Neuroplasticity: change your behavior, change your brain

I posted a great talk by Dr. Willoughby Britton once before where I called attention to the risks involved in meditation and made some comments about that from my experience. The subject of meditation being risky and not always immediately gratifying is often avoided in popular culture. So much so that most people have no idea how stressful the journey can be at times.

The other day I listened to a more recent interview at Buddhist Geeks with her, called the Dark Side of Dharma. Which also considers the risks of meditation. That link and talk may interest some of you more than the video below. I find it all equally interesting.

So today I found this Ted talk that also features Willoughby Britton. What she is thinking about and researching is very fascinating to me and I think it’s very important work that she does.

This talk includes information about neuroplasticity. It includes this quote, which I transcribed:

The second thing to know about neuroplasticity is that the most powerful way to change your brain is not actually medication, it’s actually behavior, because that is what it was designed to change in relation to. And not just any behavior but specifically mental behavior or mental habit.

One of the things she points out is that we create our neural networks. A heavily self-critical neural network which then gets reinforced through habit leads to depression (as well as other not so nice habits). This is important to understand.

This is the joyous and empowering message, also transcribed from the below talk:

Based on what we know about contemplative neuroscience and neuroplasticity, we can actually start to think about kindness, energy, compassion, generosity, not as innate qualities that you have or don’t have but as actually skills that you can cultivate through practice and training. And we now know that these practices can cultivate these qualities.

What a lovely and happy message, coming from academia, no less.

From youtube:

Professor Willoughby Britton tells us that happiness is not about getting what you want. She discusses our mental qualities as habits we practice and she sheds light on an important link between neuroscience and contemplative studies.

More posts which deal with the neuroplasticity of the brain on this blog.

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About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters