Part Three
There are two major ways neuroplasticity works to shape the structure and function of our brains.  The first is the direct interaction we have with our external world in the form of our mental, emotional and physical experience.  For instance, when we find ourselves staying at a hotel in a city we’ve never been to before and we venture out to find a restaurant, see a famous site or visit a museum.  Our brains automatically begin to map everything.  Piece by piece we begin to have a better idea of the street layout, where the decent cafes and restaurants are located, the shortest route to the subway and so on.  Our brain is literally being shaped by our mental, emotional, and physical experiences with our new surroundings.
The other major way neuroplasticity shapes our brains is through how we think.    The famous French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes wasn’t far off with his words “I think therefore I am”.  What we consistently think has a direct impact on how our brains develop.  Our thoughts determine how we feel and behave.  We can literally re-engineer the structure and function of our brains by changing our thoughts.  This means the words we think and images we consistently recall in our minds directly and physically rewires our brains.  
As an example, we can all recall a time when we have felt emotional or physical pain.  It is part of the human condition.  As with most things painful the brain does not want to revisit it.  It understands that pain could easily lead to one’s ultimate demise. This is the brain’s default strategy with all things painful and it shows itself in the multitude of ways we tend to avoid things.  As we will discover in more depth in future posts this avoidant behaviour only intensifies feelings of anxiety and negative stress.  
One of the principles of my conversations with clients is about walking into the storm.  This means in order to create the necessary changes we want it is imperative for us to face our fears whether it is the dread of public speaking, the fear of being more assertive at work or the anxiety of coming to terms with a traumatic event. 
When we walk into the storm of our fears we trigger the specific brain circuits tied with that event.  In doing this we put those particular circuits into a malleable state where we can literally rewire our brains by having more constructive thoughts about the meaning we give to the event.  This means we don’t have to continue to feel stupid, vulnerable, scared, weak, at fault, victimised or any number of other emotions.  We can choose to rewrite the meaning we have given to an event and this in turn will rewire our brains so we are stronger, more adaptable and more flexible.
With that said it is important to note that neuroplasticity is not always a positive thing.  It is the brain’s ability to reorganise itself based on all types of learning and experience whether good or bad.  This means the brain can change in positive and negative directions by developing both helpful and harmful habits.  It’s beneficial to understand how plasticity works and how we can make use of it’s principles to correct the runaway negative forms of plasticity while at the same time enhancing the positive ones.  
In order to use the principle to our advantage we need to concentrate our efforts on directed neuroplasticity.   This means we need to be vigilant to having thoughts which will help us reorganise our brain in order to build a more robust mind.
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