Our environment has a profound impact on our brains. From the moment we’re born, we’re bombarded with stimuli from the world around us. This stimuli shapes our neural pathways, which are the connections between neurons in our brains.
While we may not be able to control everything in our environment, we can make small tweaks to our living environment, relationships, and activities at home that can have a big impact on our brains.
Dr. Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and chair of the Center for Healthy Minds, sums up the importance of small tweaks to our environment:
"Our brains are like plastic, constantly changing and adapting to our environment. Every experience we have, every thought we think, and every emotion we feel changes our brains."
Dr Davidson’s quote is a powerful reminder that we have the power to shape our own brains through the choices we make in our lives. By making small tweaks, we can create a more supportive environment for our brains and improve our overall well-being.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the small changes you can make to your environment, relationships, and activities at home, to redesign your living experience to serve you better.
The Key: Creating Variations
One of the essential qualities that shape a healthy neuroplastic brain is experiencing variations.
My teacher, Anat Baniel, underscores that the brain can adapt and change throughout our lives. As she describes it, we learn our experience. To optimize this inherent plasticity, she advocates for introducing variations in movements, activities, and experiences. These variations challenge the brain to create new neural pathways, fostering growth and development.
As a brain and movement specialist, I've come to understand that our external environment plays a significant role in shaping our internal world. The brain thrives on novelty and diversity, and this principle of variation extends beyond physical movement to the very space we inhabit. Just as we’re shaped by the actions we take and the company we keep, we’re also shaped by the environment we’re in.
So what's in yours?
Embrace the Art of Redesign
When you're living in an environment that doesn't align with your preferences or values, it's essential to take matters into your own hands. Don’t like your office chair? Change it. Sick of walking around that piece of furniture? Move it. Too much stuff? Clear it out!
Just as we introduce variety into our movement routines to enhance brain plasticity, consider redesigning your living space to reflect your personality and create a more harmonious atmosphere. This is not about spending money on a home make-over. It’s more about observing how your space makes you feel, and redefining the areas that aren’t working for you.
Start by decluttering and rearranging your surroundings. It's amazing how a simple change in furniture arrangement, creating newfound space, or adding a fresh coat of paint can breathe new life and comfort into your mind and space. Plus, the brain loves novelty, and by altering your living environment, you can introduce new sensory experiences that keep you engaged, interested and alert. By getting rid of what you don’t need or care for, you create space for your brain to pay attention to what you do cherish, and what you do need space for.
It sounds simple, but its amazing how many of us will suffer with what is, simply because we don’t bother paying attention to changing it. Or were afraid to let it go. And this can show up in many many facets of our lives. So consider this post a metaphor for many other things you can redesign in your life, once you decide to.
Discover Like-Minded Communities
In our digital age, the world is at our fingertips, making it easier than ever to connect with individuals who share your passions and principles, regardless of geographical boundaries. If you find yourself feeling disconnected from those around you, consider exploring online communities and forums that revolve around your interests, such as somatic movement, NeuroMovementⓇ, or other wellness-related topics. Engaging intentionally in these communities can provide the social and intellectual nourishment that your brain yearns for. I love our MoovyⓇ community because we’re organized around a shared and meaningful experiential endeavor.
But there’s nothing like being connected in person. In fact, our brains NEED embodied connection with other humans. Moreover, when you actively seek out connections in person, you'll likely discover that commonalities run deeper than you might initially perceive. Building meaningful relationships often transcends factors like musical preferences, language spoken, age, experience, educational background, or political beliefs. My experiences working with many variations of people and living in different places have shown me that our perceptions and assumptions can often distort our deep understanding of others. In essence, reaching out and connecting with others can be a transformative experience, especially when driven by a shared purpose, value or a commitment to serving those in need. I invite you to consider exploring relationship variations as an intentional way to change your environment. You might be surprised at the difference between what you thought was true and what you actually experience.
Cultivate Mindful Practices
In my work, I've found that the brain-body connection is strengthened through mindfulness and intention. If you face challenges with your space or the people around you, use this opportunity to deepen your mindfulness practices. Meditation, contemplation, and somatic movement practices like those we do here at MoovyⓇ can help you stay centered and resilient in the face of interpersonal difficulties. You can’t change others, and sometimes you can't change your environment, but you can learn to shift your perception, your responses, and your interactions. This doesn't need to feel like work or discipline. The experience of your mindfulness practice is a environment unto itself. The outcome of your practice is your felt change. Let the process itself be an inner room you enter, inhabit and explore.
Embrace the Creative Process
Remember, I can talk about the creative process for hours, and for a good reason. Creativity is a powerful tool for a healthy brain and a great life! Consider engaging in creative activities within your living space. Whether it's painting, writing, playing music, or crafting, these activities not only bring joy but also fuel your brain's capacity to adapt and grow. If you already have a creative endeavor, make sure to keep reaching for new variations so you don’t become bored by your own habits. To keep your brain growing new connections, you want to keep reaching and growing towards new variations and challenges in your endeavors. If you’re excited, interested, and you experience a bit of a challenge figuring it out, that’s a good sign you’re in the learning zone.
By the way, anything can be approached creatively- it doesn't have to be an artistic pursuit.
In summary, creating variations in your living environment is a powerful way to nurture your brain's thriving capacity, even when you find yourself in challenging environmental and social situations. By embracing the art of redesign, seeking like-minded communities, connecting with others through shared purpose, cultivating attention and mindfulness, and immersing yourself in the creative process, you can turn your personal space and living environment into a sanctuary of growth and self-discovery.
Remember, our brains are incredible, adaptable organs, and they flourish when exposed to novel experiences and environments. Variations are the key to providing a learning-rich environment. When you make small changes that you enjoy, that awaken your attention, and also work better for you, you’ll feel yourself light up. That’s when you know you’re promoting your well-being and advancing your human developmental process. Your choices really do matter. And they can feel good too!
Be the change you want to see in the world!
Looking for a way to overcome your pain and move like a well-adapted human, for life? Get the groundbreaking neuroplastic movement learning strategies I use to help people overcome pain and recover vibrancy, health, and flexibility, no matter their age, condition, or physical ability. No sweat. No stretching. No woo. Moving is your nature! Sign up for a spot in our free class at the button below. Check it out today, and we can help you start recovering your physical mental and emotional well-being starting tomorrow.
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