Our brains, intricate and wondrous organs, serve as the epicentres of our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Understanding how to harness their full potential, adapt to life’s challenges, and stave off cognitive decline has become a pursuit of paramount importance.
In this review, we will take a look at the book ‘Rewire Your Brain’ by John B. Arden, a comprehensive guide dedicated to this very cause. We will explore the book’s insights, strengths, and weaknesses, delving into its potential to empower individuals in their pursuit of mental vitality and resilience, all under the guiding principle of neuroplasticity.
John Arden, a psychologist with a PhD and 15 published books, boasts over four decades of experience in delivering psychological services and overseeing mental health programs.
From 1999 to 2016, he held the role of Director of Training for Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers in Northern California, where he established one of the nation’s largest mental health training initiatives, supervising 150+ interns and psychology residents across 24 medical centres. Prior to this, he served as Chief Psychologist at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Vallejo, California. Dr. Arden’s pioneering work in neuropsychology has led him to bridge the gap between neuroscience and psychotherapy, merging biological and psychological perspectives. His approach incorporates cutting-edge insights about the brain, encompassing concepts like neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, along with psychotherapy research, mindfulness, nutritional neuroscience, and social intelligence.
What is the book about?
‘Rewire Your Brain’ by John B. Arden is a practical guide based on the latest developments in neuroscience and evidence-based treatment methods. Driven by Dr. Arden’s extensive experience in psychology and neuropsychology, the book presents a user-friendly approach to changing one’s brain in order to improve various aspects of life. Arden covers a range of essential topics, including:
How to create and reinforce positive habits using the brain’s remarkable ability to change.
Techniques to control the amygdala’s fear response and approach life with confidence.
Methods to alleviate depression and foster a more optimistic outlook on life.
How to enhance memory capacity through mnemonic devices and memory-enhancing strategies.
The importance of proper nutrition for brain function and neuroplasticity.
How to maximise neuroplasticity through exercise and optimise memory with healthy sleep habits.
How neural systems shape social interactions and improve relationship building.
How to develop resilience, embrace ageing, and cultivate wisdom through positive psychology concepts.
The power of mindfulness, meditation, and a positive attitude in promoting well-being and connectivity.
Table of contents
- 1. Firing the Right Cells Together
- 2. Taming Your Amygdala
- 3. Shifting Left
- 4. Cultivating Memory
- 5. Fueling Your Brain
- 6. Healthy Habits: Exercise and Sleep
- 7. Social Medicine
- 8. Resiliency and Wisdom
- 9. The Mindful Attitude
Three key takeaways from ‘Rewire Your Brain’
1Rewiring your brain can help you perceive the world more positively
One of the key messages from the book is that through deliberate actions, cognitive restructuring, and positive social interactions, you can rewire your brain to promote a happier and more optimistic outlook on life. By consciously engaging in behaviours associated with happiness, such as reaching out to friends, smiling, and increasing physical activity, you activate the brain’s reward circuit. This circuit, involving the nucleus accumbens, striatum, and prefrontal cortex, plays a crucial role in regulating mood and motivation. Additionally, Dr. Arden highlights the importance of shifting from negative thinking patterns to more optimistic narratives, emphasising that your beliefs and thought patterns have a profound impact on your mood. Furthermore, social connections are portrayed as a potent form of ‘social medicine’ that can significantly improve emotional well-being.
2Attention is the gateway to memory
In ‘Rewire Your Brain,’ attention emerges as the linchpin for memory enhancement. The book underscores the pivotal role of attention in harnessing cognitive resources and fostering neuroplasticity. Through the lens of neuroscience, it is illuminated how attention serves as the gateway to memory consolidation. When you’re fully engaged and attentive, your brain is primed to capture and encode experiences effectively. Conversely, fragmented attention, often stemming from distractions and divided focus, can severely compromise working memory and, consequently, the path to long-term memory.
Furthermore, the book delves into the neural mechanisms underpinning memory processes. The frontal lobes, especially the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), are identified as the command centre for attention and memory. This region orchestrates what is deemed important and should be remembered. The interplay of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine amplifies attention and strengthens memory formation. In essence, the key takeaway is twofold: prioritise attention as a central pillar in memory enhancement, and acknowledge the neurobiological intricacies that dictate effective memory function, ultimately enabling individuals to apply strategies that optimise their memory skills.
3Maintain optimal brain function by feeding it the right foods
The question of the importance of breakfast has been controversial for years with some scientists labelling it as the most essential meal, while others consider it to be useless. ‘Rewire Your Brain’ underscores the significance of breaking the overnight fast with a nutritious morning meal. Readers are enlightened about how skipping breakfast can cost their brains dearly, leading to diminished problem-solving ability, reduced short-term memory, and decreased attention and episodic memory.
Furthermore, the book dives deep into the role of specific nutrients in supporting optimal brain function. It emphasises the importance of vitamins like B1, B3, B5, B6, B7, B12, C, and E in various biochemical processes that impact brain health. These vitamins influence energy production, neurotransmitter synthesis, and the body’s antioxidant defence system.
The book also delves into the detrimental effects of imbalanced blood sugar levels and high sugar consumption on cognitive performance. The author uncovers the science behind sugar-related issues, including glycation, free radical damage, and inflammation, and how these processes can impair cognitive function and contribute to conditions like depression.
Strengths and weaknesses, according to readers’ reviews
Provides actionable steps for leveraging neuroplasticity to shift mindset and emotional state, promoting proactive mental well-being.
Examines the limitations of medication-based approaches, encouraging exploration of alternative methods.
The book has a clear, organised, and engaging writing style that makes complex concepts understandable.
Some readers may find the content to be overly simplistic, akin to a lengthy magazine article, with recommendations that largely align with common sense, potentially leaving them yearning for more substantial insights.
The use of acronyms without a glossary and the absence of diagrams illustrating brain functions and reactions decrease the accessibility of the book.
Best quotes from ‘Rewire Your Brain’
“Exercise has also been shown to stimulate several genetic processes that enhance the health, longevity, and immunological functions of the brain. Exercise-stimulated transcription – the genetic process of constructing RNA from DNA – aids neuroplasticity, including the stimulation of BDNF, which enhances memory and promotes neurogenesis in the hippocampus.”
“Touching and being touched promote biochemical changes in the brain. The secretion of the neurotransmitters dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins occurs with caressing, comforting, and soft touching; this promotes closeness with a person as well as feelings of well-being. Touching has also been associated with lower levels of stress hormones and enhanced brain cell survival.”
“Since your hippocampus provides the context for your memories, your ability to put stressful events into perspective becomes impaired. The amygdala, in contrast, is a generalist. When it gets excited, it doesn’t care about the context. Any loud noise sets off the fight-or-flight response.”
‘Rewire Your Brain’ by John B. Arden offers a practical and empowering guide to harnessing the potential of neuroplasticity for personal growth and well-being. Dr. Arden’s extensive background in psychology and neuropsychology lends credibility to his insights, making the book a valuable resource for those seeking to understand and improve their brain function. It emphasises the importance of positive habits, attention, and nutrition in shaping cognitive health.
Overall, ‘Rewire Your Brain’ is an excellent read for anyone interested in enhancing their mental and emotional well-being through the science of neuroplasticity.
Where to buy
You may purchase ‘Rewire Your Brain’ on Amazon at the best price. It is available in paperback and audio versions, so you may choose an option that appeals to you the most.
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