Did you know it’s possible to rewire your brain with a smile? Our brain is adaptable like plastic. The brain is full of “roads” also known of neural pathways and some of them are well traveled. These are our habits, our established ways of thinking, feeling and doing. Every time we think in a certain way, practice a task or feel a specific emotion, we strengthen this road and it becomes easier for our brain to travel this pathway. When we start thinking or feeling something different, we start creating a new road. If we keep continuing on the new road, our brain becomes more and more familiar. This new way of thinking, feeling or doing becomes second nature. The old pathway becomes less and less used and weakens. This is neuroplasticity in action. When combating negative thoughts and actively replacing them with positive ones, also known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, we are activating neuroplasticity and creating new, strong roads creating positive neural-pathways.
Like riding a bike or playing an instrument, our bodies have the ability to store amazing and long-lasting memory for skills known as muscle memory . So how does your smile effect your brain? Researchers from Oxford University have found from their studies of using magnetic resonance imaging the connections between neurons when participants smiled. In the past, whenever we have smiled with our facial muscles in response to something that made us feel happy, our brains store those reactions. This means that from muscle memory, even if we are not genuinely smiling or laughing, when we use our “smile muscles”, we are actually creating “happy neurons” which release endorphins, increase intelligence and reduce stress hormones throughout the body.
Take Home Tips:
- When overcoming negative experiences or thoughts about life, I encourage you to begin creating new “roads” throughout your brain. For example, you may be thinking, I am not good at anything. Replace that thought with, I am unique and therefore, I have unique abilities I can strengthen. This practice will catapult your ability to overcome obstacles of the mind.
- It takes work and discipline but your efforts are not in vain. Begin to smile even if you don’t feel like it or it’s completely out of your comfort zone. Even better, make yourself laugh. Your muscle memory will begin to pick up on what it remembers and will begin carving out new “roads” for you.
For information about Trauma Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and how to begin making positive changes toward a more positive mindset, contact Lauren Hrubik, MA, MFT-C for a free consultation. Please contact her at 720-923-2323 or email her at Lehrubik@brightsidecounseling.net.