Neuroplasticity and Brain Chemistry

The Magic Brain

Brain ChemistryNeuroplasticity is the ability of our brain to adapt and change as a result of our experiences and growth. The more we engage our brain in ‘training’ the more ‘elastic’ it will become, creating new neuro-pathways (connections) – learning new things.

Our brain controls everything from movement, senses, speech to thoughts, emotions, mood and behaviour. A fully functioning brain helps us achieve our full potential and beyond. Hence why we need to give it the CARE and TRAINING it requires to do so.

The messages in our brain get transmitted between the neurons (nerve cells) by the neuro-transmitters (also known as brain chemicals or hormones). There are four primary ‘HAPPY’ chemicals in our brain that regulate our behaviours, emotions, cognitions (thoughts) and movement.

  • DOPAMINE
  • SEROTONIN
  • OXYTOCIN
  • ENDORPHINS

The ‘Happy’ Brain Chemicals

Dopamine

Dopamine is associated with pleasure (when we eat food or have sex), reward (feeling of satisfaction) and movement. Disturbance in Dopamine levels in our brain is associated with schizophrenia, Parkinson’s and the ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

Serotonin

Serotonin is the ‘happy’ hormone that affects our mood – calmness, focus, happiness. Imbalance of Serotonin in our brain is linked with depression, anxiety and insomnia.

Oxytocin

Oxytocin is referred to as the ‘love’ hormone linked with cuddles, hugs and bonding (mother and child, romantic relationships). It plays an important role in reproduction and initiates contractions before birth.

Endorphins

Endorphins are the chemicals that cause us to feel ‘high’ on excitement, whether it’s during exercise, sex or getting promoted. They reduce pain and boost pleasure leaving us feeling good.

Endorphins are associated with alleviating depressive symptoms, reducing stress and anxiety, and boosting self-esteem.

Chemical Imbalance in Our Brain

A chemical imbalance in our brain can significantly impact on our functioning, affecting our emotions, thoughts and behaviours negatively. This can leave us to feeling low, anxious, moody, tired all the time and more.

Our brain is like a car. Unless we give it the fuel and care it needs it will not work properly. It needs our help so we can stay focused and efficient during our lives.

Hydrate your brainThe following five conditions help maintain optimum chemical levels in our brain, keeping it healthy.

  • REST
  • FOOD
  • HYDRATION
  • OXYGEN
  • CLEAR ENVIRONMENT

How To Keep Our Brain ‘HEALTHY’

Rest

Sleep deprivation leads to a higher chance of dementia, depression, focus, and mood swings. Our brain takes 7-8 hours each night to cleanse itself from toxins. Unless we get our healthy 7-9 hours of decent sleep regularly, we risk a build-up of toxins that could lead to the above.

To improve your sleep patterns:

  • Create a soothing, wind-down bedtime routine, same time each day – avoid screen time 1 hour before sleep, stay clear of junk food or drinking alcohol
  • Introduce a couple of activities – meditation, journaling, reading a book, listening to calming music/sounds/headspace app and similar
  • Aim for between 7-9 hours of solid sleep.

Food

Our bBrain Foodrain contributes to around 2% of our body weight yet uses 25-30% of what we eat. Hunger impacts on the quality of our decision-making.

To fuel our brain efficiently:

DO’s: eat a balanced diet rich in protein, whole grains, good fats, fruit and vegetables DON’Ts: avoid processed food, sugars and saturated fats

Hydration

The brain is approximately 78% water. Just a 1-3% decrease in hydration can negatively impact our focus, attention and memory. Drinking a pint of water before carrying out mental tasks can increase our reaction time by 14%.

To keep your brain hydrated:

  • Always keep a water bottle with you and keep sipping to avoid dehydration.
  • Swap caffeinated drinks for water or herbal teas.
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables that consist mainly of water (cucumber, watermelon, tomatoes).

Oxygen

exercise your brainExercise causes us to breathe more deeply not only oxygenating cells in our body but improving the brain’s neuroplasticity itself.

Regular exercise decreases the risk of developing dementia by 30%. It helps us regulate our emotions better. It turns us into more flexible thinkers and helps us adapt faster to change and manage stress.

When exercising, avoid highly polluted places such as busy roads and throw a mix of activities in your weekly schedule.

Clear environment

Our physical environment (our home, office, working desk) affects our mood, focus, perspective and stress levels. An environment that is pleasing to our eyes and other senses helps us feel calm and secure. On the other hand, a space that is messy, dirty or crowded can make us feel anxious, distracted and overwhelmed without even realising.

To improve the quality of your personal/working space:

  • Declutter: clear and re-organise your space so that you feel more in control
  • Delete distractions apps on your phone or desktop
  • Clean: keep it clean and let fresh air in regularly.

If you feel down or anxious regularly and want to change your life for better, allow me to be your guide. As a qualified, BACP registered person-centred counsellor I offer a safe and non-judgemental space where you can talk and explore your difficulties in confidence. Get in touch for a FREE initial chat to discuss your needs and we will take it from there.

My face-to-face counselling sessions are available in the Manchester city centre. Video-call sessions can be accessed from anywhere in the UK. Email enquiries@simplytalkcounselling.co.uk or drop me a message and follow me on Facebook or Instagram.

Neuroplasticity and Brain Chemistry

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