Recently I have become more and more fascinated with the brain’s ability to support us in making significant changes in our thinking. In my book, Confessions of a Can’t-aholic, I write about the topic of neuroplasticity, which is a process where neural pathways are altered based on environmental, behavioral and neural changes.

Currently I am reading a book by Norman Doidge, M.D. called The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity. Really I am just getting started with the book and am amazed already but what I am learning and I wanted to share with you because this is validating for me what I’ve always felt about how we process the world around us.

In the book Doidge writes about the brain’s ability to manage chronic pain. He explains that chronic pain start from acute pain, so basically an injury. What he goes on to say is that initially the pain center in the brain that responds or fires the pain receptors is small localized area in the brain, however as time passes that area in brain increases which turns into chronic pain. The fascinating part is that it is possible for us to actually decrease that area so that chronic pain is no longer an issue.

This really excited me because I believe the case is similar for emotional pain. The brain is an amazing organ and if each of us understands the basic concepts of how the brain works, we become more empowered to manifest the thinking we need to have the life we want. Of course other factors have to come into play, like opportunity and action, but here’s the thing, we, you and I have the power to change how we experience life at a cellular level! This is just so intriguing and exciting!

Now I’m no neurologist or brain scientist, but I do recall taking a course on the psychology of perception when I was in university and I remember a lesson on perception and how visual stimuli is processed once is filters through the lenses of our eyes. Basically once the stimuli hits the visual centre of the brain, the brain immediately begins to search for associations in order to make a connection that we can draw upon and then we make a conclusion based on the experience or inexperience of what we see. This can be said for all of our sensorial experiences.

Let me give you personal example (I ask that you don’t judge me after this).

I was in my early twenties and attending my very first work party at a hotel. I was excited as dinner was on the company, I would be mingling with my work friend and it would be all fun and frolic. Some of my friends decided that they would pitch in and get a room so they wouldn’t have to drive after the party. I was invited to hang out before the party. Of course there would pre-drinking, we were young and it was much cheaper to drink before the party, where you had a cash bar! Anyway, just to be safe I poured my own drinks, that way I could manage myself. What I didn’t realize, because I didn’t ask, was that the pop I was using to mix the alcohol with was already premixed. Needless to say, I did not remain sober and the rest of the night was a disaster for me! To this day, I will not drink, look at or smell Jack Daniels! But is it really Jack’s fault?

I can look back on that event and laugh, nevertheless I have associated Jack Daniels with a very bad drinking experience, however truth be told, it’s not Jack’s fault, its highly probable if I actually decided to have a drink with Jack Daniels in it, nothing would happen like it did that night. If I dissect that unfortunate evening, what happened had nothing to do with the alcohol as much as it had to do with the fact that I didn’t ask one simple question: Is this Coke premixed? Of course I was young and foolish and hind sight is 20/20.

Going back to how the brain works, when I smell Jack Daniels, my stomach starts to turn and I begin to feel nauseous. My brain has made that association. Realistically any alcohol can do that depending on how much of it I ingest. Let’s say I decide to make a different connection to Jack Daniels, let’s say, I take another swig and tell myself, nothing is going to happen and low and behold, nothing happens. I have created a new association to Jack. Now Jack’s not such a bad guy after all. New electric charges are going off in my brain and no longer do I have such a physical reaction to the thought, smell and mention of Jack Daniels.   This is huge, you may not think so but it is. Imagine how much physical angst this caused me. This angst caused my brain to move into fight or flight mode, which then releases stress hormones, which are no good for my body. I hope you see where I am going with this!

There is so much we can do to change our lives, to have what we want. It starts with building new connections, rewiring your thinking, freeing yourself of old thoughts and creating new ones! I highly recommend reading Doidge’s book, it will open your mind!

It’s my honour to serve you! God Bless!

Nina Ganguli