“This is your brain on…”
For those of us growing up in the 80’s, we know this phrase all too well. The commercial for a “Drug Free America” that began with a picture of a whole egg: “If this is your brain…” then they crack the egg and fry it in a pan. “Then this is your brain on drugs.”
The brain unraveled.
This last weekend I attended a seminar/retreat on Love and Joy (and getting more of it in life!). The instructor, Christy Osborn, was a corporate trainer for over 20 years. She utilized studies of the brain to understand and train/retrain individuals in the corporate world.
In summary, (or if you remember from science class) your brain communicates through a system of neurons and dendrites. Thoughts are neurotransmitters (chemicals) that travel from the neuron and through/out the dendrite. Picture a tennis ball at one end (neuron) and a stem coming out of it with a bunch of tree branches at the other end (dendrite).
When a negative thought happens (and test subjects were asked to dwell on negative things), the neurotransmitter (chemical) travels from neuron, down the stem and out through the dendrite where it makes paths to other nerve cells.
When your mind dwells on negative thoughts, it produces toxic neurotransmitters.
And it isn’t pretty–
Your brain on disappointment
Your brain on sorrow
Your brain in anger
Your brain in contempt
Your brain on bitterness
Your brain on unforgiveness–
Picture that tennis ball as a dried up prune and the extending branch as a dead and gnarly, blackened, spindly thatch of thorns.
It is a sickness that translates into our lives.
My sister calls this her “bad berry theory in management”—Those people who arrive to work in terrible moods, never smiling, always complaining, gossiping and grumping about everything. Their negativity spreads like a mold or a cancer through the workplace. It happens in life and in our bodies. When we dwell in the negative, our immune response decreases, our bodies are weakened and our pain tolerance levels decrease. We are more prone to illnesses when under stress; when someone dies, when we dwell in the negative.
And just a little more bad news—as it would turn out, those negative thoughts reproduce like a cancer. They stack up on themselves like a heaping, stinking pile of rotten produce.
Negativity perpetuates negativity.
Of course, we all will experience negative thoughts from time to time (the loss of a job, a divorce, losing a loved one, etc.,); the secret is to not get stuck there!
Ready for the good news?
Positive thoughts also reproduce themselves.
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
For positive thoughts, the same process occurs with the neurotransmitters traveling from the neuron to the dendrites–
Your brain on joy
Your brain in compassion
Your brain in forgiveness
Your brain in acceptance
Your brain in encouragement
Your brain in love!
Picture a robust golden apple and a stem emerging from it with branches loaded with a bounty of beautiful, shiny green leaves.
These positive neurotransmitters are like a shot of pure joy straight to the heart. They result in emboldening the immune system, increasing your tolerance for pain and strengthening your whole body and mind.
And ready for a little more good news?! (A good practice for that idea of MORE positive!) 😉
“I’m trading my sorrows. And I’m trading my shame. And I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord.” Israel Houghton & New Breed
Remember that stinking, rotten pile?– It can be brought back to life!
The power of HOPE.
“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5)
We have a God who knows everything we’re going through. He knows our hearts and our minds. He created us! And with His power in us, there is nothing man can do to us that He can’t transform to good.
“In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (Psalm 118:5)
For the doubters, unbelievers or many who are just stuck in the negativity, there is a place you can take it all and be changed.
“Anything is possible if a person believes”…“I do believe, but help me with my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
Take your burdens to Jesus-He can handle your disappointments, your discouragements, your hurt, your pain, your unforgiveness and your unbelief.
“We take every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
With his power, given to you by the Holy Spirit, you can overcome; you can trade in your sorrow, your hopelessness and your pain for hope, love and joy.
Retrain your mind by taking a negative experience and locating the hope in it and the negative can transform to positive!
How does this work? Here are a couple of examples–Knowing that with Jesus, though you sorrow for your loved one who left this world too soon; you find hope in knowing you will see them again!
Or, spreading hope in the walk of life by being there for a friend who is diagnosed with cancer. Helping guide her because you survived that same diagnosis.
“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)
Hope is knowing that:
When chaos surrounds you, there is One that can calm the stormy seas (Matthew 8:24, Mark 4:35, Luke 8:22)
When things look their darkest, there is One who can light your way (John 8:12)
There is a safe place you can lay all your grief, unforgiveness, shame, anger, bitterness, negativity and contempt
There is nothing new or negative in this world that you can think up that He doesn’t have the power to transform for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)
Picture Jesus Christ betrayed, battered, bloodied and wearing that awful, thatchy, spindly crown of thorns, taking his last breath hanging on the Cross, paying the final debt for mankind and thereby enabling us all to live free from the negativity of sin–
That, my friends, is your brain on HOPE.