Monday, September 12, 2011

Rewiring Your Brain

Since our minds are basic to our lives and biological existence, I try to pay attention to new discoveries and inventions that may open to the door to better use and appreciation of our little gray cells.  A book that attracted my attention is "Rewire Your Brain" by John Arden.  It was about brain plasticity, the author is a PhD and he is director of Kaiser Permanente.  

I always recommend The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge when it comes to books on the brain.  That one opened my understanding a bit about why the flexibility of the brain matters.  However, anytime I start reading about parts of the brain, temporal lobe, prefrontal cortex and all that, I get little out of it.  The John Arden book does quite a bit of that part-naming business, but I seem to be getting a little clearer about it and why it matters.  Maybe it is due to his simplified explanation and limited use of the approach.

Arden has worked with veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and makes clear that we have tools in us to train ourselves and to improve our lives, moods and thoughts.  One of his points that I hadn't heard before is that purposely slowing one's breathing, using deep abdominal breaths, can assist in moving stressful or agitating thoughts off into a little distance from the mind, when the subject of the agitation can be observed with less engagement or habitual reaction.  

Arden emphasizes what he calls "Feed", as in Feed Your Brain.  He uses the acronym "F.E.E.D." as a reminder of important components of brain re-wiring:





Dr. Michael Merzenich, a major scientist with Posit Science and elsewhere, also emphasizes that focusing on what one is doing, not just letting things happen without conscious concentration on what one is dong and thinking, is important when training oneself.  Focused effort to do something you have been wanting to train yourself to do gets the ball rolling.  At first, the effort has to be strong but over time, the new action gets easier and easier, until it is more or less effortless.  Finally, it takes determination to stick with the training from the initial introduction all the way to being the new way desired.

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