“Every brain is wired differently.” – Dr. John Medina
I’m excited to continue with my series on brain health. In my sobriety, I’ve focused on understanding how to aid in the healing of my brain. I’m always fascinated by what science says; hence this series.
I’ve been reviewing the book, Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina. Additionally, one of my friends and readers has gifted me the book, Brain Food – The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power by Lisa Mosconi, Ph.D., INHC. As I read and unpack this book, I will be, no doubt, inspired to write some articles in this series on brain food.
For the purposes of this article, we are going to learn a little bit about how brains are wired and most importantly how we can change them. Spoiler alert: it involves learning new things.
And the really good news is that if you are on the path to better financial health through education, you are changing your brain!
Brain Rule #5 – Every Brain is Wired Differently
This article is part 5 of my series and correlates to Dr. Medina’s brain rule #5. As I read and re-read this chapter, I am not surprised that research confirms all of our brains are wired differently. Moreover, our experiences are responsible for shaping our brains.
Vincenzo Malacarne did biological experiments in the 18th century where he was able to show how experiences affect the wiring of brains. Vincenzo specifically trained birds to perform complicated tricks. When the brains of these birds were studied and compared to the brains of untrained birds, it was apparent they had more complex brains.
Medina goes onto to explain the same is true of humans. When you study the brains of professional of violinists, you’ll find that the area of the brain which controls the left hand are robust, enlarged and have complicated associations. Typically the left hand performs the complex, fine motor movement on the strings.
Funnily enough, the areas of the brain which control the right-hand look, as Medina says, “positively anorexic, with much less complexity.”
The Growth and Pruning of the Brain
Apparently, the brain goes through several dramatic cycles of frantic growth and pruning in our first 20 years or so. Babies are born with approximately the same number of connections as adults. But, by the age of 3, the connections in a toddler’s brain have doubled or tripled.
However, the child’s brain then prunes a lot of these connections back. It isn’t until age 8 when a child’s brain again has about the same number of connections an adult has.
At puberty, this cycle starts all over again.
As Medina points out, there is a lot of connectivity occurring at the terrible twos and again at the terrible teens. That explains a lot!!
Because I was drinking heavily in my teens, it’s safe to say, I stunted some brain growth. In recovery, I was taught that whatever age you started drinking/drugging is where your maturity level is at when you get sober.
I often joke, though, that if you take your recovery seriously and work the steps, you mature in dog years until you catch up to your actual age. There might be some truth to that!
We Can Change Our Brains
I don’t know about you but I find this stuff positively fascinating! Additionally, I find it very hopeful that we can actually change the wiring of our brains by learning complex things.
This is a good argument for continuing education. Push yourself to learn new things in life and you can rewire your brain! Medina is quoted as saying, “when you learn something, the wiring in your brain changes”
Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn? How about playing a new instrument? Perhaps there is a sport you’d like to try? Maybe you want to learn to play chess?
I hope you are finding inspiration to try something new. Just remember, that in learning a new thing, it takes practice and patience while you suck. However, if you persevere, someday you won’t. 😉
Although I had years that were destructive on my brain when I was drinking/drugging heavily, I’ve been learning new things continually in sobriety. I’m pretty certain my brain looks very different today compared to 9+ years ago.
Learning to Manage Your Finances Will Re-Wire Your Brain
Think about it, if you are ready to tackle your finances head-on, you’ll need to learn a lot of new things:
- Methods for paying off debt
- Choosing and executing a method
- Implementing a budget
- Growing your income
- Driving down expenses
- Formulating savings goals
- Applying said savings goals
In order to do these things, it’s going to take boldness and courage. Additionally, you’ll need to read and learn how others have done it. In doing that you’ll want to review different methods. Furthermore, you’ll want to choose and devise a plan that will work for you.
Remember the best plan is the plan that you’ll stick to!
Learning is Brain Food
I know for me, when I was in debt, I couldn’t see a way out. And I certainly could not imagine how I’d ever save for retirement. I had limited thinking.
However, when I took the time to learn some methods for getting out of debt, I opened my mind to new possibilities. I surrounded myself with people who trudged their way out of debt, managed their finances well, and were saving for retirement. How did I do this? Through books, podcasts, and actual people I met with face-to-face.
I changed my brain and you can too.
If you are focusing on the solution, the wiring in your brain is already changing. When the steps are clearly laid out, you can see your potential. New pathways are being formed in your brain which formerly did not exist.
Additionally, when you take action on your plan, you are applying what you’ve learned.
In the application step, you start to see the proof of this new education. Your brain likes the results and remembers that learning = growth = freedom.
This new way of thinking becomes habitual. You are now a problem solver!
The Roadmap of the Human Brain
Dr. Medina compares the human brain to the extensive roadway system we have in the United States. As diverse as the variations of roadways are, so are the pathways in the brain. Each person has, as Medina states, “the neural equivalents of large interstate freeways, turnpikes, and state highways.”
The larger pathways operate similarly from one person to the next.
However, when you get to the smaller “streets” in the brain, we all differ. It’s here where our individual wiring is snowflake-like and shaped by our unique experiences.
Our experiences shape us but remember in all things to be constantly learning. Take each experience as an opportunity to grow and evolve. If you do, you will be continually forging new roadways and connections in your brain.
The most marvelous thing about the human brain is that we can change it. It doesn’t matter how far you’ve fallen or messed up, you can learn a new way and trek a new path. Moreover, you don’t really need to follow a path already laid out. You can form your own way!
As you do this, you’ll, not only be on your own desire path in life but creating new pathways in your brain.
So what are some new things you’d like to learn? Take action today on one thing you’d like to learn and let me know about it…