Up until the early 2000s, health practitioners were taught that the brain possessed a finite number of nerve cells and that these cells degenerate after childhood, leading to cognitive decline. Research from Bryan Kolb and Ian Q. Whishaw in the 1998 Annual Review of Physiology stated, “The brain monitors its environment continuously and responds accordingly. Many stimuli from the environment prompt the brain to make changes to working and reorganizing its structure. We call this brain plasticity and learning. We also know that it is possible to craft simple activities that will make the brain want to grow and repair itself. The brain can instantly and spontaneously create new tools for better functioning with minimal and precise stimulation.” 
In short, your brain can grow and create new neural connections based upon the environment and stimulus given. The brain can also make unwanted neural connections based upon the same principle. Examples of a catalyst that creates negative changes to the brain include injuries, traumas, emotional stress, and toxins. 
Once we are conscious of the basics behind how our brain operates, we can create an environment that allows our brain to change for the better. Once we change our brains, we can improve our lives, because the brain controls everything within our body as well as how we interact with the world beyond our body.
Steps to Changing your Brain
If you live a MaxLiving 5 Essential® life, you are already taking adequate steps to improve neuroplasticity. If you are not familiar with MaxLiving, you can find a MaxLiving doctor near you. Once we have developed a habit of living the 5 Essentials lifestyle, we can use more advanced practices to enhance neuroplasticity further. The 5 Essentials include Core Chiropractic, Nutrition, Mindset, Oxygen and Exercise, and Minimizing Toxins, all of which are essential in your journey to build a healthy mind.
Though it is not first in the general list of the 5 Essentials, for the sake of improving our brains it is imperative that we start with our mindsets. We must first have the desire to make changes to the brain before we can act to improve our central processing system. Once this desire has been expressed, we must set aside the time to make brain change a priority. If we fail to plan, then we are planning for failure. Our mind is used to our daily routines, and at first, adding a new stimulus will be a threat to our system. We will find excuses to procrastinate and continue to live in an unchanged pattern where we are comfortable. However, comfortable may be synonymous with complacent. However, if you can push forward and continue prioritizing your brain health, adding this new stimulus of will-power and using the mind to tell the body that you are going to change will develop new neural pathways over time.
Visualizing who you want to become in the future creates new neural pathways, and neurons are signaled that recognize that future self. Dreaming makes us feel good because it establishes a spark within the brain’s emotional center called the limbic system. Once an emotion has been elicited, a chemical change has occurred within the brain, making the brain more susceptible to further positive change.
Your brain also thrives on novel activities, like learning a new instrument, language, movement, sport, or topic.  The brain craves to continually learn and develop—the simple act of visualizing or dreaming of the change you want to create may even shift your neural circuitry. In order to stick with your commitment to improving brain health, why not pick up a new hobby, learn a new language, or otherwise engage your mind each and every day?
Neuroplastic changes occur, not only in the brain, but also within the entire central nervous system, which includes the spinal cord. Research has demonstrated that an illness, disability, or injury places a demand on the brain areas that supply neural signals to the parts insulted. For damages to be fully corrected, the nerve cells must undergo neuroplasticity normalization.
The first step is what the Pettibon Biomechanics Institute calls “pre-habilitation” and what MaxLiving calls “mix procedures” for the vertebral column.  These activities include cervical traction and wobble cushion exercise. The mix procedures enhance the flow of oxygen to the central and peripheral nervous systems and prepare the nerves to convey messages that decrease pain. The mix procedure also creates a change within the disc tissue, making the disc more fluid and making the spinal column more able to learn new movements. The more we practice mix procedures at home, the more we can change the brain’s neural pathways.
The next step and most crucial step to changing brain plasticity is a procedure called Chiropractic Adjustment. The adjustment serves as a “software update” to the nervous system. Once the adjustment is delivered, a signal is sent from the zygapophyseal joints through the spinal cord tracts and then acts upon different brain areas. Once these brain areas are activated, a change happens within the brain that affects the stimulus’s perception. After the adjustment, the brain has an increased ability to respond to stimuli. If the brain is prepped to handle more triggers, more pathways can be recruited, leading to neuroplastic changes. 
The Advanced Plan eating strategy improves brain function by decreasing inflammation and maximizing the energy factories in the cell called mitochondria. Nerve cells have a high concentration of mitochondria due to the high energy demands of the brain.
The brain is 60% fat. This is because the layer of cells that insulates each nerve fiber (called the myelin layer) is made of fat. The myelin layer allows for nerve impulses to travel fast through the brain, allowing for neuroplasticity to take place more efficiently.  We need to focus on consuming healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids from wild-caught fish and grass-fed beef for the central nervous system’s health. Other healthy sources of fat come from avocados, coconuts, olives, and grass-fed butter.
Oxygen and Exercise
The brain loves oxygen, and exercise helps to deliver oxygen to the brain. Activity triggers brain-derived neurotrophic factor release, which boosts cognition by increasing neurons’ ability to communicate. The best type of exercise will be novel movements that activate the cerebellum, dorsolateral frontal lobes, reticular activating system, and vestibular nuclei. The activation and interplay of these systems within the brain create a new cognitive map that allows the brain to develop new motor function pathways.  Exercises that implement balance and multi-planar movements supply the most stimulus to the brain.
Any toxins that can cross the blood-brain barrier will create inflammation and damage nerve cells.  Toxins can come from a wide range of sources, and neurotoxins are a particularly large potential threat to your brain health and your overall health. You can minimize toxins by shopping for organic alternatives and being aware of the ingredients in your foods. Clearing out harsh cleaning products in favor of natural alternatives can also make a huge difference in your health. If you are concerned about toxicity, try a natural detox system to support your body’s detoxification processes.
The Effects of Promoting Brain Health
Our brains, even though they make up only 2% of our body mass, account for about 60% of the energy expended in our bodies.  This is because our brains are constantly running full-speed-ahead to ensure that we are functioning as we should. Our brain is the “command center” of the body’s processes, receiving and sending updates, commands, and more!
Protecting your brain isn’t just about keeping your mind strong. It’s about keeping your entire body well so that you can live life to the fullest!