According to Atlassian, every time the brain processes new information, neurons fire, new pathways form, and the malleable brain alters its shape and structure.
In recent years, several researchers have posited that it’s possible to consciously direct neuroplasticity to optimize your brain function, improve your work performance, and even influence your team’s performance.
Once you understand how neuroplasticity works, you’ll discover that the concept is much simpler than it sounds.
neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to learn and adapt. Until relatively recently, experts believed that our brains were fixed by the end of adolescence and that, in terms of neurons, it was all downhill from there. But the latest research has proved the opposite: that our brains can actually grow and change throughout adulthood. That is, if we treat our neural pathways right. Dr. Marsha Chinichian, a Los Angeles-based clinical psychotherapist and the brains behind acclaimed mental fitness app, Mindshine.
“The main point of neuroplasticity is that you can actually form and reorganize connections in your brain.”
Imagine your brain as a colossal power grid. Billions of pathways light up every time you think, feel, or do something. Putting neuroplasticity into action means carving new pathways, while strengthening the best of the existing ones – and not reinforcing the pathways you’d rather avoid. This is captured in an aphorism: “Neurons that fire together, wire together; neurons that fire out of synch, fail to link.”
Neuroscientist Dr. Tara Swart, a senior lecturer at MIT and author of bestselling brain bible The Source, recently compared this process to road building. She told European CEO:
“Think of it as going from a dirt road to a motorway. I could say, ‘I’m going to work on that pathway, which is currently a dirt road. The more I use it, and the more I repeat activities, I can build it up to a motorway.’”
Techniques to “rewire” your cognitive pathways
1. Feed your brain
Your brain makes up only a tiny proportion of your total body weight, but it uses up a quarter of everything you eat. If you want enhanced neural pathways, you’ll need an enhanced diet. According to Ramsden, that means grabbing snacks like walnuts, blueberries, and avocado during the day. Vitamin D and magnesium are top priorities if you want to promote neuroplasticity.
2. Take naps
Obviously a good night’s sleep of between seven and nine hours will always set you up for a better brain day. But a short afternoon nap of around 20 minutes will elevate your neuroplasticity potential even further. A short nap encourages the growth of dendritic spines, which act as crucial connectors between the neurons in your brain.
3. Don’t let the work day linger
Like muscle-building, neuroplasticity needs downtime in order to do its work properly. According to Dr. Chinichian, managers should embed and enforce a “close the day” ritual that prioritizes reflection and gratitude for small wins. An end-of-day Slack message saying “Thanks for the great ideas in the brainstorming session today, everyone. See you tomorrow,” can help the team feel valued. Putting a hard stop to the stresses of the day in a way that also boosts endorphins creates perfect conditions for neuroplasticity. It also sends the signal that it’s OK to “leave” work and unplug for the evening.
4. Expand your vocabulary
Try to learn one new word every day. According to experts, this simple act will spark a multitude of new neural pathways, both visual and auditory.
5. Learn to juggle
Juggling is frequently cited as an excellent means for improving neuroplasticity. Keep a small set of balls in your work drawer for a brain boost whenever you have a few spare seconds between tasks. The better you get, the bigger the benefits.