Understanding the Connection Between a Growth Mindset and Neuroplasticity

The phrase “growth mindset” refers to the idea that you can always change and grow. The word “neuroplasticity” refers to your brain’s ability to change and grow over time when exposed to learning new things. You can connect the concepts by saying that a growth mindset encourages you to try new things to help your brain function better.

Engaging in practices related to a growth mindset can benefit your brain’s neuroplasticity. This makes these concepts popular in many fields like medicine, education, and business.

Having a growth mindset means that you nurture your intellect through lifelong learning. You believe that your skills, abilities, and outlook can change over time as you expose yourself to new experiences and information and practice new skills.

To develop a growth mindset, you can:

  • believe you can learn new information and take action to do so
  • engage in incremental steps to improve yourself
  • focus on trying new things without fixating on the outcome
  • put a large amount of time into learning new things
  • keep trying, even when you have challenges
  • learn throughout your life and not just in formal schooling
  • develop new methods for learning or completing tasks

A “growth mindset” is a term that came about in the early 2000s by researcher Carol Dweck. It is a term that is the opposite of a fixed mindset. With this outlook, you are open to learning new things and often more forgiving of failure.

On the other hand, a fixed mindset is can be more limiting. With an outlook like this, you may not be willing to tackle new challenges because you don’t believe you can change.

Because of the brain’s natural plasticity, you can develop a growth mindset if you want to. You can learn to identify moments when you may find yourself retreating to a fixed mindset so that you can reframe your thinking.

Cognitive behavior therapy capitalizes on the brain’s ability to change and can be helpful when working to change your thought patterns.

What are examples of a growth mindset?

While this may sound like a lofty idea, having a growth mindset is something that can affect even your day-to-day activities. Here are a few examples of a growth mindset:

  • continuing to learn new things or refining skills that you already know
  • being happy for someone’s accomplishment and using it as inspiration to improve yourself
  • acknowledging when you fail and not letting it stop you
  • listening to criticism and taking the feedback as an opportunity to grow
  • asking someone for help when you need it
  • adapting to a changing environment or new technology at work
  • practicing skills to give you the confidence to try something that makes you uncomfortable

The term “neuroplasticity” refers to the concept that your brain can change over time. For a long time, people thought the brain stopped developing at a certain age. Now, research indicates that the brain can grow and change no matter your age.

These changes come in stages.

  1. You may first experience chemical changes in the brain when trying something new.
  2. Your brain may then continue into physical changes the longer you engage in learning and skill-building. Over time, neurons can create new connections and change the structure of your brain.
  3. Your brain becomes stronger and more active the longer you engage in these behaviors.

Keep in mind that changes to the brain can be both positive and negative. The brain’s abilities can lessen if you do not engage it with stimulation.

There is a lot of current research about neuroplasticity. Scientists want to find out how it can help people who experience health challenges like strokes, trauma, or mental health conditions.

Some researchers want to measure what types of experiences lead to positive changes in the brain. One 2020 research review examined studies about neuroplasticity in children and adolescents. It showed that participants’ neuroplasticity benefited from “experienced-based interventions” but that the area needs more research.

You can adopt a growth mindset at any point in your life. Taking in new experiences and adopting new abilities for a growth mindset can usually increase neuroplasticity.

Trying new activities and expanding your worldview can promote changes in your mindset and brain. These types of activities may include:

  • trying a new hobby
  • learning a foreign language
  • reading a book about a new topic
  • traveling somewhere new
  • visiting a museum

Note that brain and mindset changes develop slowly over time. You can’t engage in one of the above activities for a short period and expect to experience any kind of long lasting change. Practice and repetition are also important factors in strengthening neural pathways.

Commit to trying new things and opening yourself up to new experiences regularly to experience the benefits of both. Remind yourself that the goal of trying something new is not to be the best at it. Rather, it is about challenging yourself to learn new things throughout your life. This can have many benefits for your brain and well-being.

The link between having a growth mindset and increased neuroplasticity is that personal growth and progress are possible. This is because the brain’s neuroplasticity allows a person who approaches challenges with a growth mindset to develop new skills.

A growth mindset dispels the idea that you have a finite amount of ability or intelligence. Neuroplasticity is a similar concept, but relates to your brain’s ability to change as you grow. The more you experience and learn, the better your brain can function.

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