looking at change in a lense

Self-Directed Neuroplasticity

When you are starting with personal development, you have to change your mind and brain for personal growth. Indeed, change your mind, change your life. The concepts and tools in this section are a modified version of the work of Dr. Rick Hanson, who has done a profoundly amazing job in formulating, compiling, and curating exercises for what he terms as “Self-Directed Neuroplasticity”.

Implicit memory is unconscious, automatic, and more connected with sensory, motor, and emotional processes and memory systems. For everything that you want to cultivate or change in implicit memory in your mind for personal growth, it must be dynamically incorporated into lived experience. This involves either fostering the formation of a new implicit memory, changing an existing implicit memory, or strengthening an existing implicit memory.

This type of self-modifying of neural connections is called self-directed neuroplasticity. So, for anything you are trying to learn, make it as real of an actual experience in the simulated or imagined context or scenario. This is crucial to do for each and every exercise for actual change to occur. It is also essential to do it in a way where you have moderate arousal (not too much, and not too little), and to do it at a slower pace than an actual experience. Going at a slower pace allows for greater understanding and processing of automatic thoughts and feelings that arise that may need to be dealt with along the journey of exploration. Going at a slower pace also helps with learning more effectively and completely allowing you to change your mind for personal growth faster.

For the following steps of Self-Directed Neuroplasticity, perform each step for at least 10 seconds or more when implementing a technique or engaging in an exercise. This is because it takes about 10 seconds to even start to form a little bit of implicit memory. The more time that you stay with it the better, but 10 seconds is essential. Doing it frequently is also necessary in order to slowly develop and grow the neural connections. Just as consistent training in sport is important for an athlete, so is consistent use of the neural pathways to develop more helpful ways of thinking, feeling, believing, and behaving.

It is probably impractical to do all the steps every time, but do as many as you can comfortably do. For an ‘express’ way of fostering some implicit memory and changing your mind for personal growth, you could even just stay with and savour the enjoyable experience for 20 seconds while being aware and present in your body. Don’t worry too much about memorizing the steps below as these will be integrated into each exercise where it is relevant. Just have a read over it to become familiar. You will get lots of experiential practice incorporating these.

Self-Directed Neuroplasticity

  • 10 Seconds to Form Implicit Memory
      1. It takes about 10 seconds to begin to form a little bit of implicit memory, so each step needs to last about 10 seconds
  • Present & Body Awareness
      1. Become aware of your body in the everflowing present moment. This facilitates greater awareness of your experience which in turn enhances implicit memory formation.
  • Unified Intention
      1. Become aware of whether what you are trying to cultivate is actually true or more adaptive to your life in the present and, if so, be aware of this felt sense of this for 10 seconds as you continue to slowly engage in your new way of being in the imagined or role-play situation and interaction.
  • Image
      1. See a picture or imagine or sense the image of it in your mind and feel the feeling that is associated with it. Images have more of a direct connection to emotions, and can elicit emotions much quicker and with greater intensity, thus facilitating the process of neuroplasticity.
  • Action 
      1. What action would reflect this need, new perspective, way of being, or solution in a context where you have felt, or would feel, the opposite of this? Engage in this action slowly and mindfully in your role-play or imagination of the context. Do this for at least 10 seconds while being aware of your experience in your body.
      2. Do the action or role-play of the more adaptive experience (thinking, dreaming the feeling, movement, expression, etc) in a slow manner. This dynamic experience and embodied action simulates the type of dynamic lived experience that forms implicit memory in the first place.
  • Notice Enjoyable Feelings & Sensations
      1. Notice the enjoyable feelings and sensations of the experience for 10 seconds as you continue to slowly engage in your new way of being in the imagined or role-play situation and interaction.
  • Savour the Experience
      1. Savour the emotionally rewarding and enjoyable experience of the new way of being for 10 seconds as you continue to slowly engage in your new way of being in the imagined or role-play situation and interaction.
  • Novel
      1. Be aware of the new and fresh aspect and emotionally rewarding feeling of this new way of being for 10 seconds as you continue to slowly engage in your new way of being in the imagined or role-play situation and interaction.
  • Benefits 
      1. Think about what the benefits of having this (or more) experience or the effects of this experience are (health, happiness, love, etc.)? What is the relevance of it to your needs, wants, and life overall? Become aware of the benefits to your health and thriving from feeling, believing, and acting this way as you continue to slowly engage in your new way of being in the imagined or role-play situation and interaction.
  • Deepen
      1. Imagine/sense the new positive experience sinking down into your muscles and bones for 10 seconds as you continue to slowly engage in your new way of being in the imagined or role-play situation and interaction.
  • Fill
      1. Imagine/sense the new positive experience filling up your body for 10 seconds as you continue to slowly engage in your new way of being in the imagined or role-play situation and interaction.
  • Kinaesthetic
      1. Put your hand on your chest or other part of your body for 10 seconds as you are aware of the felt sense of the new positive experience as you continue to slowly engage in your new way of being in the imagined or role-play situation and interaction.
  • Link
      1. Think of a similar time you felt like this, or a positive thought, feeling, or image that reminds you of this experience. This creates an association. Allow this to fill up and sink-into your whole body. Be aware of a similar time when you have felt this way even if it is a little bit. Stay with both the new positive experience and the old positive experience for 10 seconds and savour as you continue to slowly engage in your new way of being in the imagined or role-play situation and interaction.
  • Reconsolidate
    1. What action would reflect this need, new perspective, way of being, or solution in a context where you would feel the opposite of this? Engage in this action slowly and mindfully in your role-play or imagination of the context. Do this for at least 10 seconds while being aware of your experience in your body.
    2. What positive feelings are present as you are engaging in the new experience? Be aware of the felt sense of this in your body. Stay with this for 10 seconds while being aware of your experience in your body.
    3. What thoughts might go along with this new perspective or way of being? Stay with this for 10 seconds while being aware of your experience in your body.
    4. What kind of sensations in your embodied experience might you feel with this new perspective or way of being? Stay with this for 10 seconds while being aware of your experience in your body.
    5. Be aware of any automatic feelings, thoughts, sensations, images or impressions that arise as you do this. If there are any, be aware of these and at the same time be aware of the new adaptive or realistic embodied experience you are engaging in. As you are slowly engaging in the experience, allow your embodied awareness and attention to oscillate slowly back and forth noticing the sharp juxtaposition or distinction between the new embodied experience and the automatic feelings, thoughts, sensations, images or impressions arising.Take as long as you need.