Rewire Your Brain

What’s All This Brain Talk?

color photo of brainGoogle the word “neuroplasticity” and you’ll find numerous articles on the latest advances in brain science. While new findings in brain research have been popularized by the mainstream media since the 1990’s, even more significant discoveries are being made in the 21st century.

Previously, it was believed that the adult human brain was “hardwired” and incapable of new growth or significant change, however the scientific community now has evidence of the brain’s vast potential for development over a lifetime. This is referred to as neuroplasticity: the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. The adult brain is more adaptable and capable of reprogramming itself than was once thought.

The Power of Willful Activity

Clearly, the brain responds to what you think about and do. When you learn something new, your brain forges new neural pathways and its physical makeup actually changes. These are just a few compelling highlights from scientific studies:

  • A group of people who practiced the piano by mere mental rehearsal produced as big a change in the motor cortex area of their brains as those who actually conducted the physical exercise¹. (Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, Harvard University)

  • The cortex of violinists continues to expand with practice and “actually rezones itself so that more neurons are assigned to the fingers of the left hand…”¹. (Dr. Edward Taub, University of Alabama)

  • Brain scans of meditating Buddhist monks showed dramatic changes in the left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with happiness². (Dr. Richard Davidson, University of Wisconsin)

  • Emotional intelligence research suggests that transforming our emotions may also change the connectivity of the brain¹. (Drs. Richard Davidson, Peter Salovey, and Daniel Goleman)

Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz (UCLA School of Medicine) and scientific writer, Sharon Begley, emphasize the “power of willful activity to shape the brain”.¹ While the brain is always changing based on your environment and experiences, it requires a conscious choice to influence those changes. By engaging your mind and making your actions deliberate, you can direct the development of your brain with remarkable results that profoundly impact your experience of life.

Rewire Your Brain, Help Your Heart

Changing old patterns might not be instantaneous yet is possible with practice. What old pattern would you like to replace with a more effective response?

Need an idea for where to begin? Take a look at how you manage stress. While stress is part of life and not all stress is bad, chronic stress elevates adrenaline levels and puts you at increased risk for heart disease. Rewiring your brain to respond more effectively to stress is not only possible but will also improve your health and make you happier. As you rewire your brain, you’ll be helping your heart.

Some years ago I trained myself to respond differently to the feeling of overwhelm (overwhelm, stress, anxiety… they are cousins.) Practicing a few new skills produced meaningful results for me, namely, I am more effective, feel lighter, and am more satisfied with my choices on a daily basis.

This Week: Apply the “power of willful activity”. Identify an old pattern and practice a new way of responding. Keep practicing. Teach the new response to others and you will expedite your progress. I know this from experience! To learn about four simple strategies you can use to manage overwhelm, see the Resources below.

“Every instant of your life you face multiple choices. At each decision point, you either remain in a familiar pattern or you opt for a new route.”
– Millie Grenough, Author OASIS in the Overwhelm

Here's to you,
Ginny Kravitz's signature

OASIS in the Overwhelm: 60 second strategies for balance in a busy world – In this book, my friend and colleague, Millie Grenough, introduces you to four simple strategies to rewire yourself towards health/happiness and away from stress/disease. The book also includes interesting references to various scientific studies on the neuroplasticity of the brain.

OASIS in the Overwhelm 28 Day Guide: Rewire Your Brain from Chaos to Calm – Make the brain-changing OASIS Strategies your own in just one month. This daily workbook format includes self-assessments, examples, tips, and space to document your progress. I had the pleasure of co-authoring this book along with Millie Grenough and another coach colleague, Jill Berquist.

¹Millie Grenough, OASIS in the Overwhelm, 60-second strategies for balance in a busy world, (© 2005 by Millie Grenough, Published by Beaver Hill Press), pages 116-121.

²Sharon Begley, “How The Brain Rewires Itself”. Time, (January 29, 2007), page 79.

© 2008, Virginia M. Kravitz and In the Current®. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to reproduce this article provided it is without any alteration, includes the copyright above, and if distributing electronically includes a link to

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