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What Is Neuroplasticity And How Can It Help You Grow?

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

For many years it was a common belief that the brain was hard-wired and fixed by the time we became adults, scientists believed that the brain did not change after childhood and so all of our experiences and habits were set in motion no matter how our lives may change. But a multitude of advances in neuroscience and psychology has shown us that this is not true. Our brains are adaptable as the term Neuroplasticity implies, neuro, meaning the nervous system and plasticity meaning moldable. So in simple terms neuroplasticity is a moldable brain, one that can adapt and change throughout life, which every brain does so long as it is alive. Our established ways of thinking, feeling or doing are strengthened every time we think in a certain way, practise a certain task or feel a specific emotion, and these established ways become habits or our natural decisions. So when you think differently, learn a new task or choose a different emotion, you create a newly established way of thinking which if continuously used becomes our new second nature. As this happens, the old way of thinking gets used less and less, and eventually isn’t your established reaction anymore. This process of rewiring your brain by forming new connections and weakening the old ones is neuroplasticity in action. If you have ever changed a bad habit or thought about something differently than before, you have experienced neuroplasticity first-hand. The term was introduced by an Italian psychiatrist named Ernesto Lugaro in 1906, although the concept was described earlier on in 1904 by the well known Ivan Pavlov. The Pavlov theory where he was able to rewire his dog's brains to salivate at the ringing of a bell is essentially neuroplasticity, but how does this relate to the human experience? An example used by Plasticity Centers is that when having a teacher assign a quiz that you only knew 2-3 answers for, you may have studied using flashcards and practised over and over until you could remember the answers. With these two examples, both you and Pavlov's dogs experienced the positives of neuroplasticity through both being exposed to a stimulus, accurately, with enough repetition and intensity to change or re-wire brain function. Neuroplasticity applies to both cognitive and psychical skills, for example, the process of learning to ride a bike also takes repetition and intensity. So how can this help you grow and more specifically can it help you in the workplace? The human brain makes assumptions based on patterns quite often, although this does not lessen our chances of being wrong, depending on the topic. Unfortunately, this may lead to biased or judgemental behaviours which take away opportunities which causes low morale amongst those affected. Our habits and ways of thinking may also make us unconsciously disregard certain roles which can be unintentionally projected alongside any bias. This can and will cause tension between both personal and professional relationships which will not only lead to feeling misunderstood or isolated but will also lower motivation, productivity and will bring an all-around bad workplace culture. Luckily no matter where these behaviours came from we are able to remodel our thoughts and actions in order to learn and grow to create a healthier and happier workplace for everyone. An interesting technique some companies are already using is called role reversal in order to develop a more broadened culture. This approach allows employees to see the workplace from another perspective by temporarily performing the roles of other workers. This helps with the bias some people may have towards or against certain job roles since we often make assumptions some employees may judge based on job role or the assumed difficulty of each role. Making time for executives to see how the company functions in different sectors builds a better understanding of these roles and the people doing them. Neuroplasticity can also be used to boost your own productivity and there are multiple ways of doing so. One of those is allowing your brain downtime, as neuroplasticity works similarly to muscle building, meaning you need breaks and rest to see results. Every manager will be aware of the end of day slack, it’s natural unfortunately but a great way to turn it around is to use the positives of downtime to your advantage, take that last hour of Friday to compliment and congratulate your team, allow employees to leave early even if only by a few minutes, this boosts endorphins and creates a great environment for neuroplasticity to succeed. There are also a few activities that can help encourage neuroplasticity that can be done at home. One you may not expect is video games, although controversial when debating benefits on risks, it is proven to be a great way to improve things such as cooperation, team participation, memory, reasoning, decision making, problem-solving skills and so much more. How do these apply to the workplace you may ask? Well, learning to recover from a failure in a game can help you improve at bouncing back from setbacks, or exploring more design based games can enhance creative thinking, problem solving in a team game will help you be more efficient at communication in groups and so on. Neuroplasticity is such a large umbrella for endless growth in many different ways, especially in the workplace. Your behaviour may be currently based on past events, but you are not limited by this, you have the endless potential to learn and develop past those experiences to a more emotionally intelligent version of you.


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