A New Lease on Life

Since 1989, we have given hundreds of patients a new lease on life in our cutting-edge mental health treatment program. By keeping abreast of the latest innovations in therapy, we lead our clients to horizons they never thought possible. With a number of recent studies showing very positive results, neuroplasticity is one such concept that’s gaining serious traction. The term, “neuroplasticity,” refers to the brain’s ability to heal and “re-wire” itself in response to both training and injury. Experts previously believed all brain damage was permanent and that adult brains eventually become “hard-wired”. Furthermore, chronic stress and trauma can have a deleterious effect on the brain. In his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Robert Saplosky explains how chronic stress can decrease neurogenesis and increase hippocampal neuronal atrophy. However, there are some simple activities one can engage in to promote brain growth.

 

A Healthy Body is the Key to a Healthy Mind

Consistent repetition is key when it comes to forging new neural pathways. However, studies show that some behaviors are more effective than others when it comes to building new connections in the brain. Researchers have found that exercise can help to generate new brain cells. A UCLA study revealed that exercise selectively increased insulin-like growth factor-I expression to cause synaptic and cognitive plasticity and growth. Additionally, increased blood flow can cause growth in the brain’s white and grey matter. Dr. Art Kramer, professor of the Neuroscience Program at the University of Illinois, recommends 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise per day, three days a week in order to achieve positive neural effects.

 

Learn a New Skill

A joint study by the Higher School of Economics in Russia and the University of Helsinki found that learning a new language can also promote brain growth while increasing learning capacity. Additionally, researchers at Penn State team found that English-speaking participants’ brain networks improved connectivity and efficiency after only six weeks of Chinese language lessons. While learning a language is particularly effective, an honest effort made toward learning any challenging skill or subject can yield positive benefits. For example, learning a musical instrument, juggling, and creating artwork have all been found to promote neuroplasticity.

 

Neuroplasticity and Meditation

Another activity known to stimulate brain growth is meditation. Our blog on yoga described some of the stress-reducing benefits that meditative activities can have on mental health. However, Dr. Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Harvard, found that yoga and meditation can actually alter the brain structurally.  One of her studies revealed that participants’ brain volume increased in four areas including the hippocampus and temporoparietal junction after eight weeks of mindfulness exercises. Furthermore, the size of the amygdala – the structure responsible for triggering the fight-or-flight response in times of stress – actually decreased.

 

Innovative, Creative Care

Creative Care integrates some of these very concepts as part of our holistic approach to mental health treatment and our facility in beautiful Calabasas, California is the ideal setting for new beginnings. If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health, please consider giving us a call today.