Dr. Caroline Leaf is a leading neurologist who writes about the marvelous interaction of the mind, the emotions and the spirit. Today let’s take a peek inside Caroline’s latest book, Switch on Your Brain.
“Self-directed neuroplasticity” says deep thinking changes brain structure and function. When we distort love and truth, we wire negativity into our brains, and, in a sense, create damage. But we can think deeply and fill our thoughts with love and grace. Caroline says, “You are wired for love.”
Unforgiveness and resentment are toxic thoughts. New, healthy thoughts, such as forgiveness, are like tiny new plants that need to grow. But shifting gears doesn’t happen automatically, especially if you’ve carried a thought pattern for years. Once you’ve gotten rid of a toxic thought, it’s possible that your mind will shift back and try to regrow toxic thoughts.
How do you stick with the pattern of a new thought? By going there automatically, without working at it consciously. Caroline says thinking healthy thoughts for three 21-day cycles, or 63 days total, creates automatization.
The healthy brain looks like a tree with leaf-filled branches. At 7 days, the connections where the branches grow have little bumps called spines. At 14 days, they look like lollipops. At 21 days, they look like mushrooms. Your thoughts become stronger.
What’s happening? The proteins have changed to become self-sustaining, like a long-term memory. We need to use healthy new thoughts to keep the new pattern alive. When we revert back to a toxic thought (such as resentment or bitterness), the process is reversed. It breaks down the healthy thought and rebuilds the toxic thought. Yikes!
We need to bring into captivity every thought (2 Cor. 10:5, KJV) to make it obedient to Christ.
Incredibly, you can choose with your free will to interfere with genetic expression. When you make a strong new memory with your mind, thinking causes important neurotransmitters—chemicals in the brain that carry electrical impulses—to flow. Then, deep changes occur in the cell.
To sum up:
- Resentment is a toxic thought that can be released and replaced with healthy thoughts of forgiveness. Letting go and forgiving makes your brain smarter.
- Your mind can change your brain. Focusing your thinking redesigns your brain. When you focus on new ways of thinking, such as healthy thoughts of gratitude, strength and purpose, your brain is changing and its activity looks like trees with fresh green leaves. You have the mind of Christ!
- Proteins in the brain become automatic and self-sustaining after 21-day cycles of rewiring with new thoughts. Neurons that fire together wire together.
- Bring into captivity every thought. Practice. Practice some more. New thought patterns get automatic after 21 days. But you need to stay at them again and again in order to avoid lapsing back into old patterns, which will grow if fed.
- Huge activity in the center and front of the brain happens when we focus our thinking. Meditate on God’s truth. Renew your mind with Scripture.
- Do your brain a favor. Forgive.
Friend, what are some ways you can apply fresh truths as you rewire your thoughts?
This 4-part blog series explores what happens in your brain as reported by Dr. Caroline Leaf. Caroline is a communication pathologist and audiologist who has worked in the area of cognitive neuroscience since 1985. Her pioneering work on neuroplasticity—that changes in thinking actually change the brain and can effect behavioral change—paved the way for her current research on how scientific principles are supported by Scripture and vice versa. She is a prolific author.