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In a recent visit to Auckland, Neuropsychologist Dr Rik Hanson PHD gave ¬†a lecture on the ‘neuroplasticity’ of the brain.

He discussed research which shows the brain’s ability to grow and change throughout our lifespans and offered some specific ways of achieving this. Some of his mottos are “WORK THE BRAIN” and “LOVE YOUR BRAIN”.

Just like physiotherapy for the body, psychotherapy and the right type of mind exercises can repair and strengthen the brain.

Some other interesting facts were:

  • Our brain is evolutionary wired to be like teflon to positive experiences and velcro to negative ones. The reason for this is our brains are wired to notice danger which is a survival mechanism i.e. for an animal its better to be anxious and alert than too relaxed- or you might get eaten!
  • Our brain has tripled in size over the last 2 million years of evolution and the bulk of that growth is for social ability.
  • In many psychological disorders such as Depression and Eating Disorders parts of the brain actually shrink.
  • Feeling cared for by others is massively important for our minds and brains. The health outcomes for people who are lonely are not good i.e. they die younger.
  • Positive changes in our minds can alter our genes, increase our blood flow to the brain, strengthen and form synapses in the brain and thicken the brain’s cortex.
  • Resting the mind and learning to be kind to yourself is very important for the brain’s wellbeing.
  • When we are stressed our mind will jump around looking for danger and therefore not concentrate well and also affect our short-term memory.
  • Tuning into our bodily sensations improves our ability to empathise.
  • Omega 3 has been shown to be good for raising our moods and assisting our brains function.
  • Ruminating on angry or sad thoughts is not good for the brain.
  • The abilities to be ‘compassionate with yourself’ and ‘mindful’ are important for emotional wellbeing.
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