"Coach Powers, should I engage in a neuroplasticity program like DNRS?"
This is a question I receive all the time. And the short answer, in terms of neuroplasticity, is YES. If you've been genuinely following my work and my words, you may already know I'm a massive advocate of neuroplasticity. In the future, I don't think our species will rely so heavily upon big pharma, and we will instead get back to the powerful basics. We will get back to learning how to grow and maintain our brains.
Now, do we need a program like DNRS? No. Can it be helpful? Sure.
Understand that all our work in my program (The Powers Manual) centers on neuroplasticity. It's just not a selling point. What I mean by that is some people sell neuroplasticity programs. What I offer is something I believe that is much more encompassing. And that's a good thing. Our recovery isn't just about helping grow our brain, which likely has shrunk and lost some of its synapses or even myelination. Still, our recovery is also about rewiring some of those pathways and learning how to balance our brain chemistry better. It's about addressing pre-existing conditions and manifestations of mental illness brought on by acute, profound Benzo withdrawal. To be healthy is to balance many scales, from the physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional. The thing about neuroplasticity is that it truly encompasses everything we do in the benzo recovery school. When we lower the problematic brain chemicals and work to elevate the good, we practice neuroplasticity.
When we learn how to separate fear from anxiety, suffering from pain, and break away from maladaptive coping mechanisms while fostering healthier alternatives... we are practicing neuroplasticity.
When we exercise, do exposures, practice mala bead mantra, meditate, and engage in art therapy... we practice neuroplasticity.
I'm reminded of Mr Miyagi's words when Daniel Son asked about karate belts, to which Miyagi replied, "The only thing belts are good for is to keep our pants up!" Bruce Lee also said something similar.
A fancy or elaborate neuroplasticity program can sometimes reflect this. We get caught up in the colorful belts. In reality, neuroplasticity is very simple, and we need not spend so much money on a program, especially one that wants us to do a host of strange or silly things, such as laughing uncontrollably with another stranger for 2 - 5 minutes straight.
What these neuroplasticity programs are often attempting to do is mine some intellectual property (IP). They want to find a way to rebrand and repackage some of the basics so that these things seem new. Now, if they find a way to create something unique, then it is fantastic. However, it's rarely that. It's usually just some new terminology and practices that seem odd, so odd we think, "Well, this must work!" Sure. It can be beneficial in many cases. But is it necessary? Could it be accomplished much easier and less expensive? Yes.
Neuroplasticity shouldn't just be looked at as some modality or thing we add to our recovery, but we should try to see the bigger picture. Neuroplasticity is a natural process that helps explain how our brains work and the implications of mental illness and healing from disease. In some light, neuroplasticity explains brain physiology. When the brain is injured, it can relocate and even regrow parts of itself. This is pretty incredible.
By understanding what neuroplasticity is and how it works, we can begin to see how to participate in our brain growth and maintenance actively. We can also start to see how things might go wrong. For example, sitting in bed for many months, avoiding everything, and slipping further into sensitization creates the opposite effect of neuroplasticity. We see a kind of neuro or synaptic pruning effect take place.
Like a goldfish in a small tank, the fish can only get as big as the tank will provide. The bigger the tank, the bigger the fish. The small tank can stunt the growth of the fish, and if we put the fish in an even smaller tank, it's possible the fish can lose even more size. Of course, simply having a larger tank isn't always the answer because it also comes down to water quality, food, etc.
Our work in the Benzo Recovery School is all about neuroplasticity building, brain rewiring, and increasing good chemistry while decreasing the problematic chemistry (cortisol and adrenaline). We accomplish this through many exercises, one of the best being physical exercise. Physical activity has been shown to outperform SSRIs in long-term studies and can increase arguably the most noticeable growth and change in the brain—specifically, the limbic system. But somehow, we do not think of exercise as neuroplasticity building. And in many neuroplasticity programs, they may focus very little on training.
Instead, standing on one foot while patting your head and rubbing your stomach, for example, seems much more appealing. It's funny how that works. Here are some key things in building neuroplasticity:
Diet & Nutrition
Yoga / Tai Chi
These might almost seem trivial. Trust me. They're not. They're damn important.
And like building any muscle, we need to approach things intelligently, train the right way, and keep consistent. The good news is that your life before benzos was likely your prescription for neuroplasticity.
Try to wrap your minds around that. Going to restaurants, seeing friends and family, exercising, engaging in creative activities, learning, playing, discovering, traveling, enjoying and distressing, etc. This is nature's neuroplasticity. Those things are as important as the size of the fish bowl, the fish food, water quality and temperature, and more.
Now, I hope I don't turn you off by demystifying some of this. I hope actually to inspire you. So you can realize the things we are working on are your neuroplasticity training. Can we do more? Most likely. But you need not jump on one leg while patting your head and rubbing your tummy!
One last point to be made. Don't just think of neuroplasticity in terms of what we can do or add to our life to foster brain growth and adaptation, but also what we can remove, eliminate, or reduce that can help restrict neuroplasticity. You see, it isn't just about what we add to the mix, but what is already there that might be slowing things? Like the goldfish analogy, we don't just look at adding a bigger tank or more water; we also check the water quality, food quality, and so on. Improving our environment and specific stressors, which could begin with doing things like the 5 Senses Limbic Retraining exercises, can help lower cortisol and norepinephrine levels, boosting neuroplasticity. Just as the elevation of these things can hinder brain growth, try to wrap your mind around both approaches. Hence, Lulling & Pushing. Increasing neuroplasticity is a two-part mission. Adding and subtracting, at the very least, reducing or replacing.
More information on Neuroplasticity training will come out in the new Module in the benzo recovery school (Module Two), which should be released very soon.
Until next time. Keep your heads up. You ARE healing.