Frequently Asked Questions About Brain Plasticity

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I am a 30-year-old doctor living in New York. I moved here right after high school when I received an acceptance letter at NYU. From there, I went on to ace all my classes, excel during my residency, top the licensure exam, and become a resident oncologist at a private hospital.

My friends often said that I lived an envy-worthy life. After all, before I turned 27, I already managed to buy a house in the Upper East Side without getting a loan from the bank or my parents. Many cancer patients started to notice my skills and wanted me to look after them. In their eyes, I was among the most eligible bachelorettes in the city. 

While my friends celebrated that fact, my mother did not. She had a traditional view of the world, in the sense that Mom frowned upon that I was still not married at 30 or at least in a serious relationship that might lead to marriage. Whenever I thought she would forget to mention it during our frequent video calls, she would say something about it before I could say bye.

My mother did not understand that my singlehood was not a result of a lack of trying to find an incredible man. I was – and still am – on the lookout for the right – not perfect – guy; it just so happened that I had not found him yet. If you ask my mother about it, though, she would tell you that it’s only because I was picky.

Well, I could not deny that even if I tried. I was far from being a snub, but I knew I deserved to have a little high standard after everything I had done to improve myself, my life, and my career. I refused to act like men who would settle for anyone who could offer nothing but a great body and a fabulous time in bed. (Harsh, yes, but true!)

Explaining A Woman’s Brain

A new colleague and friend who worked as a neuroscientist at the hospital once overheard my mother talking about my choosiness when it came to men. She seemed amused by our banter, but when Mom turned to her for backup, she surprised my mother and me when she disagreed with her, albeit politely.

“Is there some singlehood club in this hospital?” Mom asked, surprised.

The neuroscientist laughed. “No, no, Mrs. Baxter. In truth, my husband and I had just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary last week,” she replied.

“Why are you siding with my daughter then?”

“Your daughter’s behavior is quite normal based on scientific research,” the neuroscientist explained. “The brain of a woman is different to that of a man, in the sense that the neural pathways in the left and right hemispheres have more connections. Because of that, women like your daughter experience neuroplasticity more than men and have better intuition.”

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Mom seemed taken aback. “Neuro— Can you say that one more time?”

Giggling, I decided to step in and tug my mother’s arm. “She just means I am doing the smart thing by not letting peer pressure push me to marry the first guy who proposes to me.”

Of course, that was not enough explanation for dear ol’ Mom. She continued to quiz me about brain plasticity all the way back to my house. 

Assuming you want to understand it in the psychological sense, allow me to share some things that my mother and I discussed.

How does brain plasticity relate to psychology? 

 Brain plasticity pertains to the ever-changing neural pathways that allow you to experience different emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. It is related to psychology since this field focuses on the neural changes that cause people to act or feel a certain way.

What does plasticity of the brain mean? 

 Plasticity of the brain means that this part of your body can alter the neural connections for as long as you’re alive.

What gives the brain its neuroplasticity? 

 Neuroplasticity is not always evident unless you experience a physical injury, change your environment, or decide to do a behavioral overhaul. 

How does brain plasticity change with age? 

 When you are still young, your brain can exhibit plasticity and generate more neurons since you have only started to gain new information. It works at its best during early childhood – the time when your brain is like a new sponge that wants to absorb everything.

Once you hit adolescence, though, neuroplasticity is at 50%. This is a significant reduction, considering you begin laying out the foundations of your life at this point.

The older you get from here on out, and the less you want to learn new things, the more your brain’s plasticity decreases.

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Can I rewire my brain? 

 People used to claim that neuroplasticity did not exist, that it was impossible to change how your brain is wired. However, recent studies have shown otherwise, so yes, you can rewire your brain.

How does behavior change the brain? 

 Behavior changes the brain by modifying neural connections that make the new action possible. For instance, if you want to learn how to play the guitar, you may show the inclination to know the right way of plucking or pressing the strings. Neuroplasticity happens then so that there will be new neural pathways that allow your fingers to be flexible enough to do that and develop muscle memory.

