You remember those awkward elementary school days where your desk buddy was completely obsessed with star trek or hello kitty? Don’t get me wrong I love me some geeky friends, but do you remember how they wouldn’t talk about anything else? Where the first 5 minutes of conversation might have been fun, but after that you start to zone out?
I’m afraid I’ve become that kid in my circle of friends.
I have a new obsession which has turned me into the annoying friend that only talks about one thing. Thankfully (or perhaps not) my friends have been so kind and supportive that I feel it’s ok to torment the rest of the internet cosmos with it.
My obsession? Neuroplasticity, and its mind blowing-literally.
What is it?
Well I’m glad you asked. Neuroplasticity is the brains way of changing/adapting and it’s crucial for healing.
Remember how I mentioned my fuzzy brain a while back? I was utilizing the steps of Neuroplasticity and I didn’t even know it! It’s also the way to heal (or greatly improve) all the mental illnesses over here (autism and a misfiring/fuzzy brain). Whether it be; autism, depression, stroke, MS, or chronic pain-the principles are the same.
I found out about neuroplasticity because my sweet mother-in-law sent me a link to this post. She thought that the mother in the article and I sounded very similar in personality-never giving up. At the very end of the article they mentioned a book, The Brain’s Way of Healing; I felt a tremendous pull to buy it-right then.
I’m not your impulse purchase kind of girl, so I waited 24 hours (which took all my self-control) and then ordered the book. Within a week of reading the title I had it shipped, unwrapped and devoured.
And I haven’t stopped talking about it since.
It was a thick read, not gonna lie, I had to sleep after each chapter to give my brain a chance to sift through all the new info. It was soooo worth it though!
Why? Because in a way it’s my life story and the answer to my most pressing health questions: How do I heal a fuzzy brain that no Dr. has been able to diagnose? How do I help my children overcome autism and gain a handle on grammar and language? How do we gain more energy and sleep better?
The answers are all tied to helping our brains heal.
So what does a brain need to heal?
1. Support of cellular and Neuronal Health (good nutrition, low inflammation)
2. Neurostimulation (awakens circuitry)
3. Neuromodulation (balances the over excited and under excited areas of brain)
4. Neurorelaxations (good sleep)
5. Differentiation (exercises during therapy that changes the brain’s image of the body)
Here’s how I did all of that last year. Last year I changed to a low glycemic diet, a less inflammatory diet-which supports cellular health.
I started running (neurostimulation), which created the brain growth hormone (new brain cells=healing).
I also meditated for 30 minutes or more a day (neuromodulation). While meditating I created my own eye exercises to help reduce strain and improve my eye sight. My eyes were really bothering me and making meditation difficult, so I started to pay attention to them and did some exercises to help reduce tension for both my eyes and my head aches. Turns out those 4 exercises I created were the exact 4 exercises that monks have developed over thousands of years and Dr. Doidge talks about at length. This stuff works!
After a while my sleep got better (neurorelaxations).
Then I started to pay attention to my breathing throughout the day. When I started to get stressed I’d combat it by breathing deeply and do some short 2 minute meditation sessions. I was teaching my body a new way to act chemically (differentiation).
Pretty cool huh?
Now I know my diet alone wasn’t the answer. I was also reminded of things I did intuitively so I can do them intentionally this time around. Not just for myself, but my children too.
Reading this book also answered one of the weirdest questions in my life. How am I no longer autistic? I still have lingering social anxiety and some sensory issues, but how did I overcome the larger obstacles of autism? Turns out I did most of the therapy’s (that don’t take technology) mentioned in the book, and all of the therapy’s he mentions are non-invasive!
Before I go listing the therapeutic things I did in my youth I need to put a disclaimer.
None of these are suggested in the book. Norman Doidge talks about non-invasive therapy’s that have been proven by science. Many of these have more than a century’s worth of data behind them. He essentially has been able to explain why eastern medicine works using western technology. It takes him a whole book to address these things, there’s no way I could do that justice in one blog post.
What I am listing here are things that I did growing up from ages 3 to 18 that seem to draw on the same energy or principles for healing that he describes. These are not clean clinically studied methods. These are strange behaviours I engaged in as an autistic child, things I forgot about as my mind cleared and became more neurotypical, this book reminded me of past actions. In many ways I’m embarrassed to admit some of these. I know it wasn’t normal.
Sunlight helps promote healing, I basically lived outside. Walking fast promotes brain growth hormone, and fast was the only way I went. I had several guy friends complain of it since they wanted to walk with me.
Doidge also mentioned Feldenkrais’ body awareness therapy. Growing up I paid close attention to where my body was and how it moved because it was so hard for me. I meticulously paid attention to my posture and walk-partially to be a better athlete and partially to overcome a back/hip injury.
Electric stimulation helps stimulate the brain, I used to put electronics in my mouth to get that champagne bubble feeling (don’t tell my mom). Lastly, vibration helps develop the inner ear, growing up I put quarters in between my cheek and teeth and hummed to get vibration going through my facial structure.
Now, I know that sounds weird. It’s so weird I never told anyone about the quarter thing. So weird I never thought that I may have been doing anything helpful for myself. It’s just weird, and I’m not suggesting you guys go out and start your own humming quartet for mental health. I’m just connecting the dots on what this book has taught me, connecting the dots on how my own bodily awareness (and it’s weird cravings) has led to better mental health.
It makes so much more sense as to why exercising helps mental health. It gives hope that a parent can reach a child through gross motor movement. That by working on outward exercises I can reach my son’s inner self-his mind and it’s development.
What I am suggesting is that you read this book and research anything that hit home for you. The book has far better ways to help mental issues than the lame sauce things I did above, and has far better scientific founding for the therapies.
Basically, I’ve lived much of this book and I can attest that it works! But you don’t have to take my word for it. Dr. Doidge has taken the time to put in tons of foot notes and end notes so you can read the research that backs up his assertions. He’s a a member of the faculty for both Columbia University and University of Toronto. He works really hard to give you good scientific grounding. Many of the practitioners he mentions are prestigious Dr.’s in their own fields. In other words-no quackery! I can’t tell you how exciting that is to my geeky heart!
I will be talking about each of the neurological healing steps in more depth in the coming weeks. Both from my experience in overcoming autism and a fuzzy brain, alongside our current journey of helping our children overcome autism and my relapse of fuzzy brain-itis.
Sir Bounce-a-lot finally enjoying his headphone time. Don’t let that adorable smile deceive you, it took us more than a month to get him to wear his headphones for a whole therapy session and start to enjoy it. But its been soo worth it-we’ve seen a lot of progress out of him since starting this program.
These principles look drastically different depending on what health problem you are trying to combat so I highly recommend you read Norman Doidge’s new book. We’ve started a new listening therapy he discusses in the book and we’re starting to see some real progress! So go read this thing!
*Please note, I am NOT a doctor, nor do I know your personal health issues. As such you should consult the advice of your doctor before making any life style changes.
**I was not asked or paid to write this post. The opinions are solely mine and no amount of money could sway me to write otherwise. My integrity is worth far more to me than earthly riches. So if you want the book, then get it!