Have you ever noticed that when you drive to work or a regular place that you always go the same way even if there are alternate ways you could go? This is because you have created a neural pathway in your brain that has created this routine.
Sometimes we even drive to this destination on “remote control” as such. Often if I’m driving somewhere routinely I like to try going a different way, and then when I have made this change a few times, a new pattern occurs and I drive that way all the time. This has become the new neural pathway.
It’s like how water always flows in the same direction that the first lot of water has run, but if that path is blocked then a new path is created.
Did you know that our brain can do the same thing? The above is a simple example of this, but when a part of the brain is damaged, in some cases, the brain can create a new neural pathway that will eventually give out the same signals as the originally damaged area.
This will usually only happen if another pathway is first stimulated to activate this pathway. Unfortunately science hasn’t worked out which parts to stimulate to get paraplegics and quadriplegics to move again.
Changing routines and doing things differently will promote these different pathways. There has been many times that a stroke victim has lost function of speech or certain movements, only to find that with time and the use of stimulation through say acupuncture has regained this function.
Another example is a person who has ceased bowel function through paralysis has been known to evacuate normally after many colonics that retrained neurons to activate the release.
What is a neural pathway?
Neurons are nerve cells that transmit nerve signals to and from the brain.
The pathway along which information travels through the neurons (nerve cells) of the brain is a neural pathway.
How is a neural pathway created?
A lot of the programming of our body is “hard wired” into us already, but we also create new neural pathways every time we experience something new and different.
Most would agree that its’ life’s experiences that teach us the most things in life. Weather we travel, or live our life in one place, we learn new things every day of our life.
The more we do and experience the more we learn and grow. In the most part these learnt experiences are beneficial to us, even if at the time it doesn’t feel a positive experience. After it is over we often express how we learnt from the experience and have grown to be a better person as a result of that experience.
Unfortunately a lot of what we experience doesn’t always teach us the things that help us. Here are some examples of both positive and negative neural programming: baby smiles at mum and she smiles back with delight, baby learns that if she smiles, mum smiles and appears happy, so smiling is good.
Child learns that when you touch the stove when it’s on and gets burnt fingers that it’s probably not a good idea to touch the stove when it’s on.
If someone has a bad experience when confronted by someone, they learn to avoid confrontation, this is not a good growth experience as to always avoid confrontation means that you may allow other people to walk all over you.
Some people are conditioned since childhood, that to reward yourself or to feel good you should eat sweet or fatty foods. This comes from the notion of the “treat” experience, so the neural pathway that develops is that if you want to feel good you should eat, or perhaps drink alcohol, or take a drug.
Some would call these habits, but they are still neural pathways. Ever wandered why they say it takes 21 days to break a habit, or wandered why it is hard to break a habit? Well it’s because you have this rut called a neural pathway, that needs to be filled in, and a new neural pathway created for the brain to follow.
Neural pathways are responsible for the way we act differently around different people and how we react to different stimuli on a day to day basis. We can have all kinds of stimuli that trigger different pathways and different responses.
A smell for instance can remind us of a time in our life that something happened good or bad and this can cause us to react differently.
Why would I want to change my neural pathways?
Some pathways obviously serve us well and there is no need to change these. But some learnt experiences or neural pathways do not serve us well, especially when it comes to relationships with people- partners, work colleagues, family etc. and in how we treat and respect ourselves-our body, our health, and our own mind.
If you think about the types of thoughts that you have even just for a moment, you will notice that a lot of time is spent thinking about anything but how wonderful this very moment is. This in itself is a neural pathway.
This can be one reason why it can be so difficult to meditate for some people, till they keep practicing and guess what, they create a new neural pathway.
If we are constantly thinking of how we don’t have enough money, then the neural pathway we create is to always do things that leave us a bit on the poor side of life.
We are taught in personal development to live in the NOW, but this is a very new and unfamiliar neural pathway for us and can take some re-programming to set in concrete.
How to change neural pathways-
Just by doing things differently and repeatedly, is the quick way to answer this question.
It’s like creating a new habit, you do it repeatedly and if the end result feels good then chances are, that a new neural pathway will be created.
So you go to the gym, you know the exercises are going to take some time to get results, so you keep going. Eventually if you persevered long enough, you get the results you were after and you create a habit of going because you like the end results, true?
Not always, why? Because some of the neural pathways you also created were: its hard work, I have to push myself, I must be disciplined, and I’m bored, and so on.
Each of these “mind sets” or neural pathways need to be addressed to make a complete change, and some of the old pathways need to be cleared away.
In general it is good to expand and develop new neural pathways as much as possible, this gives us more to draw upon, and prevents us from becoming rigid in our personality.
Some things that are easy to do are to change the way you drive to a common destination, say the way you drive home from work, or the way you do your afternoon walk, take a different route to the same destination, or better still, go to new destinations.
Have you ever said, “I wander what’s down that road”? Well go down it and find out.
Another way to create a new neural program is to decide what changes you want to make, set out a plan of action and do it, over and over till it becomes second nature.