My Brain is Changing

My Brain is Changing

My brain has changed. Yes, it’s true!

An example…Since I was a teenager, I would wake up every morning, bracing myself for disaster. I just knew something terrible was about to happen…Nuclear holocaust (high school), terror attack and/or traffic accident (adulthood).

And then I learned about positive thinking (thank you, Chaya Hinda Allen!). And for about 5 years now, every morning before I daven, I have done positive visualizations– of 10 good things that would happen that day, and of the ways in which I have felt Hashem’s Divine providence and blessing over recent years (and my list grows and grows).

And slowly but surely, it seems, my scaredy-cat brain learned that almost without fail those 10 things I was looking forward to in the AM actually took place by the PM. And that even when unexpected and scary things happen, with Hashem’s help, I manage to cope.

And now, a few years later, those old fears are an occasional whisper rather than barking at me all day long through a scratchy megaphone.

And the same is true regarding various other areas of my life and personality. Consistent daily effort has changed me. From an anxious, stressed out, self-critical, always-rushing mother–to a person who much more closely resembles the mother I dream to be.

And right now I’m reading the science behind my personal experiences in The Brain that Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doidge of Columbia University. This is one of the most inspirational books I’ve ever read, because it proves that really REALLY you, I, and all of us can change for the better in all sorts of dramatic and revolutionary ways.

The book presents hopeless case after hopeless case whose lives are miraculously altered by consistent daily exercises to retrain the brain. Sometimes under an hour of practice a day brought about the following wonders…

Cheryl, a woman called a “wobbler” because she had zero sense of balance, learned how to walk straight, a wobbler no longer.

A 16-year-old student with a severe learning disability is told he will never progress beyond 3rd grade level. After the brain exercises, he learns to read at grade level and even graduates college.

A neurosurgeon who cannot move the right side of his body following a stroke returns to the surgery ward, as a doctor, not a patient.

Page after page, miracle after miracle, I am reminded…consistent, daily effort, and we can change our brains and our whole lives, IY”H, forever.

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10 comments

  1. Wow! Thanks for the reminder and inspiration to review my positive thinking classes… Keep it up, Chana jenny!

  2. in the study of the Tanya, the classic Chabad book on Chassidic Philosophy, we learn the concept of how the mind can rule the heart. in other words, our minds can control/direct our feelings.

    in chabad circles, we tell the story of a famous chossid of the Alter Rebbe (the first Lubavitcher Rebbe) who acted as a spy for the Russian Czar in the war against Napoleon. This chossid was standing in a room with French generals as they planned their military campaign. suddenly, Napoleon entered. he saw the Russian man standing nearby and quickly put his hand over the chossid’s heart. he wanted to see if the chossid was scared. the chossid concentrated on slowing his heartbeat in order to show Napoleon that he was not afraid, and therefore couldn’t be considered a spy…

    we also have the concept of “Tracht gut vet zein gut”, think good and it will be good. if we focus on the good that happens to us, and try to focus on the good in any situation, we will find that we have trained our brains to grab the good in any situation. sort of like those where’s waldo books, if we know what waldo looks like, we can find him in any picture….

    • JewishMom

      incredible story about the spy–what superhuman ability that he controlled his heart with his mind–literally. I loved this comment, thank u!

      • the point of the story is that everyone has the capacity to control their heart. i am not saying that we should squelch our heart/feelings, as that would require superhuman effort. i am saying that we can redirect that energy. redirection is not resistance, it is still allowing for expression of that emotional energy but just giving it a different outlet.

  3. These are all life changing tools!
    Jenny, I enjoy every new confirmation that you share of what Jews already knew was true… like Tamar shared.
    Thank you! Over the last year I have tried to implement some of these techniques into my life, and it has changed my life for the good, and I can see the effect trickle down to my children … even they are starting to point out the good!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this. I think I will try it for myself, and possibly share it with my children, too.

  5. So what have we got to lose bytrying to fix, even by being successful in fixing our brain? I have suffered from pretty intense cheonic depression my entire life. I cannot understand this world or the cruelty tgat exiats. I have never felt I had the stamina and endurance or strength to push through difficulties and resistance. I would not say I am pessimistic, because I really hope things will get better. That said, I am pretty critical and will always find the thing that is wrong. So i am never satisfied. Now trying to do something that will change my brain gives me two problems. First, chances are, it’s not foing to work, or it’ll be just too hard for me to see it through to success. Secondly, what happens if I am successful? My entire identity is changed. It sounds ridiculous, I know. But it is something i think holds me back from trying things. They take tremendous effort, and more than likely won’t be effective. And if they are, will it be worth the effort, and does the hard work continue eternally?

    And who will I be then?

    • if you reach through the wall of resistance and allow your inner self to shine through, you will be a more authentic “you”. much of your depression comes from the inner struggle of resisting the natural inclination to grow and change. it takes great effort and energy to resist. just as frowning takes more muscles than smiling, once we let go of the resistance, we feel lighter and more energized…
      hatzlacha!

  6. bikores.blogspot.com

    I really liked that book by Doidge. Remarkable stuff. One caveat – there is one chapter that is X-rated in which he explains how people get addicted to pornography which you can skip. Otherwise, highly recommended.

    Interesting how, in one chapter, rather than help someone with learning problems by compensating with their strengths while avoiding their deficits, Arrowsmith works on correcting those deficits.

    From a description of the book:
    “It demonstrates the various ways the plasticity of the brain can produce significant recovery of patients suffering from the most debilitating ailments, including paralysis from stroke, and autism. Prior to the acceptance of the idea that the human brain is surprisingly flexible and adaptable (plastic), most neuroscientists were of the belief that different sections of the brain specialized in specific tasks (localization), and these specialized areas became rigid and solidified early on in life in such a way that sufficient damage to each section would forever deprive the victim of its functionality.”

    • JewishMom

      thank you! I also skipped that x-rated chapter, though I’m happy these scientists are also making headway to help the many people struggling with porn addiction

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