If you are like me, your childhood education taught you that you were either born smart or not. Perhaps from an early age, you were segregated into a specific intelligence class. You were pegged as a "Math" person or not. Making mistakes and taking risks were certainly not encouraged. Certainly, very few people were saying you can rewire the brain.
Science has now proven that this fixed mindset thinking is harmful and backward. Science has proven that you can rewire the brain.
Today I’m going to explain what neuroplasticity: (rewire the brain) is and why this scientific understanding of the brain is such a core component of implementing a growth mindset. If you want to raise children that have the mentality “Yes, I Can,” then this is the series for you. In fact, this is the 4th article in my series on how to raise children with a growth mindset. To watch previous videos, see the links at the bottom of the article.
If you’d prefer to consume this content via video, then watch my YouTube video on this subject here.
What is Neuroplasticity (Rewire the Brain)?
In my previous article, I briefly explained that the brain is like a muscle, in that it can be grown and developed through hard work and well-executed strategies . Neuroplasticity is the science behind the ability of the brain to change, adapt and rewire itself continuously. It’s the science of how to rewire the brain.
And yes I have some bad news for those of you who want to take shortcuts. Unlike plastic surgery, these types of brain changes are beyond the capability of surgeons at this moment, which means you’ll just have to rewire the brain the old-fashioned way. Through hard work and process.
So what are the basic principles of Neuroplasticity?
First, let's start with a layman's understanding of the brain.
The human brain is the largest brain compared to the body of any type of living organism. Our brains are made up of over 100 billion nerve cell which is called neurons, and experts have claimed that each Neuron is more powerful than the best supercomputer in the world. The neurons are connected by trillions of pathways called synapsis. During the first couple of years of human life, the brain begins the life-long process of synaptic pruning. Synaptic pruning is the brain’s process to rewire the brain to strengthen synapsis that is being regularly used, and eliminating unnecessary connections that aren’t being used.
This idea of your brain eliminating unnecessary connections is the first principle of neuroscience which it's important you realize. If you don’t use your mind regularly, your brain’s capabilities will diminish over time. It is as simple as use it or lose it.
A 2018 British study tracked 3400 retired government workers and found that short-term memory loss declines nearly 40% faster once employees retire!
Activities or exercises that are done on an ad-hoc basis are harder to complete as the synapsis between the neurons for those particular activities has rarely been fired.
Sinapsis that are regularly used - get stronger over time…think of driving to work and how it becomes second nature over time. This is the second principle of Neuroplasticity which neurons that fire together, wire together.
We can change the way our brains are wired up by changing our daily habits, smiling & sleeping more, focusing on intention, minimizing distractions, and eating healthy food.
While researching this topic, I discovered a fantastic Ted Talks by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young. She had a learning disability that made an even simple thing like reading or telling the time an ordeal. She was told that she had to live with her disability and her limited life. This was so depressing to Barbara that she tried to kill herself in 8th grade but even failed at that. At some point, Barbra started to try to understand what was wrong with her and she learned that a part of her brain was damaged. She also learned about Neuroplasticity, and the ability to rewire the brain through stimulation. So she started a brain exercise program and within 3-4 month she began to be able to understand the books she reads. Now, she is the owner of a business that teaches cognitive exercises. If you have time and are looking for inspiration, watch her Ted Talk which has now been observed close to 1M times.
So now that you know that you can rewire the brain, I’m sure you are interested in mental exercises you can do with your kids to strengthen and grow their neural connections. Well, I’m going to deep dive into individual games and activities in future YouTube videos, but if you can’t wait then here 5 quick tips to get started.
1. Word searches & crosswords are great ways to have your child focus and think.
2. Board games like Guess Who are fun ways to train the brain to ask the right question and deduce the answer through the process of narrowing and refining.
3. Scavengers hunts can be the best of both worlds. They are fun, they require you to think and be active. Try our Free & Fun, 7 day Growth Mindset Scavenger Hunt & Watch Your Child Transform!
4. Learn a new language.
5. Write & draw with both hands. Brain mapping shows that creativity is mostly centered in the right side of the brain, and one way to stimulate this side of the brain is by working with the wrong hand.