I used to have a nice collection of plants. Now I have a nice collection of pots filled with dirt.
Why did they die? Simple: I didn’t water them regularly.
Now you’re probably wondering: “But, Renita, what does this have to do with neuroscience?”
Well, every time we process new information — a thought, experience or memory, for example — neurons in our brains form clusters of neural networks associated with it.
And according to Hebbian theory, “Nerve cells that fire together, wire together.” So every time you have a particular thought or experience, you strengthen the connection between those neurons.
The opposite is true too: when you stop thinking certain thoughts, the neural network associated with them becomes weaker and, eventually, withers and dies (just like my plants!).
Here’s an incredible two-minute video showing what happens you make new neural connections and prune old ones:
Remember how I said in my last post, we have 60,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day — and 90% of them are the same as the day before? Seeing the visual of how my brain actually works makes me more vigilant about my thoughts.
So I nurture thoughts of excitement (about the cool entrepreneurs I met at a recent technology conference); gratitude (for my sisters’ tongue-in-cheek humor); and compassion (for the homeless guy smelling up the whole train car).
And I’m determined to let wither and fade thoughts of judgment (about people not following the rules); apprehension (that I’m not doing it right, whatever “it” is); and impatience (about things taking too long).
Because, really, survival emotions are the weeds of the brain.