When anyone sustains an injury of some kind, the body immediately starts attempting to heal it. We don’t have to ask it to, it just does it. Often, unless you’re a medic, we don’t really know much about how it’s doing it. Isn’t it amazing! Your most expensive possession, your house can’t do that, unfortunately. It doesn’t even tell you it’s not well, just suddenly something happens, like a roof leak. And if you don’t do something about it, the problem becomes a catalyst for other problems. Even though our bodies have this amazing ability, we do like to give it a helping hand. If you break a bone, yes your body can put it back together again, but we use a cast to make sure it’s straight, improving the result. Your brain creates connections and bins outdated ones all the time. After a brain injury this is the key to the recovery process, but it’s important for everyone. Brain injured or not. But being able to influence which new connections are successful is called Neuroplasticity.
Mind and body as one.
Whilst the body is incredible, to me it is a vessel to carry around my mind. That’s what I consider my consciousness and personality. Perhaps even my soul? So even if I had the most powerful muscles (which I don’t and never have) my mind is my most important asset. But actually treating the mind and body as separate beasts in this way isn’t productive. They are more closely intertwined than I could ever do a explanation justice. But a basic example I can give you is smiling. It’s a proven fact that if you smile more, even when you are feeling down, it will improve your mood. So is the body helping the mind? It’s all to do with your brain and how you respond to situations.
Use it or lose it.
When I was little, my parents only let me use a calculator to check my answers. Making sure I learned not just how to form an equation, but to solve the arithmetic myself. Even though in everyday life they knew as I became an adult I would save time with a calculator, they wanted to make sure I started out with the right skills. But as with many of us, as I got older and became best friends with the calculator, I was teaching my brain I didn’t need that skill anymore. So as those connections weren’t being exercised so much, it started to delete them, making space for more relevant ones. Just like a website can fall down in the Google rankings unless it continues to put the effort it, that’s what happened to my arithmetic. Now using Neuroplasticity I am trying to rebuild them. In short, practice makes perfect. You can read about how I struggle with maths more in Number problems after brain injury.
How Neuroplasticity can help your mental health.
We form our behaviour based on our environment, people we are in contact with, society and experiences. So stop blaming parents for everything! Yes they have a massive part to play in the development of their child, but there’s more to it than that.
I had a friend with little Jack Russel who would growl and start looking for trouble the moment you said the word “cats”. But if an actual cat walked by him, he didn’t care. He thought of it as a command to look out of bad things, but he didn’t think cats were that bad. As he believed that’s what the word meant, that’s what caused the aggressive behaviour. Neuroplasticity is about not accepting your usual reaction is the only way to respond.
So when your consciousness starts berating you, you don’t have to let it win. I might have some weird twitches after my brain injury, but it doesn’t mean people care. I would imagine that people would be thinking I’m really odd, and therefore not good enough. So I hated being around strangers. But mostly people didn’t even notice my twitches, let alone waste effort thinking about them. All I was doing was assuming there was a negative judgement, when there wasn’t. I was destroying my self-confidence. For nothing. Now I just tell that stupid nervous voice to shut up, what does she know anyway. In time my brain will learn that I’m not reacting to her anymore and it will cut her out.
It’s a massive subject and this doesn’t even touch the sides. But if you want the read more about it, Debbie Hampton wrote a brilliant article Neuroplasticity: The 10 Fundamentals Of Rewiring Your Brain . Or in her book “Sex, Suicide and Serotonin” she explains how her negative responses to situations contributed to her suicide attempts. But after years of suffering, she used Neuroplasticity to change her life and attitude. If she can do it, so can we.
Other articles you might like:
- TBI: Recovering with a brain injury. Essential oils may help.
- TBI: Lost confidence.
- Why Pinterest is great for brain injury survivors.
- Impulsiveness after brain injury.
- Brain training.