In the past, it was believed that the brain’s capacity for change was limited, especially after reaching adulthood. However, recent neuroscience research has debunked this notion, demonstrating that adult brains maintain their malleability well into old age—a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity.
In this article, we’ll explore this fascinating concept and unveil five practical ways to rewire your brain. By incorporating these techniques into your daily routine, you can not only enhance your cognitive abilities, but also set the foundation for a lifetime of strong mental health and well-being.
What Exactly Is Neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity (aka, brain plasticity or neural plasticity) is the remarkable ability of the brain to adapt and make functional and structural changes in response to various experiences, stimuli, and environmental factors.[*] This adaptive flexibility allows us to learn, create memories, and modify our behavior throughout our lives, making it an essential component of our cognitive development and overall brain health.
Neuroplasticity occurs on several levels, ranging from the formation of new neural connections to the strengthening or weakening of existing synapses. These changes can happen rapidly or over extended periods, depending on the nature of the stimuli and individual circumstances. Factors that influence neuroplasticity include genetics, environment, age, and personal experiences.
By harnessing the power of neuroplasticity, we open the door to many potential benefits, such as:
- Increased productivity
- Improved mood
- Improved nervous system regulation
- Learning new skills
- More positive thought patterns
- Healthier habits
- A sharper mind
- Increased resilience to stress
5 Ways to Rewire Your Brain
Looking to enhance neuroplasticity for a more robust brain and mental well-being? Here are five ways to achieve this goal.
#1: Learn New Things
Every time you learn something new, whether it’s how to ride a bike or mastering the art of juggling, your brain changes. With each practice session, your neurons form new connections, and the more you practice, the stronger these connections become.
Learning a foreign language serves as a well-studied demonstration of neuroplasticity in action. One study revealed that learning a second language led to an increase in gray matter—the brain material responsible for processing new information—in multiple parts of the brain.[*] Another study associated learning a new language with heightened plasticity in white matter, the brain material responsible for communication.[*]
To flex your brain’s plasticity, aim to always be learning something new.
#2: Prioritize Sleep
Prioritizing sleep is essential for locking in what you learn. This is because the brain undergoes restructuring, rebuilding, and rewiring processes based on the previous day’s experiences while you slumber.
The precise mechanisms through which the brain accomplishes these changes during sleep remain uncertain. However, it’s well established that inadequate sleep negatively impacts neuroplasticity.[*]
To ensure optimal brain function, the National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends a minimum of 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.[*]
#3: Engage in Enjoyable Physical Exercise
Engaging in daily physical activity is a simple strategy to maintain mental acuity. Exercise not only enhances cerebral blood flow, but also triggers the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).[*] BDNF acts as a nourishing agent for the brain, giving it what it needs to change and grow in positive ways.
The trick to maintaining an exercise routine is to find forms of activity that you genuinely enjoy. There are many options out there, from dancing and swimming to pickleball and kickboxing.
#4: Set Micro-Goals
Setting big goals—like tripling your income in a year or shedding 25 pounds for an impending vacation—can be overwhelming and often result in disillusionment and unfulfilled aspirations.
Instead, try setting smaller, incremental targets—aka, micro-goals. This approach is helpful because it breaks down daunting objectives into manageable, achievable steps.
Consistently achieving micro-goals positively impacts neuroplasticity. As you accomplish each small target, your brain adapts to new behaviors, thoughts, and experiences, strengthening neural connections and creating new ones. Over time, these incremental achievements contribute to substantial changes in your brain’s structure and function, effectively rewiring your brain and fostering long-term personal growth.
#5: Practice Meditation
Meditation is like doing push-ups for your brain—helping it grow stronger and more resilient.
Research has demonstrated that meditation leads to changes in the brain’s gray matter, increasing its volume and density in areas associated with learning, memory, and emotional regulation.[*] Other research suggests that consistent meditators have large hippocampi and smaller amygdalae, the latter of which acts as the brain’s fear center.[*][*]
By dedicating just a few minutes each day to mindfulness and meditation, you can actively promote positive changes in your brain’s structure and function, ultimately supporting a healthier, more balanced mind.
#6: Nourish Your Brain
Feeding your brain with the right nutrients is essential for maintaining optimal cognitive function and supporting neuroplasticity. To ensure your brain receives the vital nutrients it needs, consider incorporating the following dietary components:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Found in fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds, these essential fats support brain health, improve memory, and reduce inflammation.[*]
- Antioxidants: Rich in fruits and vegetables, antioxidants combat oxidative stress, protect brain cells, and promote cognitive function.
- B vitamins: Present in whole grains, lean meats, and legumes, B vitamins contribute to the production of neurotransmitters and support cognitive health.[*]
- Vitamin E: Found in nuts, seeds, and leafy greens, Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and protects brain cells from damage.[*]
One quick, easy, and delicious way to feed your brain is by enjoying IQBARs as snacks. These vegan and keto protein bars are specifically designed to provide essential nutrients that support cognitive function and overall brain health.
Made with clean ingredients, IQBARs are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other vital nutrients that support your noggin’. Try our many tasty flavors, such as Peanut Butter Chip, Banana Nut, Matcha Chai, and Lemon Blueberry. Not sure which flavors to choose? Try our 7 Bar Sampler to find your favorites.
Unlocking Your Brain’s Full Potential
Harnessing the power of neuroplasticity can pave the way for a sharper, more resilient, and adaptable mind. Remember that consistency is key when it comes to fostering neuroplasticity. Stick with these healthy habits, and you’re sure to be richly rewarded!