"Rewire your brain" by Dr. Arden is a very worthwhile book to read and through this review, I hope to quickly explain the basis of the book while encouraging you to read it. First I will give a short overview of the whole book and then I will go into a detailed review of my favorite sections, finally finishing with some tips that I believe will make this read even more rewarding.
I chose this book to read for my intro to neuroscience course expecting a technical book, although labeled "accessible" on the back cover review, written from a professional to other professionals. I was pleasantly surprised that this book was, in fact, accessible and was able to give me a lot of insight on how interconnected and changeable the brain is as well as practical ways I could apply this changeability to better my life. In all honesty, when I ordered this book, I only briefly scanned the description to make sure it had neuroscience concepts so that I could read it for my class. It wasn't until I received the book that I realized that it was a self-help book. Now after reading it, I would recommend this book to everyone, not only to those looking for help due to a difficult mental issue they are encountering. I am a biology and psychology undergraduate senior and have spent the past 5 years immersed in classes about neurons, psychological disorders, physiology, etc. but I was able to learn so much from this book. For example, I have heard all throughout my life that eating right and exercising are good for your brain, but I was never told a simple how. This book does this beautifully in my favorite section of the book. The style of the book was straight forward and simple. There were no long or complicated words outside of the neurological terms necessary. The author would begin each section with a story of a patient he had worked with and then continued with how each topic affects the brain and how use this knowledge to our advantage. There were 9 chapters in this book covering basic neuroplasticity, anxiety, depression, memory, healthy eating, exercise and sleep, the benefits of social interactions, resiliency, and attention. I will go into more detail on a few of my favorite chapters below.
CH 1: Firing the right cells together
This section is essentially the meat of the whole book. Here the author introduces the concept of a changeable brain and what this means to us. He describes how the different parts of the brain function, how neurons work, and how neuroplasticity occurs. Due to the content of this section, you may think that this part of the book would be more of a textbook type read, however that is not the case whatsoever. Dr. Arden manages to keep this section simple and interesting. He even throws in some fun facts that I really enjoyed about how a woman's brain and a man's brain differ. Here is one example: "Since woman's brains have a better connection between the two hemispheres ... words often carry more emotional meaning for women than they do for men." I definitely see this amongst the couples that I know. The most important part of this chapter is where the author introduces his method of how to rewire the brain. He uses a method he calls FEED, in which you focus, take effort to change, reach effortlessness, and finally are determined to stay in practice. This is explained very well and is followed up with a short example that allows you to relate this method to everyday life.
CH 2: Taming your Amygdala
The chapter is the anxiety section, a section that I think everyone can relate to very well since I'm sure everyone has experienced some type of anxiety at some point in their life. Dr. Arden draws you into this section by beginning with a story about a patient of his with public speaking anxiety. This was a perfect way to begin this chapter because not having any fear associated with public speaking is, I'm sure, a very small minority. That there is a way to stop this fear is very exciting because public speaking is something that has to be done all throughout life, from school to the workplace. The author then goes on to explain how anxiety negatively affects the brain and also how to moderate this anxiety. As it turns out, a common theme in rewriting the brain is to do the thing you don't want to in a method of "challenging the paradox": "Challenging the paradox involves doing away with avoidance and replacing it with exposure". In his theory, the more you expose yourself, the less anxiety you will experience.
CH 5 Fueling your brain and CH 6 Exercise and Sleep
If you have no interest in any other parts of this book, I would recommend getting this book just for these 2 chapters. These were by far my favorite chapters of this book. As I talked about before, you always hear how eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep is good for your body. But Dr. Arden goes one step further and actually explains why this is, down to the chemicals and parts of the brain involved. I won't go into any detail since I don't want to ruin the fun of reading these chapters, but trust me, they are fascinating.
Although this book was mostly easy to read, there were parts of the book that I found myself quickly scanning over because of the use of technical language, particularly in regards to the different parts of the brain. In some sections, the author would introduce many parts of the brain at once and this barrage of abbreviations could get overwhelming. While reading, I kept thinking that I wished I had made a quick list of different parts of the brain so that I could easily refer to it. A tip I would give to make this book even more rewarding would be to keep a sheet of paper or an index card near you when reading, even during the first chapter. Each time a part of the brain is introduced, jot it down with its basic function, what side of the brain its in, what topic it influences, and what changes it. Then if this part is talked about again, add the new information to the list. This way you have a sort of cheat sheet for quick reference while you read the book and even after.
By combining readability, relatable passages, and fascinating content, Dr. Arden creates a book that I believe everyone would benefit by reading. In fact, I am planning on re-reading this book while taking my own advice of making a so called cheat sheet so that I can get everything I can out of this book. So to end, I just wanted to say that even while I wrote this review, I used Dr. Arden's method of FEED. As he tells you in the attention section, it is important to focus when you are trying to attend to something. I took to heart this advice and tried my best to focus by turning off my TV and closing my internet browsing windows, and of course was able to write this review faster and in a more organized way than if I hadn't.