What factors influence brain plasticity? 

 One of the primary factors influencing brain plasticity is environmental change. For instance, if you used to live in a community where you are a part of the minority, you may have felt the need to watch your actions to avoid attracting unwanted attention. But when you move to another town where you belong to the majority, you may start walking around with your head held high or develop a happier, more relaxed attitude.

A brain injury can also influence neuroplasticity, in the sense that your head gets shaken up or, worse, traumatized after an accident or illness. When that happens, it will create more neurons to stabilize your brain functions somewhat.

Substance abuse is another factor that may influence your brain’s plasticity. At first, it may feel like the drugs make you smarter and help you learn new things. But the more you depend on the substances and use them habitually, the more they can block signals from passing through neurons.

Other factors include aging, pregnancy, diet, stress, and illnesses.

Can a damaged brain reorganize itself? 

 Ideally speaking, yes, a damaged brain can reorganize itself. Your brain is more resilient than many people realize, in the sense that it can recover from injuries. However, the reality is that the damage’s intensity determines how well the reorganization process will take place.

If you bonked your head on a door or banged it on a steering wheel during an accident, the damage may not be extensive. Neuroplasticity will still occur, but you may not notice it because you continue to function optimally. Suppose you have undergone brain surgery or dealt with another condition that leaves you unconscious for days. In that case, the damage may be beyond irreparable, and your brain can practically patch things up.

What increases brain plasticity? 

 Exercising is among the best ways to increase plasticity since it boosts the oxygen level in the brain. When you do cardiovascular exercises regularly, you need not worry about your neural connections never changing.

Sleeping also increases neuroplasticity, considering that’s when your brain can reset your neural pathways in peace. If you are awake, other thoughts and emotions may prevent it from focusing on a single task.

Furthermore, getting rid of all your stressors is essential to increase brain plasticity. Stress hormones tend to make you stuck on a few thoughts; you may not even want to move or do anything else. Without them, your brain can continue creating new neurons quickly.

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What happens during learning brain and behavior changes? 

 The idea is that whatever we learn causes new neurons, given that we have no preconceived knowledge about those things to connect the information to.

How does learning new things affect the brain? 

 When you learn new things, your brain reassesses your neural pathways and figures out where it can create new ones.

How does exercise help brain plasticity? 

 Exercise helps brain plasticity by increasing the amount of oxygen that goes up in your head. This is essential for the generation of new neurons.

Which exercise is best for the brain? 

 Cardiovascular exercises are the best for the brain. Hence, start jogging, walking, running, and doing other activities.

How can I sharpen my brain

 The first thing is to read as many books as possible. Reading always comes with comprehension, which means that your brain does not stop working. The more you read, the more information you can obtain. Thus, your neuroplasticity may not decline too much.

Another option is to fix your posture. It seems too simple, but standing, walking, or sitting with a straight back will promote proper blood circulation. Your brain will then have the regular supply of oxygen that it needs. Aside from that, you can look for a new hobby. Doing so pushes your brain to make new neurons and accommodate new ideas.

Is walking good for the brain? 

 Yes, walking is good for the brain, not just for the heart. According to scientists, when you put your weight on each foot, the resulting pressure waves travel towards the arteries and boost the brain’s blood supply. Because of that, it can continue creating neurons.

Final Thoughts

It took a few more days for my mother to understand neuroplasticity and its relation to my situation. Despite that, she finally stopped bugging me for not being married at my age when she did. I guess the lack of pressure helped, considering I found a wonderful boyfriend a few months after that, and we are now set to tie the knot two years later.

