural. So, next time you are out on a walk, just note to yourself that you are doing something really important and natural for your brain. When you feel good after your walk, this is a message that your brain (and your body) appreciate the walk.
As a caveat with neuroplasticity, we can also harm our brains through emotional disregulation and repression, maladaptive coping strategies, chronic stress, and poor health and hygiene.
The choice is yours to choose to make good habits that can promote neuroplasticity and literally change your brain, to follow through consistently with these habits and reap the benefits of an improved baseline.
I hope you've enjoyed this article and found value as it applies to your everyday life.
Stay tuned for more articles and insights.