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It wasn't that long ago that people thought the brain had a certain pre-set capacity. It was thought that the brain was limited, hard to re-train, easy to be damaged--even that people had a pre-determined intelligence quotient, (the all-important "IQ"!). In the past 25 years, however, science has shown that the brain is actually capable of incredible growth and development--all through life, and even after damage has occurred from injury or sickness. Current brain science focuses on neuroplasticity--the ability of the brain to grow and adapt and re-train, all the time.

SpiritWing dancers

In fact, studies show that each of us can rewire and restructure our brains, through simple daily choices. It turns out that positive thoughts, meditation, prayer--enable new pathways to be established in the brain. And equally important--negative thoughts (fear, worry, negative thinking or what is called "fixed mindset" thinking) expand the amygdala and other "fight or flight" sections of the brain. Dwelling on worries and problems, in other words, prevents you from finding solutions, and increases the secretions of adrenaline and cortisol and other undesirable brain chemicals.

How can we supercharge our brains? Research now shows that, to optimize brain functioning, we should seek out and challenge new experiences. Learning an instrument, playing a game, using your non-dominant hand, listening to music, traveling, or drawing pictures can also help build new brain "muscles." And one of the most powerful ways to beat the blues, or to overcome a mental block? Dance!

Dancing, especially using asymmetrical and unexpected patterns, stimulates the medulla cortex (base of the brain) with new muscular "messages." This in turn causes new synapses to fire in the other parts of the brain. Anytime you find yourself in a mental block or rut, turn on some music and dance. Not just some sedate or contained movement--really throw yourself into it and have fun! Believe it or not, when you return to the task a few minutes later, you'll be able to see it differently. (I learned this secret years ago, and have been using it successfully for everything from writer's block to learning new languages.)

(And if you want to really shake things up, check out our film, Dancing Joy. It's got the magic combo of inspiring music, powerful dance and a message of love.)


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