By: Katie Connell
For a long time, scientists believed that changes to brain structure only occurred during infancy and childhood. By the time one became an adult, it was thought that brain structure would remain largely permanent and that no more changes could occur. However, in the 1960’s, scientists discovered that changes to the adult brain were indeed possible. One thing that verified this were brain changes that occurred to patient’s brains that were damaged in injuries and accidents. Damage that occurred in certain parts of one’s brain resulted in healthier parts taking over. With this discovery came insight into other ways that the brain could be changed, specifically in the realm of psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a great example of a type of psychotherapy that can lead to long lasting changes to the brain. During a process called synaptic pruning, extra neurons (which transmit information) and synaptic connections (which permit neurons to transmit info) are eliminated to increase the efficiency of neural transmissions. One way this happens is by neurons being used more frequently. Those that aren’t used as much get eliminated, which improves the transmission of information. By repeated exposure and engagement in CBT (including thought shifting techniques and cognitive restructuring), neurons become strengthened, meaning less synapses and better transmission of neurons. Through the use of routine CBT, critical neural networks are able to change how we think and feel.
If you or a person you know is seeking CBT or other forms of therapy, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help. Please contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.
By: Leah Flanzman
The human brain has the power to grow, mold, and adapt to the course of your life in order to best cater to your overall happiness and well-being. This concept is known as neuroplasticity, and occurs when the brain alters its physical structure and changes its circuits so we can better imagine, remember, feel, experience pain, dream, and learn. Neuroplasticity is similar to the popular expression “it’s like riding a bike.” Once you acquire a skill, your neurons kick into gear and remember their specific pathways so that each time this skill is performed, they are pre-programmed on what to do. These pathways strengthen over time as new synapses form maximizing these skills.
Neuroplasticity can be a valuable tool for rewiring how your mind thinks and reacts to certain situations. It can foster increased happiness by retraining your brain to strengthen pathways that promote happiness as an alternative to worry or stress in light of certain situations. The activities that you choose to do can alter the structure of your brain. For example, if you are stuck in a funk, doing something positively stimulating for the brain will train it to associate the negative feelings with happier ones. Your moldable brain will remember the pathways it took to achieve happiness and the next time you experience sadness, it will automatically kick into positivity gear. Additionally, you can trick your brain into happiness pathways by imagining yourself in your desired mood. Your brain lacks the capability to distinguish between imagination and reality so if you visualize a desired image of happiness long enough, your brain will believe it to be true and trigger the emotion.
When your brain fills up with neural connections that are relevant to your life, the ones that are unnecessary will begin to deteriorate. Your clever mind can form creative ways to suppress depressive thoughts and shine light on positive thoughts so your unproductive nature fades into the background. Options that can help you in your quest to mold your brain towards greater happiness include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Mindfulness based cognitive therapy
If you or someone you know thinks they could benefit from therapy that aids in restructuring their brain to think positively, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.