This post is from Greg Longoria. Greg is a Christian blogger and writes at Medium.com. Greg writes articles to enhance believers to grow in their faith and deepen their relationship with God. You can read more from Greg at https://medium.com/@greglongoria
There’s more written in the Bible about using your mind, about “thinking,” than you may realize.
This shouldn’t be surprising; the Creator of the Universe knows that your thoughts determine every facet of your life.
After reading Dr. Carolyn Leaf’s book, Switch On Your Brain, I grew even more convinced. Dr. Leaf documents how to use your brain to produce a healthier and happier mind and body. Dr. Leaf, a professed Christian and neuroscientist, offers fascinating insights linking biblical ideas to scientific research done by psychologists and neuroscientists.
Having a refreshed appreciation for how God wants me to prioritize my thought life led me on a journey to explore:
- How are thoughts born?
- Why do thoughts determine my success and failure?
- What advice does God give about leading a healthy thought life?
- How can I win the battle for my mind?
So, let’s start with the basics — what is a thought?
How thoughts are born
Thoughts are not ethereal. They are representations of matter and are encoded in matter. They have shape and weight. (Ralph Lewis, M.D., Psychologist)
A thought begins its life when you perceive something through one of your five senses.
When one or more of your senses experiences something, it triggers an electrochemical impulse in your brain. These impulses then cause neurons (which are your brain cells) to be imprinted with a representation of what you’ve experienced.
For example, let’s recall your first frightening experience of lightning as a kid. Your eyes see the bright flash of light, your ears detect the loud crack of thunder, and your body trembles with the sound reverberation. Each of your senses sends a signal to the brain that triggers the firing of various brain neurons. In neuropsychology, this is referred to as Hebb’s Law, which says, “The neurons that fire together, wire together.”
When these neurons fire and wire together, a memory is created!
Your first experience with lightning is imprinted in your brain.
Now add that your nervous system detects the flash and the crack and, in turn, releases adrenaline and cortisol. Suddenly, your heart starts racing, you shake with fear, and your memory becomes even more potent because whenever you attach emotion to an experience, your brain wires the memory even tighter.
In this manner, as you go through life, you’re literally filling your brain with thoughts and memories. Thoughts and memories have the unique power to either serve you or tear you down; an excellent segue to our next point.
How thoughts determine your success and failure
Thoughts are not just thoughts. They are the seeds you plant in your life; they are the reality you choose to embrace; they are the root of your every action and word. (Dr. Carolyn Leaf, Neuroscientist)
Here’s the next key point:
Thoughts are information, and information is what you use to form beliefs and make decisions.
Individual thoughts may not mean much, but they take on meaning when related to other thoughts. And that’s what your brain does; it recognizes similarities and differences between thoughts, connects these thoughts, and then voila, a belief is born!
Think about the process as building a pyramid, with thousands of thoughts piled on top of each other to form a belief. Then,
- Your beliefs lead to decisions.
- Your decisions lead to actions.
- And your actions lead to results.
Friends, this is how your thought life leads to a strong marriage, a successful career, a healthy body, an active spiritual life, and everything in between.
Your thoughts affect your mind, body, and spirit, which is why God has something to say about what you think!
What does God have to say about your thought life?
There are at least one hundred principles in God’s Word that have to do with what we are to do with our minds. (Rick Warren, Pastor)
God created you, loves you, and doesn’t want your brain filled with negative thoughts related to fear, anger, or anxiety, so God tells us what we should think about. Not only does God tell us what’s important, but we also learn that God’s Spirit is there to help us renew and shape our thoughts.
God knows that if we’re spiritually, mentally, and physically healthy, it’s hard for negative thoughts to take root in a soil that’s already bearing the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
So, as I learned more about how the mind works, I committed the following five bible verses to memory. I recited them every morning and again at lunchtime for 60 straight days.
I can tell you the results were dramatic.
I became more self-aware of my negative thinking. I intervened and stopped negative thoughts before they spun out of control. I replaced negative thoughts with forgiving and grace-filled thoughts. And I became more productive, peace-filled, grateful, and happy.
Here are the five verses I memorized:
Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts (Proverbs 4:23, GNT)
Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think (Romans 12:2, NLTse)
Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes (Ephesians 4:23, NLTse)
Think only about the things in heaven, not the things on earth. (Colossians 3:2, NCV)
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8, NLTse)
Neuroscientists say it takes about 67 days for a practice to become a habit. I encourage you to give this strategy a try; it works!
How to win the battle for your mind
Whatever we think about the most grows and determines the course of our thoughts, words, and actions — the course of our lives. (Dr. Carolyn Leaf, Neuroscientist)
- Thoughts are real objects that exist in your brain.
- Thoughts combine to create your belief system.
- Thoughts directly influence your achievements and failures.
- Thoughts are important to God.
Based on my research and experience, here are three strategies you can use to win the battle for your mind:
- Limit what you put into your brain. As I mentioned above, thoughts begin with experiences. Therefore, eliminate situations, environments, conversations, or media that fill your head with hostile, destructive, demeaning, and distracting messages towards others and yourself. I wrote an article on how to do this here.
- Strengthen your Mind-Body-Spirit connection. Create new thoughts by focusing on things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Actively work to build a belief system that supports the future you want to achieve. Study Scripture. Start a gratitude journal. Volunteer and help others in need. Get physically fit. I wrote an article on why this is important here.
- Pray to be changed. Here’s my pro tip: I personalized each of the verses I memorized into a prayer. For instance,
- God, transform me into a new person by changing how I think. Today, change me into the person you want me to be.
- Holy Spirit, renew my thoughts and attitudes and fill me with the fruit of your Spirit so that I can be your hands and feet in the world.
- LORD, help me to think of the things of heaven and not of earth. Focus my mind on those things that are excellent and worthy of praise, such as your unfailing love.
Friends, let me close with a quote by British philosopher James Allen in his book As A Man Thinketh:
A noble and God-like character is not a thing of favour or chance, but is the natural result of continued effort in right thinking, the effect of long-cherished association with God-like thought.
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This is a guest post from Greg Longoria. Greg says, “I write to challenge and excite you to think and live differently. My writing will help you make wiser decisions, live a more strategic life, have deeper relationships, manage conflict, enjoy less stress, and be happier.”