Aging Successfully: Goal setting for better brain health

In the world of neuroscience the word neuroplasticity is a new buzz word. It was created from two root words, neuron and plastic. Neuron, obviously, means the cells in our brains and, in neuroscience, the word plastic means the ability to mold or modify.

Fortunately scientists continue to learn more about brain function, and discovered the brain continues to grow and to change itself throughout a person’s life, and not just in our developmental years of childhood and youth.

In doing the research for this article, I was amazed at how many things we can do to activate our own neuroplasticity and improve personal brain function. A few examples are learning a foreign language, playing a musical instrument and traveling.

Studies revealed how goal setting is one of the best ways to improve overall brain health, specifically neuroplasticity. Goals play a major role in how we view ourselves and others. Goal-oriented people are more likely to have a positive approach to life and understand failures are temporary setbacks, not personal shortcomings.

The reason why goal setting is extremely good for brain health is because proper goal setting requires the involvement of more brain functions, including logical and emotional.

The logical parts of the brain analyze any new goal to make sure it is attainable and that it is consistent with a person’s value system. The emotional parts of the brain, which are buried deep within the brain, provide the positive emotions needed for extra motivation to accomplish the goal.

This process allows the brain to re-program and modify itself in finding ways to accomplish the goal. Simply stated, the brain begins to place more importance, thus more focus on the goal.

As a side note, if the mind believes a goal is unattainable and/or is inconsistent with a person’s value system then the mind will sabotage a person’s attempts to achieve that particular goal.

The University of Texas conducted a study on how goal setting might impact patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). The study revealed how MS patients with more ambitious wellness goals reported fewer, less severe symptoms than patients who did not.

Goal-setting restructured their brains, allowing these patients to change personal behaviors and to stay more focused on goals. The patients reached their goals and experienced improved health.

Additional studies revealed how having a purpose in life with active goal setting can reduce a person’s risk of mental illness.

Column picks

I want to thank everyone who entered our contest and shared their favorite columns with us. The favorite columns were: “Thanksgiving and Kindness” (received several votes); “Six Ways to Add More Positivity”; Keeping Healthy,” and “Diaphragmatic Breathing.”

Our contest winners have been notified and been given their gifts.

Feel free to email us your thoughts on goal-setting and brain health at I personally reply to every email.

Crystal Linn is a multi-published author and an award-winning poet. When not writing, or teaching workshops, she enjoys reading a good mystery, hiking, and sailing with friends and family. See