The way to achieve lasting change in any area in life, like health and mental wellbeing, is by generating neuroplasticity, or rewiring of brain connections. There are certain behavioral requirements that make neuroplasticity possible. These include repetition, focus, urgency, challenge and sleep. In conjunction with these actions, there are molecules that must be released in the brain, called neuromodulators, to facilitate neuroplasticity.
Neuromodulators are like little chemical messengers that trigger changes in brain cells. They signal the neurons within the brain to change and rewire. They generate the neuroplasticity. The two key chemical ingredients required for neuroplasticity are neuromodulators called epinephrine (also called adrenaline) and acetylcholine.
The adrenaline is involved in the alertness or urgency component. The brain isn’t going to change the way you want it to if you aren’t in an alert, purposeful state. Taking that one step further, a heightened state of focus is also paramount. And that’s where the acetylcholine comes into play. It is responsible for generating and maintaining extreme focus during a task that’s aimed at rewiring brain circuits.
So how do we generate the release of these two important neuromodulators? How do we make sure we have the behavioral and chemical ingredients for neuroplasticity? First and foremost, start with sleep. Sleep is absolutely necessary because that’s where the actual physical brain changes take place – when we are sleeping.
But a good night’s rest also ensures that we are alert and energized the next day. So prioritize sleep and make sure you are getting a consistent 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Next, to generate a sense of alertness, urgency or energetic state, move your body! Go for a little walk, jog, or light workout. You could also drink a cup of coffee as the caffeine will give you alertness.
A Sense Of Urgency
You should also tie in your brain changing activity to something you are passionate about. Give it meaning or relate it to a purpose beyond yourself, like a loved one or family member. Or an accountability partner like a coach can create the sense of urgency. If you are purposeful about wanting to change and it has deep meaning for you, that can trigger the focus and energy to make the change.
Finally, to elicit the acetylcholine, practice focusing your mind and your brain on something. Specifically, practice visual focus with your eyes because they connect to your brain. And mental focus follows visual focus. A great way to improve your focus and concentration is to start a habit of daily reading. You could also practice meditation or mindfulness. They both enhance the ability to focus and concentrate. See my other blog posts for examples.
So if you are trying to reduce your stress, or learn a new language, or a new skill, you absolutely can do it! You’ll need to practice specific behaviors that release specific neuromodulators in the brain to generate the changes. The good news is that the necessary components related to the behaviors are straight forward. But it will take time and repetition. But rest assured, you hold the ability to physically change your brain and direct neuroplastic change the way you want it.
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