Mirror Neurons


There is a neurological reason behind the idea that you should surround yourself with people you want to emulate. Or if you want to improve something, like your health and well-being, you should consume health improving content, particularly videos. It’s because we have specialized brain cells that help us to mimic that which we are seeing. And scientists call these cells mirror neurons.

Mirror neurons fire when a person observes someone performing a particular task. Scientists believe these types of brain cells play a role in learning, emotional intelligence, and empathy. All of which are beneficial to health and well-being!

Although the science behind mirror neurons is relatively new, debatable, and limited with respect to human brains, (kind of like neurogenesis) the research is very promising. But from a personal standpoint, the function of mirror neurons makes sense. The brain likes to prepare itself for new things. Mirror neurons seem to be the precursor, so to speak, to change or skill development, including health improving activities.

When I observe someone practicing healthy activities, like meditation, a new kettle-bell workout, or preparing a nutritional meal, I find myself imagining I’m the one performing the activity. Especially when I’m interested in learning or performing that activity myself. It’s as if I’m in their shoes and my brain is priming me to take on the task. 

Seeing Leads to Being

When we simply think about performing a task, we activate the same brain regions as if we were actually performing that task! And, when compared to control groups, research shows, subjects who first think about a task and then perform it, do better than those who don’t think about it first (see Visualization blog). So it makes sense that if we go one step further and actually observe someone doing a task, rather than just think about it, mirror neurons fire and we are better equipped to take on that task.

So this is why it is important to surround ourselves with healthy, uplifting people in our lives. This is why it’s important to consume healthy, uplifting content on social media and our electronic devices. If we are trying to improve our well-being, we should observe healthy activities. The more we can activate mirror neurons and brain circuitry to mimic healthy people, the better prepared we will be to take on those tasks and eventually make them habitual parts of our daily lives. 

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