Neuroplasticity: What It Is And How To Use It For Manifestation

Sometimes, it takes a while for high-school textbooks to catch up with bombshell scientific discoveries, and many of us grew up learning that our brains are more or less "fixed" after we reach adulthood. Nope, not even close. This is exceptionally good news, because the brain's flexibility provides a roadmap for us to be able to rewire ourselves away from long-held negative habits and into a brighter worldview.

In the late 1990s, neuroplasticity made its Broadway debut, so to speak. Bruce S. McEwen, Ph.D., studied the impact of stress on the brain and made two profound discoveries. One, stress acts like a hurricane. It damages the brain, diminishing the size of the hippocampus. Two, the damage doesn't have to be permanent. He discovered the brain's capacity to recover, restore, and rebuild itself, effectively putting neuroplasticity into public consciousness. As an example, an important application of neuroplasticity could be using it to our advantage to deal with intrusive thoughts, which can be frightening. Unsurprisingly, the internet gets a lot wrong about intrusive thoughts, but it's a condition that can be helped.

Incredibly, this idea of plasticity made its first known appearance in an 1891 textbook called "Principles of Psychology" by psychologist William James. He wrote, "The phenomena of habit in living beings are due to the plasticity of the organic materials of which their bodies are composed." It's this intersection of daily habits and neuroplasticity that we can leverage to manifest a better life.

What is neuroplasticity?

According to Today I Found Out, the word "plastic" predates by a few hundred years the plastic that's been soiling our oceans, and it just means pliable or moldable. Neuroplasticity is the brain's capacity to change and adapt in response to our thoughts, feelings, and experiences, per PositivePsychology. Rather than seeing your brain as an unchanging mass that only sends predictable instructions to the body, see it as a thoughtful, responsive dance partner that deeply listens to your instructions.

One of the most important distinctions here is our own agency or the power that we, in fact, have to either catapult ourselves down damaging negative spirals or into sunlight-filled gardens of possibility, based on our habitual thought patterns. If we have a long history of pessimism, that doesn't mean this is an overnight switch, especially when there's a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, or another condition that feels like an impediment. And anxiety and depression are not in your head; there's even a physical toll. But the beauty of neuroplasticity is in its promise: If we work with it, it's possible to change our thoughts, quality of life, and manifestations. That's powerful.

How to use neuroplasticity for manifestation

As with any huge inner shift, awareness comes first. The most dangerous thing about limiting, negative self-beliefs is how they become a normalized part of our inner landscape of "ho-hum" thinking.

We may frequently flutter around habitual thoughts of low self-worth, but they've become such a regular feature of our inner monologue that we've stopped recognizing them for what they are — torpedoes to our self-esteem and therefore to whatever we wish to manifest into our lives. Per PushFar, to unearth bad beliefs, ask yourself what you truly want but aren't pursuing, then ask yourself, "Why not?"

An article published by Byrdie recommended identifying your goal clearly. Is it inner (like a habit) or outer (like a career shift)? Manifestation is a process of making the invisible visible, and just like healing, it's an inside job. Using neuroplasticity means we're going deeper than mantras like "thoughts become things" to reprogram what's bubbling underneath — our subconscious. 

It's vital to nurture the belief that healing old, worn-out narratives is truly possible. Then, your brain starts searching for ways to make that happen. If believing in your manifestation feels too "woo-woo," believe that neuroplasticity is real, because it is. Engage in self-love practices like breathwork and meditation. Use a journal to stay on track by re-wiring yourself with ultra-positive self-talk. Flip your limiting beliefs to the opposite end — rehearse having what you want and live inside the possibility. Do this daily, then re-assess monthly.