Every new thought, every new knowledge and experience changes our brain. This plastic, complex and fascinating organ can be our ally when it comes to treating diseases or preventing diseases. Therefore, if we understand that our brain can heal us, then we can try new mental approaches and techniques.
A recognized expert in the field of cerebral plasticity is undoubtedly Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone. He is a researcher, professor and director of the Berenson-Allen Center at Harvard Medical School (Massachusetts, USA). In short, Pascual-Leone is a luminary in the field of neurology.
We recognize that the phrase “our brains can heal us” could lead to more than one misunderstanding. Therefore we want to emphasize once again: The brain does not cure chronic diseases. However, we can sometimes prevent these conditions and even relieve their symptoms if we improve our habits.
According to Professor Pascual-Leone, we need to understand that it is up to us to “shape” our brain. So we can make it our ally rather than our enemy. When we surround ourselves with caring and sincere people, are curious and open-minded, think positively, and reduce the effects of stress, we can undoubtedly improve our health and wellbeing.
We are sculptors of our own brain
Our brain is full of secrets, comparable to a complex star constellation. Every day we learn more about the “cosmic expanses” that extend behind our foreheads. Today there are many neuroscientists who, like astronauts, measure and research our brains.
- We now know that every experience and every behavior can change our brain.
- We also discovered a process called neurogenesis, which describes the ability of our central nervous system to create new neurons.
- Studies like that of Dr. Chunmei Zhao and Fred H. Gage from the University of California at San Diego (California, USA) have shown how important this process is in preventing and reducing the effects of health problems such as depression, memory loss and neurodegenerative diseases.
Without question, this is one of the most interesting areas of neuroscience, because until recently scientists believed that we could only create new neurons in the first few years of our lives.
Genes don’t determine our brain chemistry
There are two aspects of neurobiology that should always be considered: genetics and epigenetics. These two factors determine whether our brains are more or less likely to develop certain diseases.
So when it comes to preventing disease, we should keep in mind that genes do not determine 100% of our health. It is up to us to develop new practices and train our mental resilience. Becoming the sculptor of our brain can help us keep our brains and spirits healthy, as it can reduce the potential risk of disease.
A malleable brain is a healthy and resilient organ
Our brain can heal us because it has an amazing ability called plasticity. But what does that mean exactly?
Plasticity is the ability of our nervous system to change, to react to our environment. This is an evolutionary advantage that allows us to adapt much better to challenges and general difficulties in our environment.
When we talk about neuroplasticity, we are referring to any changes in our brain that are based on experience. For example, resilience is a good example of neuroplasticity as it shows our extraordinary ability to overcome adversity by learning and applying new strategies.
How can we “shape” our brain?
We already know that brain plasticity is a key skill that allows us to face life’s challenges. In addition, researchers have found that certain aspects such as the so-called cognitive reserve enable a better handling of neurological diseases.
In order to become a sculptor of our own brain, there are simple tools that we can use. These are of great benefit to our brain as they can encourage new neural connections. These tools have a positive effect on our brain, stimulate, protect and optimize.
Let’s see what Pascual-Leone recommends.
Healthy eating habits
A varied and balanced diet has a positive effect on our health. We should strive to buy fresh produce and avoid too much sugar and saturated fats.
We should also include foods with omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, tryptophan, vitamin K and antioxidants in our diet.
Our sedentary lifestyle is one of the greatest enemies of our physical and mental health. It is therefore advisable to incorporate physical activity into our everyday life. Walking for half an hour a day can go a long way.
Meditation and positive thoughts
Science has long been concerned with the effects meditation has on our health. In fact, a study from Harvard University (Massachusetts, USA) has shown that mindfulness can reduce anxiety and stress.
In addition, our brain can heal us once we have managed to adopt a positive and resilient attitude towards life. Positive thoughts improve brain health, reduce tension, and also increase our ability to learn new things.
Sleep deeply and restfully
There are people who only sleep 6 hours and are completely fine in the morning. Others of us need about 9 hours of sleep each night to feel rested. However, the most important thing is not the number of hours we sleep, but the quality of sleep. We should never underestimate sleep as it is essential for a healthy brain.
Our brain needs social interaction. A good network of friends that we can rely on helps us cope better with psychological problems, strengthen neural connections and increase our cognitive reserve.
Friendship is synonymous with health, just as love is energy. We should strive to maintain relationships that make us happy rather than investing in relationships that make us unhappy. Believe it or not, this will make us healthier day by day.
Now that we know our brain can heal us, we shouldn’t hesitate to cultivate better habits. Let us remember that we can be the sculptor of this organ capable of influencing our well-being and even reducing the risk of illness.