Amy Eksteen

The blog posts for the month of March have been focusing on lifting our perspectives and the power that lies within our way of thinking. We have been discussing how to upgrade our thoughts and how to find the joy in every moment. Today, I wanted to bring those discussions to life by sharing information about how we can transform our minds by choosing to think positively.

I have had the privilege of being introduced to the work of Dr. Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist. She not only explains, in her book titled ‘Switch on your brain: The key to peak happiness, thinking and health’ how science and God connect, but she also provides further understanding, through scientific evidence, about the phrase “renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2) – Please read the last two blog posts titled “Count it all joy” and “Upgrading”, which is where our conversation about transforming the way we think and the meaning behind the verse Romans 12:2 began.

In the book, Switch on your brain, Dr. Leaf states that “We are not victims of our biology or circumstances. How we react to the events and circumstances of life can have an enormous impact on our mental and even physical health” (pg 20). I believe this to be so true. We might find ourselves in many ‘valleys’ and trials in our lives, but we have the ability to change our perspective in order to better cope and deal with the situation we are facing. We can ensure that how we approach the circumstances in our lives is healthy and positive, knowing that the outcome as well as ourselves will be healthy and positive as a result of our choices and mindset. She explains that because of neuroplasticity, our brains have the ability to be changed moment-by-moment by how we direct our thinking and by the choices we make (pg. 24). For example, we get to choose to think positively by having the ability to identify our negative thoughts and change them into healthier thoughts. Every choice is therefore responsible for teaching our brains to think differently, to think positively, with every new experience and/or circumstance we encounter. Our brains literally have the power to be renewed, if we choose.

I find Dr. Leaf’s work fascinating because she brings the conversation about positive thinking to life. She explains that “as we think, we choose and as we choose, we cause genetic expression to happen in our brains” (pg 32). This means our brains are creating proteins and these proteins are what actually form our thoughts. That’s right! Our thoughts are real, tangible things that take up space in our brains. (pg. 32). Personally, when I learned about this, I couldn’t help but think what my brain looked like with all of the toxic thoughts and memories I was choosing to think about and allowing to grow. I kept imagining how different my brain would look and function if I allowed it to be only filled with healthy proteins – healthy thoughts and memories. Dr. Leaf further explains that since “we are free to make our own choices, we have the ability to choose how we focus our attention, which affects how the chemicals, proteins and wiring of our brain change and function.” (pg. 33). Dr. Leaf also points out that “research shows that 75 – 98% of mental, physical and behavioural illness comes from ones thought life” (pg 33). The above information proves that we have the power and ability within us to either choose to focus our thoughts on negative emotions, feelings, events and/or circumstances that will then result in negative proteins, chemicals and functioning of the brain and body or we can choose to focus on the positives, therefore transforming ourselves into a whole, healthy being in the process.

Dr. Leaf shows us, through her work, that it is the quality of our thinking, our choices and our reactions that determine the design of our brain and therefore the overall health of our minds and bodies (pg 34). Leaf is essentially reminding us that we cannot control the events/circumstances in our lives, but we can control the way we react since our minds are made to control our brains and body (pg. 33). And if our mind is healthy and we are able to transform any toxic thoughts into healthy thoughts, then our brain and body will follow and will also be healthy (pg. 33). This is the basis of the science behind epigenetics “our thoughts and choices have the ability to impact our physical brain and body, mental health and spiritual development” (pg. 56).

I think that Dr. Leaf’s work highlights the importance of our thought life and the power of our minds. Her work is a reminder that every thought we think and what we allow to consume our minds has consequences. These consequences can either be negative and harmful or positive and transforming. The choice is ours though. If we can learn how to “bring every thought into captivity” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and think like the mind of Christ, we will be able to see and feel the transformation that can stem from positive thinking.

I hope that this months blog posts have helped my readers understand the importance of finding the joy in all circumstances, how to upgrade our way of thinking by changing our perspectives and the benefits that can come from the renewing of our minds.

I highly recommend reading the book Switch on your brain: the key to peak happiness, thinking and health, written by Dr. Caroline Leaf. This book not only explains the importance of ‘switching on your brain’ but also includes a 21-day brain detox plan, which teaches you how to detox your thought life in order to bring peak happiness, thinking, health and peace into your day-to-day life (pg. 140). I also recommend subscribing to Dr. Caroline Leaf’s YouTube channel, where she further discusses her work through helpful videos and podcasts.

This is a link to a short YouTube video where Dr. Leaf, in an interview, briefly explains her outlook on her work, her research and what to expect from her book “Switch on your brain”:

Until next week xx