Molding Your Brain with Mindfulness
While many of us know about mindfulness practices and how to use them as tools in our daily lives, it’s easy to add it to our lifestyle without knowing how and why these tools make an impact in our mindsets and physicality. Repetition and the mind-body connection are at the core of many mindfulness practices, especially in meditation, journaling, habit-making, routines and affirmations. Science and mindfulness converge in neuroplasticity: the brain’s ability to physically shift and adjust after learning new information.
But how do we actively use our mind’s neuroplasticity? Probably more than you would expect. Biologically, neuroplasticity in adulthood is the result of messages in our brain being sent repeatedly, strengthening connections to some areas of the brain while unused connections eventually disappear.
The more a message to the brain is used, the stronger that connection becomes and our brain stays healthy. Using neuroplasticity and forming new connections that we repeatedly signal helps the brain adapt better after new experiences.
Intentionally Fostering Brain Development
So, we can mold our brains with mindfulness; keeping our minds sharp while also improving our mindful habits and getting closer to our ideal lives.
When engaging in mindful practices with an intention to develop our cognition and brain strength, there are some key components that can make anything you seek to do more successful:
The physical action that occurs when a brain shifts or strengthens a connection is that a signal is sent from one neuron to the next. The more this signal is sent, the stronger the connection becomes. Different actions, events, etc. strengthen different signals, so cultivating the connections that you want to strengthen is important for improvement.
This is why the JMB Living Journal has such a focus on repeating: daily prompts, weekly intentions, affirmation reminders, and habit trackers. When you use your brain to focus on each of these things consistently, that connection becomes stronger and you can more easily shift your perspective to answer the prompts or nail your habits without struggling.
If you intentionally are repeating beneficial thought processes and engaging with them in new ways everyday, you’re doing a great job working to mindfully mold your brain. However, if you do this in addition to learning something new or working to teach yourself a new hobby/language/instrument, your brain will be forming these new connections and strengthening other areas. Having a completely new experience or creating an in-depth understanding of a new concept forms those initial connections in your brain that are strengthened when you repeat it!
If we want to use our mind to positively impact our body, we must also take care of our body to ensure our mind is healthy. Taking care of your brain does require a physical intent as well: getting enough sleep, being active (it doesn’t matter if it’s walking or crossfit, your brain and body just like it when you move!), and eating healthy fats are all things that will support your other behaviors for brain health.
Why should I want to mold my brain?
Other than the immediate benefits of increased cognitive ability, brain strength, and overall health, utilizing neuroplasticity can improve your mental health when you repeatedly practice mindset shifts.
Three life-changing daily journal prompts for building new positive neural pathways are used on the daily pages in the JMB Living Journal.
1. My Best Win.
Don't wait for the big wins to celebrate. Pat yourself on the back for the tiny ones that happen each and every day. Even if some days, it is simply, "I got out of bed and made it to work today." Noticing the small things that you are doing well helps you build confidence and gives you motivation to keep going. And, after all, it's often the journey itself that’s rewarding, perhaps even more so than crossing the finish line.
2. Beauty I noticed.
Beauty actually has a strong impact on our wellbeing: studies have shown that beautiful surroundings actually make people feel better physically. When you allow yourself to notice and appreciate beauty, it can spark feelings of happiness. And I've found that the more I pay attention to the beauty in my surroundings, the more I notice even more beauty.
3. What Gave Me Joy.
Sometimes, we get so caught up going through the motions every day that we fail to realize the small moments of joy that actually got sprinkled throughout our day. When we slow down enough to make a habit of noticing these, it, too, brings more joy. It also helps you see the areas in your life that bring you the most joy, so that you can make sure to include more time doing these things.
When you can easily recognize beauty, joy and your successes each day (big or small), it becomes easier for your brain to see these things—many of which produce “happy hormones” like endorphins and dopamine.
Not only is that an instant mood booster, but having a perspective in which you easily notice positive things helps your mental health long-term as the bad times no longer seem so overwhelming in comparison to how much joy you feel each day.