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Neuroplasticity; how fast can I change..?

As humans we are driven by our nervous system, a system that facilitates an engagement with our environment and each other. The stimuli we receive from our genes and our environment via our nervous system molds us into the people we are, right now. Genes can be ‘changed’ by environmental neurological input called epi-genetic change. Our many bacterial cells, which outnumber our human cells 10 to 1 produce viruses in response to environmental stimuli (toxins). Whilst on the outside social interaction and our wider society teaches us to find our place and stay there for 30 years. Times are changing and people just do not have a job for life in the UK anymore. Yet finding our place is incoherent to our nervous system. We thrive on new experiences, problem solving, social connectivity (healthy relationships; including with ourselves). The industrial revolution gave us a division of labour tactic whilst stripping us of our individuality.

The human population was stable before the industrial revolution afterward however the population continues to rise. A continually rising population in the world is causing it’s own problems to solve but it is stimulating some change as people innovate their way into the market place. Who moved my cheese is a great economic guide to how people can have their jobs in a flux of constant change and thus so to must the individual which fosters neuroplasticity. In the case of becoming ill we have become stuck e.g. our inner processes and strategies have enabled us to get to our current position in life and when the external world changes the person doesn’t know they need to also change their inner world to suit reality. When we cannot match up the inner experience, with the outer reality then we will at some juncture in our nervous system go awry.

A constant trend of learning is helpful to continue the process of neuroplasticity as is also exercise. Inherently being ‘wired’ to seek a difference (or a newness) is therefore in our nature. At present however it is not in everyone’s behaviour. When we have not experienced a change for a while we can get ingrained in our ideas, behaviours, interactions and perceptions. We can actually feel a negative emotion when we encounter something in the outside world that is contrary to what we have become ingrained to except/expect. A negative emotion might be anxiety or disgust for example. Neurologically speaking we need the right input (the penny to drop) before we can move onto our next lilly pad or chapter of life. When neuroplasticity occurs our brain actually starts a process of re-wiring.

Changing your brain can occur instantaneously. Sounds easy doesn’t it… ?! Monkeys  (of Silver Springs) have been studied with regard to neuroplasticity and have demonstrated a re-organisation in their brain cells within 2 hours. Macaq monkeys, elsewhere, have also been studied for their neuroplastic ability and are 30 million years behind homo sapien sapien in development, meaning that being 30 million years more advanced we humans can change our brains for sure; faster than two hours.

In the Chiropractic literature adjustments of the cervical spine have been shown to cause a ‘re-organisation’ of the human brain. Learning a language has also been shown to foster neuroplasticity in the hearing acuity of an adult human.

Looking for variety, feeling many differences in life, experiences outside of the hum drum and a constant vigil on our self improvement are behaviours that can enable us to drive neuroplasticity in ourselves throughout our life. Exercise, nutrition, education and body work are all examples of how we might go about ensuring that we have a variety of neurological input into our nervous system throughout our life. When neuroplasticity stops we get stuck in our ways, have to have things a certain way and perhaps transition into behaving ‘old’. Staying young at heart is a colloquial way of keeping neuroplasticity happening in your life. Staying ‘young’ is beneficial to your health.

Mind over matter?

We know the hypothalamus (a part of the human brain) is highly plastic (changeable), in fact some say the most plastic part of the brain. The hypothalamus stimulates or inhibits hormones. Hormones secreted by the hypothalamus are able to alter the job of certain cells. Thus a chain of possible change within any and every human is present. When we stimulate the hypothalamus to produce particular hormones we learn automatically a default to produce them. One could say we get more used to being us.

We are actually rewarded in the brain with opiates when our regular ‘molecules of emotion’ are released. When we try another way (state of mind) we do not get a reward, why effort is required to change, why a feeling of being wrong comes with any change we try. Those that are guided by that inner feeling are shied away from change because it doesn’t ‘feel right’. Those who are in their head have a flurry of mixed thoughts, tangential ideas and not knowing for sure that their current action is the ‘correct one’. Those that are guided by how their body is; tend to get a difference in their body such as they do not feel good in their body, they are sluggish or they have transitory pains that aren’t usually there, for example.

For me the way the media reports upon ‘mind over matter’ can lead one falsely down a path of whenever I need I can control anything that comes. Like being a superhero. In the real world we cannot control everything. Monks who live on mountain tops in isolation for 30 years do not get to reach enlightenment. Really any mind over matter situation needs to be delineated from ‘pushing through it’ and to have a time frame added. For most people they do not have a spare 30 years to try it out to see for themselves!

Essentially we are human beings with many different ways to be (states of mind). We will find it easier to be different or to change whilst our nervous system is still growing (spinal columns complete in 4th decade of life). After this time the amount of effort required for change becomes increased as more energy is required to make a change e.g. rewire our brain. With every change thus comes the wobbly part big or small, short or long.

The icing on the cake of difficulty with change after 40 is the future psychology of human beings. Doing things in the future is easier than actually doing them. The future psychology of taking out credit is a great example of how we consider it less of a risk because I can pay it (do it) later. Whilst we need time to be human beings with meditation we also need time to be human doings with exercise. Both exercise and meditation have been shown to have an epi-genetic effect toward health. Next time you are considering making a change do not underestimate the amount of effort required, time required and energy required whilst also not forgetting to include the amount of euphoria and reward you will receive when you ‘make it there’.

For example a study was able to demonstrate that actual physical muscle growth was achieved over a 6 week period of imagining a gym programme; yes our minds can affect physical body tissues and no it is not an easy thing to add to your already busy life. Hence why no man is an island and we need help from others e.g. a chiropractor to help my body move better helping my body tissues last longer as a complimentary lifestyle choice to regular exercise and a healthy diet. Sometimes however issues of trust and of giving over control can get in the way of you getting off your own inner island and making a powerful healthful connection with another human being (in my opinion).