Published on April 22nd, 2021 | by Sunit Nandi0
3 Neuroplasticity Tips to Rewire Your Worried Brain
If you’ve spent years plagued by worry, you might feel like this will always be the case. But you may actually be able to rewire your brain and discover a greater sense of emotional balance and well-being.
A Look at the Worried Brain
People often lump words like fear, anxiety, and worry together. But in reality, anxiety/chronic worry is very different from fear.
Fear is something that’s directed at a very specific stimulus. Once that factor is removed, the fear goes away. Anxiety, on the other hand, lingers even after the stimulus is taken away.
For example, many people are fearful of spiders. If you find yourself in a closed room with a large spider, it’s natural to feel fear. But once you get out of that room, the fear goes away. However, for an anxious or worried individual, those feelings remain.
Chronic worry is believed to be a result of some chemical imbalance between the thinking inhibitory and emotional parts of the human brain. The prefrontal cortex is what’s designed to hold the emotional amygdala at bay.
“In the anxious brain, the amygdala is hypersensitive and the connections with the prefrontal cortex become weaker. So, the amygdala generates too many false alarms such as perceiving a benign situation, comment, evaluation as very threatening,” psychologist Marwa Zab, Ph.D. explains. “At the same time, the prefrontal cortex is ineffective at inhibiting the amygdala’s diarrhea of thoughts. This process causes great pain as evidenced by activating brain pain areas such as the anterior cingulate cortex.”
Aside from being frustrating and emotionally uncomfortable, constant anxiety and worry produce a long list of unwanted side effects. This includes:
- In one study, people preoccupied with worry saw a decline in cognitive functioning equal to 13 points on the IQ scale. (That’s the equivalent of staying up all night and going to work with no sleep.)
- Worry causes a physical reaction in the body, which can lead to tense muscles, headaches, and an inability to relax.
- Constant anxiety and worry are linked to suppressed immune function and may expose individuals to more frequent sickness and illness.
Chronic worry is troubling on many levels, but there is hope. The human brain has a powerful ability to adapt and rewire itself when certain situations and circumstances arise. This can be utilized to your advantage if you know how to approach it.
Tips for Rewiring Your Brain
As your brain is more stressed and worrying thoughts become increasingly common, your brain actually becomes accustomed to this level of activity. In essence, it becomes the new normal. But the brain works both ways.
“The neat thing about your brain? The more glimpses of relaxation it sees, the more it is able to stay there, and the easier it will be to get to that state in the future,” explains Neuvana, the creators of a powerful vagus nerve stimulation device. “It’s all thanks to neuroplasticity – your brain’s ability to create and rewire new pathways between neurons at any age, any stage.”
Neuroplasticity is evident in many areas of life. It’s the reason someone can lose the ability to speak after suffering brain trauma but then re-learn how to talk through months of careful therapy. It can also be the driving factor in overcoming certain mental health conditions and learning how to build healthy relationships with people after suffering some sort of past trauma or abuse.
While there are plenty of situations where the complexity and sensitivity of neuroplasticity require the intervention of a qualified health professional, psychologist, or doctor, there are also times when rewiring the brain is rather simple and straightforward. You simply have to put yourself in situations that compel your brain to reject worry and embrace relaxation and balance.
Here are a few tips you can use to tap into the power of neuroplasticity and possibly overcome chronic worry and anxious thoughts:
1. Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) was previously referenced – and it just so happens to be one of the more powerful, practical options for people who want to calm the brain and promote feelings of relaxation and focus.
Once reserved for clinical settings and medical procedures, VNS can now be easily used anywhere. Neuvana, for example, has a pair of headphones that sync with a proprietary app to provide VNS “on demand.”
2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
One of the most effective means of reorienting the brain in a safe and natural method is through the use of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This collaborative, psychotherapy treatment focuses on changing thinking patterns to help people maintain a greater sense of control over their thoughts and circumstances.
3. Improved Diet and Nutrition
The food you put into your body has a major impact on how you think and feel. Here are a few ways improving your diet may help in rewiring your worried brain:
- Intermittent fasting – which consists of short-term 12 to 16-hour fasts – is known to increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels. This can strengthen willpower and reduce the influence of negative habits that have previously been formed in the brain.
- Certain foods and nutrients actually stabilize the brain and promote feelings of calmness. Cacao, for instance, contains theobromine (increases focus and promotes calm energy) and flavonoids (enhances cognitive performance). It’s known for being a natural antidepressant and mood elevator.
- Research shows a strong connection between dehydration and anxiety. Likewise, proper hydration is known to boost your mood and make you feel a greater sense of calmness. By increasing your water intake (and limiting how much caffeine and alcohol you consume), you can enjoy a more balanced mental state.
Eating well is easier said than done. However, if you prioritize smart habits, they can eventually become second nature.
Adding it All Up
The brain is a powerful organ that influences how you think, feel, and act. But it’s not set in stone. Contrary to popular belief, you’re always learning, evolving, and adapting based on a dynamic set of circumstances and experiences.
By prioritizing your mental health and putting yourself in more situations where you’re able to detach from worrying thoughts, you can enjoy better emotional balance and physical health. It all starts today!