When my teacher told me that the brain is malleable, pliable and has a tremendous capacity to heal and grow, I thought “really”? “Aren’t we born with a brain that is static and am I not defined by the genes that I am blessed with”? Nope, it turned out it is called neuroplasticity and refers to the brains ability to create new neural pathways. He went on to say that we are all driven by certain needs and beliefs that we have. Some of these needs and beliefs might be outdated or dysfunctional. But in order to meet those needs, the brain has developed a preference for doing things in a certain way, as we have used it for 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years, on repeat. We need to rewire the brain, if we want to change, heal and literally update, those outdated or dysfunctional needs and beliefs. Retraining that muscle – like in the Gym – as the brain is in a constant state of flux and adapts itself based on the input we give it. Neuroplasticity can break old unsustainable habits by making new thoughts, patterns and ultimately new and more productive habits. This can be a very important aspect if we want to heal chronic conditions, symptoms and patterns. This is what Craniosacral Therapy does as an integrated mind-body approach. As with everything, it is a matter of practice and repetition, the more you do something, the more your brain responds to support that activity and embeds it in your nervous system.
During our class, we were shown a video where brain synapses were being pruned away as a pattern of thought or behavior was literally unlearned and we saw how new brain synapses were created, primed and strengthened by retraining, by learning a new skill or habit. As the saying goes in neuroscience: “what fires together, wires together” in other words: what you put your attention on, grows and you could literally see it happening in the video. That same night, all of us students had to put it to the test and do something positive that we had never done before, observing how it felt in our body and in our mind and repeating the behavior, as we were literally going to create new neural connections and synapses ourselves. Our teacher sent us off with the beautiful and lasting words: ”Hug the unknown, we suffer from expectations. You may just have an incredible experience you always wanted, but never had before”.
I decided to step out of my comfort zone, approaching and chatting to people I would normally never dare to approach as I, well lets just say for the better part of my life, I was shy and very good at hiding myself away. So I did. I took the first step on that path, doing something new, creating and hard wiring new neural connections and in doing, with repetition over the following years, changed my brain chemistry. I am still changing and updating, In fact so much so that I now am a very visible person. With practice I aligned and am still aligning my thoughts, actions, and behavior, with how I want to feel and what I want to create. That is the beauty, learning is continuous and never stops.
Recently I experienced neuroplasticity again in another format through a pack of affirmation cards. The instructions were: pick a random card, read the affirmation on the card and add your own “first come to mind” sentence to complete the sentence. The card I randomly picked said “I am Grateful because......”. A sentence immediately popped into my mind. And there it was, as I was adding my OWN sentence, my own reason and emotion to complete the affirmation, for the first time I could actually FEEL being grateful. Not just think it but I felt it. I could feel that despite all the good, bad and very very ugly, I felt really grateful for all that had come my way. It had made me stronger, more resilient, empathetic, driven and passionate and hopefully a better person. As I was doing the exercise, scientifically speaking, I was probably changing my internal chemical environment, creating happy hormones and boosting my Serotonin levels. All I know is that for the remainder of that day, it left me with a smile on my face, a warm feeling, a relaxed peaceful and happy body and with a deep sense of achievement and gratitude, as my brain and body and therefore my actions were in alignment and congruence. Neuroplasticity at its simplest and neuroplasticity at its best.
The words of my teacher popped back into my mind and how right he had been: The brain is an organ that develops itself based on how its used and its experiences. It is an organ that is (re)programmable, whilst this is necessary for our survival, our growth, our development and ultimately our health. And I see this time and again with my clients who may be stuck in old and outdated patterns, mindsets, beliefs and habits and therefore in their symptoms whatever their symptoms are. I find this very relevant for tinnitus clients but also with any kind of anxiety, stress, (chronic) pain or depression. Here I incorporate Neuroplasticity as a vital component of their integrated treatment to fully heal, physically, mentally and emotionally and as part of their self-care and sense of empowerment. The clients that take this on and do the work, are the one's that heal the most.
What are the neural pathways you're currently building? What is it that you would like to rebuild? How would you like to feel? As we have seen, neuroplasticity is all about rebuilding the neural settings of how you want to feel and who you want to be and very importantly to really feel it, as feelings and emotions create our reality and the quality of our life. Often we have these networks in our brain that are dormant as they have been overtaken by worry, doubt and anxiety. And what you focus on is what you create as the brain will perceive it as important and we get caught in this perpetual looping brain. A looping worried and anxious survival brain is exhausting as much energy is directed into that. So if you are focusing on your symptoms: the pain, the anxiety, the ear ringing etc, if you are googling your symptoms and going on internet forums, reading and talking doom and gloom, the brain will think: it must be important. You are, in essence feeding it, so it will start firing those wires with more strengths and keep you stuck in your symptoms.
It is a personal and customised journey I go on with my clients as no 2 people are the same. A simple and quick way to start could be by asking yourself:
That is the beauty about Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy: Healing physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually (blog: More than our physical body).