Experience-dependent neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to learn, adapt, and evolve to not only our experiences, but also, and perhaps more significantly, our reactions to those experiences. It is almost as if our brains can form habits, and the types of behaviors and patterns that it develops are dependent on how we choose to be. This suggests that the thoughts we choose to cultivate, and the actions we decide to take have the power to impact the physical state of our brains, as well as the way it functions and reacts to similar experiences in the future.
Therefore, if we tend to respond to situations with feelings of anger, worry, and stress, the more we are shaping our brains to get into the habit of negativity, programming and conditioning it to be irritable, pessimistic, and over-controlling—not only for today, but in the long-term. Through this damaging progression, eventually, our immediate and automatic reply to most circumstances will be, well, bad.
However, we have the ability to produce a different habit— the practice of being mindful of keeping our minds full of good. If we want to possess kindness, we have to actively exercise engaging in compassion, whether it is taking the time out of our day to call a friend to see how they are doing or merely putting ourselves in other people’s shoes. If we want to become a people of gratitude, we have to constantly remind ourselves of our blessings in every day circumstances, even if it means simply thanking the sky for the brief moment of sunshine amidst the perpetuity of fog. If we want to be happy, we have to get our brains in the habit of being happy.
Friends, we hold tremendous power to use our thoughts and actions to change our brains for the better, for the healthier. We only need to get into the habit of acting accordingly.
(Also, check out http://www.rickhanson.net/writings/just-one-thing for the original article on experience-dependent neuroplasticity and how to “be mind full of good”)