Your Brain Can Heal You
Your brain changes with every new thought, new thing you learn, and new experience you have. This plastic, complex, and fascinating organ can be our ally when it comes to preventing and treating endless conditions. That’s why understanding that your brain can heal you can open the door to applying new tools and mental approaches.
One of the greatest experts in the field of cerebral plasticity is undoubtedly Dr. Álvaro Pascual-Leone. He’s a researcher, professor, and Associate Dean of the Clinical and Translational Science Center at Harvard Medical School. Moreover, he’s one of the most inspiring researchers of the human brain and its potential.
We’re aware that the phrase “your brain can heal you” can lead to more than one misunderstanding. Let’s get something straight: this organ won’t heal chronic diseases. However, it can allow us to prevent them in many cases, and even relieve their impact if we improve our habits.
Now, according to Professor Pascual-Leone, we must understand that it’s up to us to “sculpt” our own brain to make it an ally instead of an enemy. Surrounding ourselves with caring and genuine people, being curious and receptive, thinking positively, and reducing the impact of stress will undoubtedly allow us to improve our health and well-being.
We’re sculptors of our own brain
The brain is full of complex constellations. Every day we learn more about that cosmic ocean that extends beyond our small planet and, additionally, we’re now skilled astronauts who enjoy exploring and discovering relevant data about our neural networks.
- We know, for example, that every experience, thought, and behavior can modify our brain.
- We’ve also discovered a process called neurogenesis that clearly demonstrates that our central nervous system can continue to generate new neurons.
- Studies such as the one carried out by Drs. Chunmei Zhao and Fred H. Gage from the University of California, San Diego state just how important this process is in the prevention and mitigation of the impact of health issues such as depression, memory loss, or neurodegenerative diseases.
This is undoubtedly one of the most interesting areas of neuroscience because, until very recently, we believed that we were only capable of generating new neurons during the first years of our lives.
Genes don’t determine our brain chemistry
There are two aspects that should always be taken into account when it comes to neurobiology: genetics and epigenetics.
- These factors will always determine whether our brain has a greater or lesser chance of suffering from certain pathologies.
- However, when it comes to preventing them, we must always keep one aspect in mind: genes don’t determine our health 100%. It’s up to us to adopt new practices and better mental approaches.
Being authentic sculptors of a healthier and more plastic brain will help us reduce the impact of many physical and psychological conditions.
A plastic brain is a healthy, resilient brain
Your brain can heal you because it has an amazing ability called plasticity. Now, what exactly does that mean?
- Plasticity is the ability of our nervous system to modify itself to respond to our environment.
- Additionally, it’s an evolutionary advantage that helps us adapt much better to challenges and overall difficulties.
- When we talk about neuroplasticity, we refer to all those changes in our brain that stem from experience.
- Resilience, for example, is a clear example of neuroplasticity because it demonstrates our exceptional ability to overcome adversity by applying new strategies and learning from them.
How can we “sculpt” the brain?
We already know that brain plasticity is a key tool for facing challenges in our environment. Likewise, researchers have discovered that aspects such as cognitive reserve allow us to better deal with neurological conditions.
The keys to being architects of our brain are actually pretty easy to apply. They greatly benefit our brain since they allow it to generate new connections. They’re stimulating, protective, and optimizing.
Let’s see what neurologist Pascual-Leone advises:
Proper eating habits
A varied and balanced diet equals health. We should strive to buy fresh, organic products and avoid consuming too much sugar and saturated fats.
Also, we should include foods with omega-3, magnesium, tryptophan, vitamin K, and antioxidants in our diet.
Regular physical exercise
A sedentary lifestyle is one of the main physical and mental health enemies. This is why it’s advisable to do any kind of physical activity. Just walking half an hour a day is enough.
Meditation and positive thoughts
Science has been studying the impact of meditation on our health for a while now. In fact, a study from Harvard University revealed that mindfulness can help relieve anxiety and stress.
On the other hand, your brain will be able to heal you if at some point you’ve managed to adopt a positive and resilient approach to life. Positive thoughts improve brain health, reduce tension, and even improve the ability to learn new things.
Deep and restful sleep
There are people who sleep for only 6 hours and feel completely fine in the morning. Others, on the other hand, need to sleep approximately 9 hours every night. However, the important thing isn’t the number of hours we sleep, but the quality of said sleep. Don’t ever underestimate sleep since it’s essential to a healthy brain!
Our brain needs social interaction. Having a significant support system to rely on helps us better cope with depression, strengthens neural connections, and improves cognitive reserve.
Friendship is health and love is energy. We should strive to maintain relationships that make us happy instead of worried. Believe it or not, they’re making us healthier day by day.
In conclusion, now that you know that your brain can heal you, don’t hesitate to adopt better habits. Remember that you can be the sculptor of this organ that’s capable of mediating your well-being and even preventing the development of certain diseases.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Akins, MR, y García, ADR (2015). Neurogénesis en el cerebro adulto. En Encyclopedia of Cell Biology (Vol. 4, pp. 134-140). Elsevier Inc. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-394447-4.40021-0
- Bolognini, N., Pascual-Leone, A., & Fregni, F. (2009). Using non-invasive brain stimulation to augment motor training-induced plasticity. Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-0003-6-8
- Zhao, C., Deng, W., y Gage, FH (2008, 22 de febrero). Mecanismos e implicaciones funcionales de la neurogénesis adulta. Cell. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2008.01.033