My Neuroplastic Cross-Training Program

Sharon, wearing a purple sweatshirt, blue jeans, and new sneakers with purple laces, wears a black riding helmet sitting on Patience, a very pretty auburn horse. Sharon is leaning forward but smiling, and is bracing herself with her hands on the horse's shoulders. Su is walking next to Patience, leading her and holding her lead, in knee-high boots and a baseball cap. She is talking encouragingly to Sharon. There are trees and bushes and a fence in the background.

Horse-Assisted Therapy

The most important thing I did was Annie Hopper’s DNRS program. If you have MCS, CFIDS, fibromyalgia, post-treatment Lyme disease, PTSD, anxiety, or depression, and you want to do one thing, my recommendation would be to do DNRS.

Here are some of the things I added to the basic DNRS program — some of which are suggested in DNRS materials and some of which I sought out on my own — (and I’ve linked to more information on each topic or how it relates to neuroplasticity):

  • Horse-assisted therapy (for balance, strength, coordination, proprioception, and mental stability and mood)
  • Lumosity (for improved cognition in the areas of memory, focus, executive function, problem solving, and processing speed)
  • Being in the water and visualizing swimming in a pool (which I have always loved) by watching DVDs about Olympic swimmers and instructional swimming DVDs
  • I went to bed early and usually got eight hours of sleep a night (Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor emphasizes how sleep helped her recover from stroke in her book, My Stroke of Insight)
  • I started swimming in the local pond and eventually was able to swim in the YMCA pool when it got too cold to swim outside. Swimming has been important for my recovery because soon after I started walking, I developed a lot of issues with my feet; it was a big transition for them to go from carrying no weight to carrying over 200 pounds every day! Swimming has been a way I can exercise (rebuild my muscles) without putting stress on my feet, and it also makes me very happy and relaxed
  • I clicker trained myself (TAGteaching)
  • I played jacks to improve my reaction time and hand-eye coordination
  • I used dancing as a way to release the “happy hormones” that come with vigorous exercise and as a way to move my mind to a different focus when it was going places I didn’t want it to go (which is what animal trainers call “training an incompatible behavior“). Dancing was very effective for me because I love dancing and because the music was a great way to further distract me from unwanted thoughts/behaviors and to involve another part of my body/brain (hearing/auditory processing) in rewiring my brain
  • spent time in nature
  • did yoga (in the beginning, this was just doing child pose in bed, and then it was simply standing still without losing my balance)
  • meditated every day (also this site on meditation, yoga, and plasticity)
  • I applied some of the concepts from constraint-induced therapy
  • I applied some of the concepts from research on pain
  • memorized favorite poems (such as “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver)
  • I did normal activities with my non-dominant hand (writing, eating, brushing teeth, dressing)
  • I did enjoyable activities that were new for me, such as coloring in funny coloring books and water coloring (also with my non-dominant hand)
  • listened to music (especially music from times when I’d been healthy and happy)
  • I integrated Barnum into many of my rehab activities, sometimes with him acting as a service dog (helping me balance when doing yoga), sometimes as more of a therapy dog (I threw the ball for him as I walked to improve my strength, balance, and coordination)
  • I taught myself the mechanics of walking and did mindful walking to improve my gait (I can’t find a link that addresses mindful walking for people who are relearning to walk)
  • went barefoot and walked on natural, uneven surfaces
  • I went to physical therapy to work on my balance, strength, and gait
  • made myself laugh and smile, even (or especially) when I didn’t feel like laughing or smiling
  • played games and did puzzles that were new to me
  • I followed Dr. Rick Hanson’s HEAL protocol, which he explains in Hardwiring Happiness
  • I read a lot about neuroplasticity. Here is a list of recommended books, almost all of which are available in alternative formats.
Similar to previous pictures, but with Sharon standing on her right leg, and Barnum on her right side, and both arms are up and out to the side. Sharon has a big smile on her face.

Improving on my balance by working on yoga “tree pose”

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