The scientific view of the brain was previously that it is hardwired. In other words, we are born with brain cells wired up in a particular way that is unchangeable except that our total brain cell count declines with age.
New discoveries in neuroscience have revamped that view. A common term now used is ‘plasticity’, where the brain moulds, changes, and grows depending upon what you are focusing upon.
So, say you were focusing on things that you were grateful for. Brand new connections would spring up between brain cells as you begin to grow an entirely new network connecting brain cells (neurons). This is called a neural network. Many neural networks are created by us….by what we choose to give our attention to.
Therefore your brain and body is not something that you are simply born with, whose health and functioning you can do nothing about. Instead, you are continually growing, changing, moulding, and shaping your brain and your body. You have far more of an effect on your mental and physical health than you’d think. In many ways, it comes down to what you choose to give your attention to.
And with practise you can develop great control over what you give your attention to. In a sense, you can build up your ‘attention muscle’ in the same way that an athlete might develop leg or arm muscles. Regular meditation is a great way to do this, and some recent neuroscience discoveries of meditators have confirmed this. Through repetitive meditation their brains grew significantly more neural connections than control groups who didn’t meditate. And in particular, much of this growth was found in the area of the brain that controls free will.