Can you change your mind?
For a long time, many experts believed that changing the way one’s brain worked and functioned was impossible. If someone was damaged from trauma, it was believed that they would suffer immensely from that trauma forever.
However, new research suggests the opposite. Today, we know that the brain is an ever-changing organ, and that it is, in fact, possible to change our minds in many different ways.
The ability to help our brain to change for the better is a very human trait, and the fact that it can be changed at all is known as neuroplasticity.
The neuroplasticity of our brain comes into play in a big way when we consider recovery from addiction. Once someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, he or she will unfortunately be an addict for life – even long after he or she manages to quit using. However, by harnessing the power of the neuroplasticity of our brains, the process of recovering from addiction can become much more manageable, indeed.
Read on to learn all about neuroplasticity and the methods that you can use to actually rewire your brain.
What Is Neuroplasticity?
In short, neuroplasticity is the way that our brains change as a result of new thoughts and behaviors. Every time we do something new, new neural pathways are formed in the brain. The more we do something that is negative or not good for us, the stronger the pathways that support those things become. On the other hand, this also works with the positive or healthy behaviors we participate in too.
Clearly, we want to strengthen the positive pathways and weaken the negative ones in all we do. This may be easier said than done, but it’s absolutely possible. By “retraining the brain” to support positive behaviors and thoughts, we can change our lives for the better beyond our wildest dreams.
Research shows that that rewiring the brain for a happier and better life is possible. But how?
Neuroplasticity and Addiction
It’s no surprise that negative pathways are forged in the human brain when someone is struggling with addiction. This is really the goal of substances like drugs or alcohol; when consumed, these substances rush to the brain and immediately begin working on the brain’s reward centers, making you feel good. As a result, when their effects fade, you immediately want more. When you continue to use, these pathrways become more and more efficient and your desire for more and more increases in turn.
If you want to break free from addiction, you must be aware of the fact that these pathways have developed, and you must actively work to create new and more positive ones without drugs or alcohol.
Changing the Pathways
Fortunately, the brain is a malleable thing. You are not stuck with the old negative pathways due to the brain’s ability and desire to change. The power is in your hands.
No matter what, your brain wants rewards. When you no longer want those rewards to be the effects of drugs or alcohol, it’s up to you to create new rewards for it.
What do you find rewarding?
For most people, setting and achieving recovery goals is one type of reward that works. Every hour or day that you remain clean and sober is an achievement, and your brain will thank you for it. Keep setting goals and keep reaching them, and you’re already well on your way to restructuring those neural pathways.
Another great way to reward the brain is by taking on new, positive habits that give you healthy mental rewards. Think about all the things you enjoyed before you began your struggle with addiction. Do you like to make art, play music, or write? Do you enjoy spending time with loved ones? Do sports and other physical activites get you fired up? It’s time now to turn back to those things and reap the many benefits that they offer. The more you participate in the above things, the more your brain will want to do them. Dive into healthy emotional and physical habits and soon your brain will crave them just as much if not more than they ever craved the substances you were dependent upon.
Your brain is adaptable, and that means you are adaptable, too. Although the negative pathways in your brain created by your addiction will never go away completely, they will fade in time. The more energy and power you put into your positive pathways, the stronger they will become.
You Can Do It
You can change the pathways in your brain. You can make positive changes that rewire your mind to seek out more positive rewards than the unhealthy rewards it sought in the past. It’s not going to happen overnight, but with time, effort, work, and dedication, you can succeed in these changes and in your recovery moving forward.
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