Rewiring Your Brain to Overcome Depression with Courage and Insight Life, according to Mark Twain,
“consists mainly of the storm of thoughts blowing endlessly through my mind,” rather than “facts and events.” What kind of mental debris do we let accumulate in our brains? When feelings of depression, negativity, or intrusion come uninvited, they can make a person feel helpless. We hold that how we respond to unwanted feelings of sadness, anger, or other negative emotions is entirely up to us. When we experience low moods, most of us are just reacting in the ways we’ve learned to, but we can acquire skills that will allow us to change our perspective. Scientists in the field of neuroscience have proven that it is possible to alter one’s neural pathways.
It was previously believed that the brain was fixed, making the effects of trauma, stroke, and other medical conditions irreversible. The brain’s plasticity has been proven. Neuroscientists use “neuroplasticity” to describe the brain’s capacity to create new connections between neurons. For instance, a patient recovering from a stroke may undergo rehabilitation due to a different region of the brain learning to take over the afflicted limb’s functions. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, herself a Brain Scientist, suffered a stroke and went on to inspire people all over the globe by chronicling her remarkable rehabilitation. What we tell ourselves, how we perceive ourselves and others, and what we concentrate on can also change how
our brains are wired. We can also make an effort to rewire our minds in this setting. Practice makes perfect, whether in a musical instrument or an activity. When we repeatedly use a talent, the brain region that controls that ability undergoes physical changes. The more we use talent, the more our brains adapt to improve our skills. While we readily recognize this in pursuits like sports and musical abilities, it is less apparent in our everyday thought processes. Depressed individuals, for instance, frequently engage in self-deprecating behavior, like constantly comparing themselves to others. They tend to surround themselves with people who are better than them at everything; consequently, they develop a low opinion of themselves. While it’s true that there are always going to be people who
outshine us; it’s also true that many people fail to recognize their strengths and how they excel. If this sounds similar, it’s time to start consciously looking for people who aren’t as skilled as you in certain areas so that you can retrain your brain to think more positively about yourself. You’ll gain an appreciation for your good fortune and abilities as a result. However, practicing using your new talent like any other would be best. The ability to teach one’s mind to control one’s brain can be honed through regular positive, constructive thought practice. This can also be used with kids who are struggling with neurological conditions. Brain activity alters due to the repeated practice used to teach new abilities. In his book The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force, Jeffrey Schwarz describes
how his patients altered their brain chemistry by shifting their concentration from negative to positive behaviors. In his book The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumphs from the Frontiers of Brain Science, Norman Doidge provides numerous case studies illustrating how extraordinary feats of bravery, skill, or talents can lead to structural changes in the brain. He writes in his work about how overused brain regions balloon to abnormal sizes. (For instance, research on the brains of London cab drivers found that they tended to have a larger hippocampus, which is essential for navigation. Research on violinists’ brains found that the four-fingering digits of the left hand get a disproportionate amount of neural space). There is a lot of literature on the topic of neuroplasticity. Sharon Begley explains the application of this model in the rehabilitation of stroke and other traumas, as well as for the treatment of depression. Depression and anxiety can be rewired out of the minds of children, teenagers, and adults, making way for new neural
pathways that lead to happiness, fulfillment, and success. Mark Twain’s picture of the mind as a windmill is instructive. His analogy could be extended to show that we can influence future weather patterns. Perhaps we’ll think about how the sun’s rays and the gentle, balmy tropical breezes keep us toasty and secure. Imagine how we would feel if we were a turtle swimming in these pristine, sunlit waterways. This precaution allows us to stay calm and focused amid potentially dangerous winds or cyclones. Rather than relying on the actual practice of talent, this method uses the mind and imagination to shift perspective. That is to say, rather than relying on environmental factors to bring about change; we’ll be tapping into our resources instead. Muhammad Ali’s victory over Sonny Liston in their heavyweight title fight is often cited as an example of the strength of positive mental imagery. Though he
was talented, no one thought a young Muhammad Ali could beat an older, more seasoned fighter. When asked what he believed contributed to his victory, he said that he had imagined himself victorious, bolstered his confidence through positive thinking, and used “mind games” to imagine himself strong and agile in the ring. In a similar vein, Olympic competitors frequently devote equal amounts of time to mental rehearsal and physical preparation. They know that we can educate our bodies mentally, thus receptive to both internal and external stimuli. Working on these different mental processes is like starting over. We are trying to break out of our routines and shift our focus to something that will lead us to uncharted territory. Negative neural pathways do not survive active suppression and will atrophy over time. Maintaining and strengthening those ties will help us live longer, happier lives. The natural world is a great model for transforming adversity into
something positive. Oysters experience discomfort and irritation when a grain of sand enters their shells. When an oyster feels discomfort, it forms a material layer to insulate the vulnerable tissue. The final product is the stunning gemstone. J.K. Rowling is an individual who has changed who she is. She has said, “I went through a rough time, and I’m quite proud of the fact that I got out of that,” indicating that she is not ashamed of having been depressed. Her “Dementors” protagonists appeared in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Her depressed moods served as inspiration for them. They were mysterious beings in black hoods that fed off their victims’ deepest insecurities. She turned to write to help her through her depression, describing it as “numbness, coldness, and an inability to believe you will feel happy again. All the color drained out of life.” Those interested in parenthood can access many resources from Prosocial Psychology Services. Please visit our website to learn how you can employ mindfulness techniques in your
parenting, treat pediatric melancholy, and cultivate emotionally intelligent offspring. [http://www.drangeladams.com] Angel Adams, MD, and Patricia Papciak, MD, 2009. This Is A Private Property; No Publicity Is Allowed. When assessing, diagnosing, and treating children with complex psychological and neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD, FASD, ODD, and ASD/PDD, Dr. Angel Adams is a leading advocate for parents, grandparents, and foster carers in Southwest London, UK. Her private business is located in Kingston, Surrey, UK, and she has spent most of her career leading specialized groups of children,
teenagers, and adults. She is dedicated to conscious parenting and conducts courses on the topic. She works with despondent adults and kids alike. She shared her findings at the International CHADD conference on the effectiveness of group intervention for children with ADHD. She appeared on BBC2’s Horizon’s ‘Living with ADHD’ special. She has spoken at conferences and lectures in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States since 1994. And she’s presided over ADHD sessions, too. Dr. Adams offers evidence-based treatment, such as CBT, parent training, school consultation, and social skills instruction. She offers virtual and telephone appointments for those unable to visit her office physically. If you need assistance dealing with a depressed kid, visit this page:
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