Monday, October 21, 2013
The Plastic Brain
When I was in my early thirties, I was diagnosed with a lung disease. The lung disease is called Sarcoidosis, and after my pneumonia went away, I was left with asthma. The asthma slowly got better over the years with the help of positive thought, diet (including high quality supplements) and exercise. I was one of the lucky ones - the disease never progressed or migrated into my eyes, liver or other organs.
What was scary at the time of diagnosis was the possibility that it could be lung cancer, something far worse; and 20 years ago, the prognosis for that was grim.
I had 2 little ones at the time; I was scared that I wouldn’t live to see them grow up. I don’t like to think about all this now, because it happened so long ago.
I did as much research as I could find on the disease at the library, combing medical journals (remember, the internet didn’t exist 20 years ago, computers were not mainstream and there was no such thing as Google). One of the things I searched for was anything I could do to get on the path to healing. I came across a book by Norman Cousins called Head First- the Biology of Hope and the Healing Power of the Human Spirit.
The book was brand new at the time, and I gobbled up the scientific breakthrough that the mind and the body are connected, that one could help oneself in the healing process with laughter and positive thinking. Today, it seems silly that we once believed what we thought had no effect on our bodies!
Did you ever think you had control over you’re your brain? I know you probably know you can control what you think about - we’ve all done that. But actually, there is even more evidence that we can actually rewire our brains to perform functions we thought impossible.
You probably know that during a child’s early development, there is a critical stage of learning that makes is easy for them to learn at a rapid pace. Many people thought that once this stage had passed, there was nothing that could be done to rewire certain aspects. That has proven to be wrong -- there is a lot that can be done; studies have shown with the right kind of mental exercises, kids with learning disabilities can have a profound effect on their brain wiring. (the program is called Fast ForWord). Studies have also shown that stroke victims can make huge steps in recovery with the right kind of exercises (physical and mental) that were never thought possible. Even patients who had a stroke years before can rewire their brains using the right treatment, and make significant improvements.
Our brains are amazing. We need to keep learning into middle age, so that the neurons don’t die off. See positscience.com for exercises.
I used to think that psychotherapists were just for “talking through your problems” . Not so -- the right kind of therapist can actually help a patient rewire his/her brain to “unlearn” the undesirable event, problem, action; and “relearn” or turn on genes in our neurons that are desirable.
All this information can be found in the book The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, M.D.www.lunasin.com