We live in an incredible era of scientific discovery about the human body, mind and potential. As Francis Bacon said, “knowledge is power,” and as we learn more about the brain, body and nervous system the implications are tremendously empowering.
While the findings are numerous I believe three discoveries from the fields of neuroscience and epigenetics have life changing implications for everyone because they bust some culturally long held limiting beliefs.
Let’s explore the myths or misunderstanding about body and brain that have held us all back and how the new science empowers us to live healthier, happier and more connected lives.
Myth 1) Adult brain cells don’t regenerate — totally false!
While it is true that the majority of our brain development occurs in our early years, neuroscientists have now documented that adult brain cells do keep growing and changing throughout our entire life (1). In other words, you can teach an old dog new tricks!
Nerve cells grow, change and develop networks of connections based on environmental stimuli and repetition (remembering something). As Dr. Joe Dispenza explains, the process of learning forges new synaptic connections in the brain and remembering causes those synaptic connections to physically grow bigger (2).
That means, every time we learn something new or mentally repeat something our brain physically changes. As Dr. Dispenza says, nerve cells that fire together wire together and as we learn new information we biologically wire that into our brain architecture at every age.
First and foremost, this means everyone at any age has the power to change their mindset and behaviour patterns. That’s huge!
True, it might be harder as we get older, because those patterns (synaptic connections and neural networks) have grown very strong, but we can create new patterns at any age and there are numerous techniques to make this process easier. EFT Tapping is an excellent example of one of those techniques.
Secondly, what we choose to think about, remember, focus on and discuss has a physiological impact on the structure of our brain throughout life. Knowing this hopefully inspires us all to be more mindful about where we place our mental energy and attention.
Myth 2) The brain is the command centre — not quite.
Our brain is amazingly powerful, but scientists have discovered that it’s not the penultimate control centre of our existence.
For example, the heart has it’s own independent complex nervous system often referred to as the “heart-brain” composed of about 40,000 neurons that can sense, feel, learn, remember and communicate messages back to the brain. In fact, studies show that the heart sends more neurological commands to the brain than the brain does to the heart (3).
Scientists are also making great discoveries about the independent nervous system in our digestive tract, called the enteric nervous system, or the “gut-brain” and how it not only controls digestion but has a massive influence on our moods (5).
Those gut instincts and heart feelings are as real as it gets and we’ve adapted physiologically over thousands of years to have a intelligent neurological systems that supersede the brain. When we begin to validate and listen to this we discover a more wholistic and balanced way of responding to ourselves and the world around us.
Put simply, you can trust your instincts!
Myth 3) Everything is genetically determined and we can’t change our genes — wrong!
Genetic pre-disposition has been widely misunderstood to mean we’re doomed to inherit the diseases of our family.
The new field of epigenetics however, has made groundbreaking discoveries on how environmental factors actually control our gene expression and prove we are largely not prisoners to genetic heredity (6,7,8).
While it is true our genes make us more pre-dispositioned to get various diseases (different than disorders), the way we choose to live has a much bigger influence on how that gene will express and if we get the disease or not.
There are only a very small number of genetic disorders, like cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anaemia, that are absolutely determined, the rest like cancers and high blood pressure are highly influenced by lifestyle factors.
“Bottom line: While each of us inherits our own unique, hardwired, unchangeable version of the genetic code, epigenetic factors such as lifestyle and diet can radically change what our genes do,” says Dr. Frank Lipman.
“There are thousands of genes that render you susceptible to the classic, chronic diseases so many people are experiencing today, such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer. But whether or not these genes are expressed, and blossom into disease, may be determined by how you live your life, how you eat, the toxins you’re exposed to, the supplements you take, your beliefs and how you handle stress. This means that though you may be susceptible to heart disease or diabetes, you do not necessarily have to succumb to them. That is, your genes are a predisposition, not a fate, and the expression of your genes is much more dynamic and modifiable than previously realised.” (9)
We have so much more influence over our health and well-being that previously thought, even with regards to gene diseases. We are empowered to find vitality and health no matter what genes we’ve inherited, and that is amazing!
- ‘Biology of Belief’ by Bruce Lipton.