 

The Power Of Silence (All About Mental Health Stability)

For most people, a mere thought of silence reflects a negative reaction. They see it as an uncomfortable gesture that often results in people’s unwanted behavior. They believe that silence is an emotional and mental state killer due to its savage and cold non-verbal approach. Some are afraid of it because they think it represents a powerful and invisible scream. It serves a barrier for expression, while others look at it as an excuse to avoid any possible involvement. People recognize silence as an awkward and unflattering thing. And sometimes, some people do not understand why it gets used. But not all people hate and are confused with silence. There are those individuals who think about it differently. With that, let’s talk about the benefits of silence and how it impacts mental health.

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Relieves Tension And Stress

It is no secret that too much noise can cause a mere distraction to the brain’s function. That is due to the elevated levels of stress hormones. It gets associated with poor concentration, lack of sleep, fatigue, mental disruption, and communication difficulties. These things are the reason why noisy people and the environment are often unhealthy for an individual’s emotional and cognitive development.  However, when a person prefers silence, he gets the opposite effect. Silence becomes the best method of releasing physical, emotional, and mental tension. That even a few minutes of being alone with it gives the individual enough time to regenerate his overall wellbeing.

Allows Processing Of Thoughts

Some people use silence as a gesture of agreeing to things without even thinking about it. That is why an ideology that silence often means “YES” resonates. However, that is not how others tend to use it. Some people enjoy and prefer silence because it allows them to process their thoughts before they could avoid reacting stupidly onto something.  It gives them enough time to clear the space for response and assists potential authentic dialogue. Silence allows people to communicate better and respond to things around them accordingly. For these individuals, it represents the value of thinking before speaking.

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Helps Boost Creativity

A person’s creative thinking process requires a load of ideas. But for the ideas to sink in, individuals must have a clear vision of what they want to achieve. So to get that clarity, they need silence. It is beneficial because it works as a box that secludes imagination and prevents it from tearing apart. It allows individuals to focus on one thing despite hearing or seeing other things around. It sparks creativity by putting individuals in a comfortable physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental state before engaging in routines. Silence offers them a calm and soothing experience that opens with a productive mind and body engagement.

Acknowledges Feelings

When individuals are silent, it means they engage more with their minds. However, that does not mean that their emotional wellbeing is not affected by it. Much more likely, when people are silent, they experience more profound thoughts and feelings, especially when they are not dealing with a lot of external stimuli. Most people find it best to serve themselves alone rather than surrounded by others. Silence for them means taking time to create internal peace. It gives them the opportunity to work best with themselves.

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Improves Concentration And Focus

Since there is constant stimulation of the brain on a day to day basis, people find it significantly stressful to think about many things. But when they prefer to be silent, they allow their brain to function. Silence refers to people’s love for undivided attention. It enables them to disconnect from the stressors of the outside world. They use it to their advantage to offer their hundred percent attention to whatever task they are committed to. It improves their problem-solving skills, as well as promotes the development of their higher thinking abilities. As a positive result, people avoid getting mentally exhausted.

Plays A Therapeutic Role

Silence is not just about a mere expression or an idea of the desired environment; it also has something to do with therapy. That is due to its therapeutic effects, allowing the brain to pause even for a while. Silence often connects to emotions. That is why when people are quiet and unable to talk, it sometimes means there is something wrong. Without interruption, silence can create a safe environment for people who are anxious, lonely, and depressed. In some cases, silence means handling one’s self better.

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It is vital to note that silence is not necessary that bad. Yes, many people don’t like it and sometimes misinterpret it, but its purpose is entirely acceptable. Given those reasons, it would be best to say that there are benefits in silence, and it should become a part of your life from time to time.

Surviving The Stress In The Family Conflict

You are probably stuck at home way more than you would like due to the uncertainties of the pandemic. And that particular circumstance is no doubt causing a lot of stressful tension in the family dynamics. Whether you are a dad who now works from home, a mom who often does everything in the house, a teen who needs his or her space, and a kid who wants to enjoy life, your contribution to the family becomes challenging. And even during the best of times, it can be challenging to deal with your family’s inconsistencies and get along with their traits and behaviors. But no need to worry because there are still better ways that everyone in the family can do to keep peace and unity inside the home.

