Until relatively recently, scientists believed that the human brain stopped growing in early adulthood. But, thanks to the work of pioneers like, Dr. Dan Siegel, we now know that this is not true. In fact, through the process of neuroplasticity, the brain continues to change and adapt all throughout the life-span, even for stubborn people!
As Mahatma Gandhi says:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
In his book, “Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation,” Dr. Siegel discusses the ways in which the brain changes with us. Whenever we act, or think, in new ways, novel pathways in the brain are created. And when we think, or act, in a certain way, repeatedly, those pathways become stronger. This provides scientific evidence for the practice of affirmations, short, positive thoughts that we say to ourselves until we believe them. But now, we can declare these thoughts, knowing that they are actually making a difference at a structural level!
This means that everything that we do; every thought, every behavior, every intuitive belief that we follow, changes us from the inside out. Never has there been a more compelling reason to live authentically, and from our own truth. But, amazingly, we are not only changed by our personal thoughts, but by the thoughts of others, as well. Enter the concept of mirror neurons, which, essentially describe the process by which our neurons fire in response to observing someone close to us acting in a particular way.
Research has shown that we are affected, at a biochemical level, by what those who are close to us are doing. This means that we would benefit from being choosy about who we spend our time with. But it also has fantastic implications for the work that we do as psychologists, because mirror neurons allow us to empathize at a deeper level with our clients. We’ve always said that magical things happen when therapist and client sit across from one another in the therapy room, but now we have more of a scientific understanding behind the magic. Clients are far more likely to feel empathy and compassion for themselves when their therapists feel those emotions in their presence. This is especially true for autism therapy, as it makes previously unattainable concepts more accessible:
But, it turns out, we don’t even have to be in someone else’s physical presence to make a difference with our thoughts. Take this example, known as the Maharishi Effect. In this study, a group of 7000 people meditated for peace over a three week period, and the results were astonishing. Violence, global crime rates, and casualties dropped by 16% during this time, and there was a 72% reduction in violent attacks over the three weeks. These are powerful results!
So, whether you are working on your thoughts as an individual, or, in a group, as Kimya Dawson sings, remember that “your thoughts and words are powerful.”
If you would like more information on how neuroplasticity works, contact us. We are here to help.