Advertisement

Can I retrain my brain?

Yes. No matter what your age, your brain has the ability to form new connections and neurons, a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. In a way, your brain is like a muscle -- the more the use it, the stronger it gets! Did you know that every time you learn something new, your brain forms a new connection? It’s true! Participating in leisure activities that keep you thinking and learning (such as reading, playing board games, playing musical instruments or dancing) will help keep your mind sharp over time. However, cognitive abilities like memory and mental focus aren’t the only ways that you can exercise neuroplasticity -- you can also train your brain to think happier thoughts, stop eating bad foods, or turning to alcohol or drugs during stressful moments by using a technique called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Retraining your brain isn’t as easy as flipping a switch, and it can take time to overwrite old neural pathways with new ones, but I have a few tips to help:
  • Don’t try to change everything all at once. The gradual approach is the surest way to success!
  • Believe you can do it. If you don’t believe in yourself, you will never achieve your goals.
  • Reward yourself for the small successes. When you reach your short-term goals, give yourself a pat on the back… but don’t celebrate with substances that harm your brain.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Only in the past few decades have we been able to break through and understand the maze underneath our skulls. Certainly, we're aware of the amazing things our brains do-in science, technology, art, music, in everything. Because we witness its remarkable power, maybe that's why it's so disturbing when we see people affected by neurological problems.

For as much potential as our brains have, seeing the late Ronald Reagan suffer from Alzheimer's disease or Muhammad Ali battle Parkinson's disease also shows us the potential devastation. World-famous musician Quincy Jones also knows what it feels like to experience such devastation. In 1974, he felt excruciating pain-like he was shot in the head. Jones blacked out, unaware of what was happening. It turned out that he had a ruptured aneurysm; one of the major arteries in his brain had burst. When he pulled through, he learned that he had to rehab his own brain to regain his capabilities. Jones used yoga and meditation to pull through his arterial problems, as well as that of a nervous breakdown he'd suffered.

The case of Quincy Jones is proof that your mind can have significant influence over your body if you challenge it. And that's a very important point. While the anatomy of your brain can seem as complex as learning a foreign language, the fact is that you can take charge of preventing your brain function from declining as you age.
YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

More About this Book

YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

Between your full-length mirror and high-school biology class, you probably think you know a lot about the human body. While it's true that we live in an age when we're as obsessed with our bodies as...

Continue Learning about Brain Health

Why You Should Turn On the Tunes
Why You Should Turn On the Tunes
Music may soothe the savage beast, but it can up your game and competitiveness, too. Seems you can amplify your sense of power, improve your abstract ...
Read More
How does the brain change with age?
David A. Hanscom, MDDavid A. Hanscom, MD
Historically, scientists have thought that a person was born with a maximum number of neurons and yo...
More Answers
4 Foods Your Brain Will Love
4 Foods Your Brain Will Love4 Foods Your Brain Will Love4 Foods Your Brain Will Love4 Foods Your Brain Will Love
Nourish your noggin for stronger brainpower.
Start Slideshow
Music Builds Brain Power
Music Builds Brain Power

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.