Do you believe that a mental health diagnosis is forever?
Well, I am here to tell you this erroneous is belief is far too prevalent and INACCURATE! Your brain is changing every minute or every day!
This is the concept of neuroplasticity and it’s nothing new. In fact, it has been around since the 1800’s.
However, for most people “seeing is believing” which means the brain has been shrouded in mystery due to our prior inability to study its activity in any depth.
Unfortunately, this led to the mental health community’s acceptance that one has to work with the gray matter inherited at birth when it comes to cognitive abilities.
The mainstream belief that our circuitry is formed and finalized in childhood reigned supreme.
The Beauty of Neuroplasticity
This was a bleak time. In other words, if you birthed a child with cerebral palsy the advice was to accept their limitations and plan for a lifetime of care.
Incredibly, doctors also believed that the aging process caused brain cells to simply died off rendering self-improvement in later years obsolete.
Our lack of knowledge led us to needlessly place limitations on people. Holding individuals back that might have otherwise been able to improve their lot in life had they known about neuroplasticity.
This was especially true in the mental health arena. After a mental health diagnosis, patients are often prepared for a lifetime of dealing with the incurable nature of their disease.
Even today, whether you receive a diagnosis for schizophrenia, bipolarity or depression, the advice is usually geared towards learning how to live a fuller life knowing you will be unable to free yourself from the bonds of the illness.
Thankfully, nothing could be further from the truth! fMRIs have been able to prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that the brain has the ability to change and that no one is hard wired.
Throughout our lifetime we all develop new neural pathways. This flexibility enables the brain to compensate for everything from disease to changes in one’s environment.
How Change Happens
Changes in the brain happen in three different ways:
1. Chemical Changes: Short-term actions and reactions trigger neurons, which alter the concentration of various chemicals in the brain.
2. Structural Changes: This has to do with the connection between neurons and the integrated network of regions in the brain. This occurs when a long-term change occurs.
3. Changes in Function: As you continue to use an area in the brain you increase its excitability. In this case, whole networks change.
* The above-listed changes can happen independently, more often than not they occur in concert with one another to support the learning process.
You Gotta Put In the Work to Change a Mental Health Diagnosis
What scientists have found in the past decade is that your behavior is the best driver of neuroplasticity. In other words, with practice and learning, you can stimulate great structural, chemical and functional changes in the brain.
The catch is, you must recognize that these changes can be positive or negative. It really depends on the proper stimulation. For this reason, we all have to acknowledge that there is indeed is a dark side to the malleability of the brain.
The limitations you place on yourself and the negative feelings you pick up can become hardwired as well.
If you believe you are sick or that something is wrong with you, you will become what you think. The key is to combat this with positive thinking and practice.
There is no instant pudding here my friends!
You Have to Work at It and Fraley & Associates Can Help!
Let’s say I am working with someone who has OCD. Rewards are not immediate in relation to the work put in. It’s like developing a physical fitness routine.
Slowly you build the muscles up over time and then one day you see how the hard work has paid off. It’s a cumulative experience. which means setbacks are to be expected. Accordingly, if you keep on going you will see your life change before your very eyes.
In my practice, I have seen people fight back from the depths of despair. Through simple mental exercises, they have been able to transform the way they look at the world and interact with others. It is possible to find yourself and true happiness in the process.
This research is a gift for each and every one of us. If you need some further information on mental health, please reach out. I am always happy to help.
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