Switch on your Brain

I have recently been reading a very interesting book by Dr Carline Leaf called Switch on You Brain.  Dr Leaf has worked in the area of cognitive neuroscience since 1985. She is a dedicated Christian so all of her scientific knowledge is seen through the grid of Scripture and she comments: “Science is finally catching up with the Bible, showing us the proof that ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7).

Her book is not only interesting it is very practical. Putting into practice her ideas has brought about radical changes in people’s lives. She has helped people with learning disabilities, with brain damage and seen “entire schools improve grades across core subjects”.

I can only cover a few points but in essence she explains how our thoughts have the power to switch on our brains and that physical reality is built by our thoughts. Our brain is not what controls us but our mind so the thoughts we have, have power.  She quotes Peace Pilgrim, “If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.” If we have toxic negative thoughts they have negative impact even on our genes. Our positive or negative thoughts can switch genes on or off.  If our thinking aligns with God and His truth then it has positive results both mentally and physically.

We are not victims of our biology because even though we can’t control our circumstances we can control our reactions. This helps to make sense of Deut. 30:19, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” She points out that the choices we make can affect our spirit, soul and body and also our future four generations.

In the past it was taught that our brains were fixed but neuroscience has discovered that our brains are malleable and adaptive; that they can change and regrow. The evidence is there from stroke patients or people with other brain injuries which have destroyed a percentage of their brains but who with therapy and hard work have recovered when other portions of the brain have adapted to take over the work the damaged part once did. This is called neuroplasticity. When we consider Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” we can see that it is pointing out the power of our mind to bring about transformation.

Another principle she discusses is neurogenesis which means that “new cells are birthed daily for our mental benefit.” Daily we have the chance to make sure our thoughts are helpful and positive. We are not stuck in a rut but we can bring about change for the good. Realising this I try to start each day by reminding myself that, “This is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice in it” instead of thinking negatively about it.

One of the things which she says is not good for our brains is multitasking which she calls milk shaking. This is when we switch from one thing to another all the time instead of giving full concentration and focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking means our brains are having to switch focus rapidly. All of this has relevance to ourselves and for our children. We are often given the impression that to communicate with children and young people we need to have short bursts of information rapidly changing from one thing to another, rather like television where shows are interrupted with advertisements which are short and concentrated. Although this may captivate interest it promotes shallow thinking instead of the deep focused thinking that our brains need to expand and develop. I saw, then, how helpful it is for our children when they can concentrate on one subject at a time without undue distraction.

As we teach our children scripture and allow it to imbed itself in their minds we are giving them a great resource of God’s truth. Helping them to not say negative things that are not true about themselves and instead to declare what God says of them will be building more positive thought patterns. This is quite counter-culture as we are barraged daily with pressure to compare ourselves unfavourably with others.

There is much more in the book and if you are interested to read it you will find that what she discusses is not just theorizing but is backed up with science. Her book ends with a 21-Day Brain Detox Plan which is a practical way of working out her principles to change our thoughts from negative to positive. If you want to purchase the book it is published by Baker Books and I purchased my copy from www.bookdepository.com which has free postage to NZ. It is also available from local book sellers.