Think the brain damage from a serious drug addiction is permanent?
Here’s a guy who not only kicked the addiction. He became a neuroscientist. He has some valuable advice for us to help us improve our brain health, as he did.
From Age 20 to age 35, Brian was consumed with a heroin addiction. His brain had developed into an anxiety machine. He points out that whatever we focus our minds on shapes our brains.
In October 2013, he experienced a horrible night and woke up to the fact that his brain could be re-shaped in a direction he chose. He doesn’t describe the “horrible night” in detail.
At that time he connected with the Whelan Lab at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience in Dublin, Ireland. They calculate brain-predicted age (brainPAD scores) by analyzing the grey matter density of the brain. Brian’s article has some convincing images illustrating this.
From 2013, when he stopped using hard drugs, to 2018, Brian’s predicted brain age decreased to where it was 10 years below his chronological age. Brain age is a predictor of mortality risk, cognitive decline, increased risk of dementia, and quality of physical function.
How did he do this? Therein lies our story.
12 practices Brian used to reshape his brain and its focus:
- Self-observation is a form of meditation that allows us to thoughtfully observe our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without engaging with them. An example could be a lump in your throat or a tight chest. If you see these sensations as clouds in the sky that you observe from the blue sky around the clouds, you observe them without engaging.
Brian reports that he still has anxiety feelings. Yet he’s able to observe them without engaging, through self-observation.
- Seek questions, rather than answers; Brian has a list of 7 questions he asks himself in challenging situations:
- What part of this situation is under my control?
- What am I constantly avoiding?
- What would my mentors think about this?
- What would tomorrow-me think?
- If I am saying yes to this, what am I saying no to?.
- Does this align with my values?
- What’s the worst that’ll happen if I attempt this?
He says these questions help him sort out his life when he feels stuck.
- Remove (or reduce) “emotional hijackings”. Daniel Goleman defines these as the situation where your amygdala – the fear center of your brain – screams like a siren.
- Focus on the present moment.
- Tighten up sleep routines. He has several specific recommendations in this area.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Feed your brain with good quality brain food. Become a student of life and develop a growth mindset.
- Use challenges as fuel for growth.
- Lean toward your fears.
- Life it up – bring joy, energy, and present moment awareness into encounters with others.
- Listen to your heart.
- Write a new story.
Some things he learned to avoid:
- Difficult people.
- Negative news.
- Social media.
Brian discusses several of these points in significant detail. I recommend you read his article to get the full benefit;
Brian’s Takeaway from His Experience
What we repeatedly do defines our lives. These habitual behaviors determine how we think and feel, as well as affecting our outside world. Neuroscience shows these actions also change the shape of our brains.
When we bring positive habits into our lives, we change the age of our brains. We live longer, reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive decline, and we have superior physical function over those with an “older brain.”
When we change our habits, we change our brains. When we change our brains, we change our lives.
What would you do if you had a second chance at life? Having escaped from the depths of heroin addiction, Brian decided to design a program to show people how he did it. His FREE program is available here.
Note: Archived issues of The Unity Community are available here. Search that page for keywords representing your particular interest. Most articles offer suggestions for ways of improving business and personal relationships. Keep in mind that business is done by…people. Every business concern is essentially an inter-personal concern.
A “Shot in the Arm” Every Week!
Eric Lofholm is my friend, mentor and sales coach. He hosts a 30-minute motivational call every Thursday (recently changed from daily). The call is at 7:30 AM Pacific time. Register for it here. You’ll find instructions on how to join the call on Facebook, Zoom, by phone, or later in a recording.
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