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Understand The Weight Of The Issue In A Given Situation

Now that you and your family are stuck in your house, you probably get into each others’ nerves more often. Every one of you somehow finds reasons to get more irritated at each other. Perhaps that is due to the unsolicited advice you acquire, or constant complaints about nothing, and things like that. That misunderstanding can escalate quickly into a massive fight if not handled correctly. To avoid that, the first thing to realize is the huge amount of possible conflict given in the situation. When the whole family understands the consequences of their actions and behaviors toward each other, they can practice conflict resolution. It opens an opportunity for everyone to learn new skills that are beneficial for family relationships.

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Apologize If Needed To Control The Conflicting Position

When it comes to resolving family conflicts, there are quite a few things you need to do first. That is to walk away from everyone, calm yourself down, and fix your thoughts before engaging in a conversation. That is because you never know what possible things might happen when you let your emotions out uncontrolled. There’s the tendency that you might spit out unnecessary and hurtful words, which is probably the most common thing that you will do. In case the damage has been done and you already emotionally blew up, at least find the courage to control the damage by apologizing first. It will calm everyone, and it will make your family more than willing to listen to what you have to say.

Address The Issue By Knowing How Everyone Feels

Some primary reasons family conflicts tend to overflow with hatred, anger, and aggression is because of judgments and accusations. That is pretty normal, though, because each family member often has a lot to say to everybody in the house. That is because everyone wants to explain themselves regardless if they are trying to be defensive. And that whole barrier that each of you is putting up adds more damage than resolution. It results in everybody not being able to express themselves equally. With that, no one becomes willing to listen. To avoid that, you must take a moment to ask the family member’s “what’s wrong.” That simple question does not only help in opening a meaningful conversation but allows everyone to become aware of each others’ feelings.

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Realize The Difficulty In Arguing With Someone Else’s Feelings

What you feel might not be the one your family understands. So the last thing you want to do to try and resolve a conflict is to look for your family’s existing emotional dilemma. Use it to get into their thoughts and feelings. Understand what makes them disappointed, irritated, or angry at the same time. Of course, you also need to deal with your emotional response like everybody does. But considering you understand the weight of the situation, try to be more tolerant. Be the bigger person, as what they say. Instead of validating your worth in the family, try and understand your loved ones’ emotional uproar. That way, you can work your way by arranging some better behavioral response suitable for the resolution of the family conflict.

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Try To Spend An Alone Time After The Family Conflict

Given that there is much emotional and mental exhaustion from the whole family conflict situation consider giving yourself alone time once it’s over. Not to excuse yourself from everyone, but to allow your emotional and mental health to heal. Stress is an inevitable thing that you can’t escape or control. However, you can address it by taking a moment to care for yourself. You can use a couple of hours to write things in your journal. You can also listen to soothing music, watch a movie, or sleep even for a couple of minutes. Honestly, there’s a lot of things that can help you fight stress. Once you feel that you are emotionally and mentally okay, you can now face your family without feeling awkward.

Family conflicts are stressful. But when you have an idea of how to address it, you’re good.

How COVID-19 Affects Your Mental Health

By now, most people know how COVID-19 can harm them physically. This new coronavirus disease primarily attacks the lungs, sometimes causing lethal pneumonia. While most people encounter mild symptoms due to infection, older people and those with preexisting illnesses are at higher risk from complications.

However, the impact of COVID-19 is far from being purely physical. Your mental health can also suffer from the direct and indirect effects of the disease. Indeed, the reality that COVID-19 impacts mental health is sobering. However, only by understanding the risks that it places on your mind can you bolster your defenses and protect your mental health.

Fears Over Transmission

The thought of a new disease that’s rapidly spreading is already worrying. It doesn’t help that the condition has no cure, no vaccine, and can lead to fatalities. The novel coronavirus spreads through droplets that people release whenever they cough, sneeze, speak or even sneeze. Casual contact, such as spending time with another person, carries a significant risk of disease transmission. 

