Neuroplasticity: mending the relationship with your brain

A photo by Christopher Sardegna. was almost a decade ago that I learned of this word: neuroplasticity. I loved the way it sounded. I loved what it meant. It has stuck with me, but it wasn’t until recently that I recognized that I may be able to apply it to my own brain. The notion that I could do a bit to re-mold my brain to change my migraine patterns wasn’t even part of my consciousness.

But intellectually, I was intrigued. The brain continues to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. This phenomenon, called is called neuroplasticity. It allows neurons in the brain to compensate for injury and adjust their activity in response to new situations or changes in their environment. Brain activity promotes brain reorganization. In other words, “brain workouts” help the brain reorganize connections more quickly and stimulate reorganization when the brain is not capable of reorganizing on its own.

I specifically looked into this around concepts of gratitude and happiness. And it is true — actively feeling more gratitude and recognizing/relishing in moments of happiness re-wires the brain. It reduces stress and increases our ability to relax.

Then I took up meditation more seriously, specifically Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). And it became very clear that over time I may very well be able to re-wire my brain within my migraine response as well. I fully realize that the complexities of my migraine response is a grander task than applying more gratitude in my life. But the process is the same. So, using MBSR, yoga and other meditations to begin to interact with my pain in a different way.

Like I said it is a process. But there was a point when I remember thinking “I could really truly heal myself.” And it was one of the best days of my life. After chasing remedies and cures for so long, and having finally given up on that, I felt it inside of me for the first time. And that was the shift. And it was major.

I don’t know how long it will take, but I believe in neuroplasticity. And I believe in my ability to heal.