How to Rewire Your Brain for Healing

“Mind over matter” may sound like hocus-pocus to some. Yet, when you understand the incredible power of your brain, you’ll begin to see that your mind truly does have the ability to change your reality.

Scientific evidence proves your brain actually has pathways related to any medical condition that you have. And, before you see healing from that medical condition, those brain pathways must change.

The good news? Your brain can change and you have the power to help kickstart that process. This means there is hope that even chronic medical conditions you’ve been dealing with can improve or even resolve.

[READ: The Brain-Gut Connection.]

Brain Pathways and Your Health

By looking at a special type of X-ray, called a functional MRI, we can see changes in the brain of someone with a disease that directly affects the brain — such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. But, did you know that when someone has a medical condition that seemingly has nothing to do with the brain, we still see an effect in the brain?

Take diabetes for example. That is a condition that affects the pancreas and causes your body to have difficulty processing sugar. Researchers have found that the brain of a person with diabetes is different from someone who does not have the condition. This principle holds true for a number of medical conditions, including heart failure, asthma, hepatitis and even viral infections.

What we see can be described as a “signature” in the brain for each particular health condition. So, it’s possible to look at a person’s fMRI study and see a pattern that tells us what health condition they may have.

It’s difficult to say for certain whether the brain changes happen first, before the disease is diagnosed, or as a result of the disease, because most physicians don’t order the studies on the brain until a patient is known to have a problem.

However, this area of study is gaining popularity. Eventually, just like we can look at a person’s DNA and know the likelihood they could develop breast cancer, for example, we may soon be able to predict the likelihood a person will have a particular medical condition simply by studying their brain.

[READ: Mental Exercises to Keep Your Brain Sharp.]

How Your Brain Changes to Heal

Your brain has an amazing ability to change — no matter your age. This process is called neuroplasticity. Pathways in your brain are continually in a process of being “rewired” in order to make your brain work more efficiently, and to compensate for any injury you may develop.

For example, if a person has a stroke, which leaves them with a paralyzed leg, their brain will create new pathways to help restore the function of their leg. The degree to which this rewiring occurs and the resulting improvement in the person’s ability to have a functioning leg again is dependent on a number of factors, including their age, the type of rehabilitation they receive and their effort, among other things. The important point here is that until the brain rewires, the person will not experience healing.

So what about the person with diabetes? Does their brain have to change for them to be healed from the effects of the disease? Research suggests that this is, in fact, the case. The abnormalities seen on fMRIs in persons with diabetes — the “diabetic signature” — are noted to reverse with interventions such as changing diet and losing weight, which are established treatments to help a person heal from diabetes.

[READ: 6 Proven Ways to Bring Happiness to Your Life.]

Changing Brain Pathways

Your brain is the most amazing supercomputer ever created. It’s the only computer where the software (aka thoughts) has the capability to cause a change in the hardware (aka brain pathways). Your thoughts carry power. In fact, each time you have a thought, your brain produces an electrical signal that doctors can measure with a device called an EEG. As we continue to have the same thoughts over and over, the electrical impulses generated will cause brain pathways to rewire.

Researchers and doctors capitalize on this amazing power of the brain to help accelerate and augment recovery in persons who have had a stroke, spinal cord injury and a number of other medical conditions. By teaching a patient to focus on the intention or thought to move a paralyzed arm or leg, a person will produce electrical signals that will eventually rewire their brain so that they can begin to move the paralyzed limb.

There is an emerging area of rehabilitative medicine that involves teaching a person how to produce more robust brain signals during thought, that speeds up the recovery process even more. By looking at virtual reality-based images of an avatar moving its arm or leg, a part of the brain called the mirror neuron network is activated. When this network is active, your brain interprets what you are observing, as something that is actually happening to you.

So you can play a role in your healing, simply by learning how to change the way you think.

How to Rewire Your Brain for Healing

While there is much more research to be done in this area of rehabilitative medicine to fully understand the brain pathways related to each medical condition and the best way to “rewire” your brain for health, there is something you can do — starting today — to accelerate your healing process.

Close your eyes and imagine what you look like, feel like and what you will be able to do once you are healed. This will create electrical signals in the mirror neuron network of your brain that will automatically begin the process of rewiring your brain from pathways of sickness and disease to pathways of health and wholeness.

The more often you do this, the faster your brain pathways will change, and the more you will accelerate your healing.

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How to Rewire Your Brain for Healing originally appeared on usnews.com

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