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While COVID-19 infection doesn’t directly cause psychological problems, the fear of the disease and its consequences can be enough to scare people. According to YouGov, nearly six out of ten people were afraid that they would catch the virus. No one wants to contract a readily contagious disease that can lead to death. 

Even if you’re not currently infected, the uncertainty can still hurt your mental wellbeing. People might think that they could catch the infection in the future. Even the possibility of becoming sick can be triggering for many people.

Contributing Factors

However, as insidious COVID-19 might be, it’s not only the illness that scares people. By now, you would be aware of the massive societal disruption that the pandemic brought to the world.

As cases started to climb, governments stepped up by imposing strict social distancing measures to reduce infection rates. In many places, these measures took the form of quarantines and lockdowns that restricted non-essential travel. Even busy streets became empty as people stayed indoors and reduced physical contact with others.

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The cost of maintaining social distancing measures can be huge. Disrupted supply chains and closed businesses mean halted economic growth. As companies attempt to cut costs, some people can lose their source of livelihood. The supply of essential items such as disinfectants and personal protective equipment can also become scarce. The potential loss of jobs and the inadequate supply of goods can be a potent source of stress.

Symptoms And Consequences

Many of the main symptoms of mental conditions are noticeable. For example, anxiety disorders cause intense feelings of dread and fear, while people with depression often feel down and in low spirits.

What distinguishes mental illnesses from everyday moods is their potential to disrupt normal activities. Anxiety disorders can lead to extreme stress that prevents people from accomplishing basic tasks. Clinical depression can cause someone to lose interest in everyday activities, sometimes leading to suicidal ideation.

Other symptoms of mental health problems depend on how the person reacts to the condition. If stress makes them lose their appetite, they may gradually develop weight loss. If they respond with stress-eating, they may gain weight.

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The problem is that with all the uncertainty in the world today, it can become challenging to determine the cause of the symptoms you feel. As Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., explains, “some people may attribute weight gain to the fact that their gyms are closed and that they have been baking or cooking more than they had been, while others may be experiencing weight loss that may be due to depressive symptoms.”

Actions To Take

To defend yourself against COVID-19, you need to fortify yourself physically and mentally. First, make sure to eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get enough quality sleep. By taking care of your body, you also take care of your mind and your emotions.

If everything becomes too much to take, remember to take a break. Breathing exercises and meditation sessions can help you return to a calmer state. It also provides the opportunity to assess your situation and put things into perspective.

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Social connection is now more critical than ever. Make sure to spend ample quality time with family. Reach out to friends with a quick phone call or a short message.

Finally, don’t be afraid to consult with a mental health professional for consultations and treatment. While COVID-19 presents dangers to your physical and mental health, being aware and taking action are already powerful ways to protect yourself from harm.

Tips To Relieve Stress And Anxiety During A Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has reached over 3.3 million cases across 185 countries. As it continues to spread, leaders around the world try to contain it by implementing various quarantine and social distancing measures. As establishments close and we live in isolation, we get suddenly disengaged from society.

As our lives changed abruptly, our mental health is at risk. Coping with the sudden changes in our life, uncertainty about the future, and fear of contracting the virus itself can induce increased levels of stress and anxiety. Although people can react differently to these situations, you are not alone in this predicament.

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How Pandemic Can Induce Stress And Anxiety

The pandemic and the sudden changes to our daily lives can take a toll on our mental health, making us prone to increased levels of stress and anxiety. Like the virus, stress and anxiety can affect anyone. It can manifest into restlessness, lack of focus, headaches, sleeping problems, and substance abuse.

Although stress and anxiety already exist for many, even before the pandemic, it is more challenging to deal with it now as our usual coping mechanisms may be temporarily inaccessible. With the foreclosure of establishments and the prohibition of social gatherings, we may no longer be available to pursue our hobbies, do leisure activities, or go out with friends and family.

Tips To Relieve Stress And Anxiety During A Pandemic

As health institutions face overcapacity, it is essential to keep our state of mind in check. Effectively managing stress and anxiety is vital in maintaining overall health. We have listed down some tips to help you relieve the stress and anxiety you are experiencing during this pandemic.

  • Control Your Exposure To The News

It is essential to keep updated with information as the pandemic situation evolves. However, consuming too much of it can also lead to information overload. Limit yourself to reading the news at certain times of the day. It is also essential to ensure that the news we consume come from credible sources to avoid clickbait, fake news, and fear mongers.

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  • Take Care Of Your Body

Although stress and anxiety is primarily a mental health issue, feeling great on the outside can help us feel better on the inside. Being clean, well-rested, and adequately fed can make us feel good physically. It can help improve our overall mood, enabling us to handle stress and anxiety better.

  • Establish A New Routine

The pandemic caused sudden shifts to our lives. Our daily routines were disrupted, which can make us feel disorganized and anxious. As we adjust to this new way of life, it can be hard to perform our usual tasks and responsibilities. Online classes or working from home can induce stress. Establishing a routine can help better manage this stress and anxiety.

  • Stay Active And Exercise

Exercise is a great stress reliever. Physical activity boosts the body’s natural endorphins, which can help improve mood. The increase in blood flow can help us feel better physically. Aside from keeping our minds occupied from negative thoughts, exercising can also serve as an outlet to physically release tension and energy.

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  • Explore New Hobbies And Relaxation Techniques

Life in isolation can leave us with more time to dwell on negative feelings. Exploring new hobbies can help keep our minds occupied and even improve our mood. You can also try relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation. As the world is full of chaos and noise, it is crucial to find your inner peace.

  • Reach Out To Friends And Family

You are not alone in this situation. Your friends and family are also going through this pandemic. Thanks to technology, reaching out to them is possible even with social distancing measures. Knowing that they are doing well can also put your mind at ease. Communication can help you, as well as them, better cope with stress and anxiety.

Final Thoughts

The pandemic has brought so many uncertainties to our lives. It is understandable to feel stressed and anxious. However, it is essential to accept that these things are out of our control.

Focus on what you can control as we overcome this challenge together. Dr. Jeremy Hertza, PsyD, said, “Take the time to look at yourself to examine: what are the ways that I traditionally manage my emotions? What are the ways that I can’t do now? And what do I need to do?”

Like the virus, stress and anxiety can also be contagious. Keep your mental health in check. As you feel better, share with your friends and family, the techniques you have learned to manage stress and anxiety. Let us help each other overcome these challenging times.

Things Women Should Know Before Doing An Intermittent Fast

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There are a variety of diets women can choose from, depending on the goal or the type of workout that entails a specific diet. If the primary goal is to lose fat and manage overall health, many health and fitness-savvy women may have heard of the intermittent fast.

Continue reading Things Women Should Know Before Doing An Intermittent Fast

A Quick Guide To Moving On

Getting a divorce is one of the worst things that could happen in your life. You will feel like your dreams have been shattered right before your eyes. There will be tons of questions about what went wrong as well as doubts about yourself. When not handled properly, negative emotions could turn into depression. At the same time, it can also add up to the stresses in your daily life to the point that you become a toxic person. Remember that when this happens, there is a high possibility that you will not only lose your lover but also the other people surrounding you.

 

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Continue reading A Quick Guide To Moving On

Tips To Help Your Wife Deal With Depression 

 

Depression has many faces, which is why it is difficult to detect at its early stage. Some people show the visible signs of this mental condition. On the other hand, there are also those who prefer to keep all their feelings of extreme sadness, grief or despair all to themselves. Because of this, it is crucial for you to become more aware of the presence of depression in the life of someone you love just like your wife. 

 

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  Continue reading Tips To Help Your Wife Deal With Depression