Recently we have discovered an author by the name of Dr. Daniel Amen. It has been fascinating to study his work with brain science and how our brain effects our emotions. We are using a lot of his material in counseling people as it fits hand in glove with many of the Biblical and clinical tools we already use.
So for today, I want to use something that Dr. Amen calls ANTS. (Automatic Negative Thoughts): Our brains have a certain tone based largely on the kinds of thoughts we have. When a portion of our brain called the deep limbic system is overactive, it sets the filter of our mind on “negative.” It becomes like a lens through which we look at ourselves, others, and the world in general. It certainly looks kind of gray and cracked sometimes doesn’t it?
On the other hand, positive thoughts and a positive attitude will help you calm your limbic system and reverse the effects of the negative thoughts. “Huh?” you say? “How do I actually do that?”
Well, according to Dr. Amen, it is possible to heal the deep limbic system. It requires some pretty hard work for most of the rank and file of us, but it can be done. We have to have a deep healing of our moment-to-moment thought patterns. If you are a card carrying member of the human race, you probably haven’t been taught to think very much about your thoughts or to challenge the notions that go through your head. But when you think about it, our thoughts are always with us. I tell people in counseling that there is a person talking to them 24/7 about everything they do. Even when asleep! That person has more influence than any other individual in our lives on our moods and behavior, and we will almost always believe what they say. Who is that person? US. It is YOU and ME.
Of course we also know this was a Biblical truth long before any smart doctors got it. It is from Philippians 4:8,9b. “Finally, brothers, ( sisters too) whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things. …..and the God of peace will be with you.” Parenthesis mine.
So for this blog entry, let’s close with step #1 from Dr. Amen in what he calls “step-by-step” thinking principles that he uses in his practice to help patients with deep limbic systems that are overactive.
Step #1: Did you know …every time you have a thought, your brain releases chemicals? That’s right. ANY thought of ANY kind. An electrical transmission goes across your brain and you become aware of what you are thinking. You might let it go quickly (yeah, I do that a lot. It is called memory loss) but it happens. Try this experiment and let us know how it goes. Every time you are aware of a cranky thought, a sad thought, a critical thought, or an angry thought, think about how your body feels. Then do your best to replace it with a positive thought. It may take a lot of practice. How does your body feel? Take a quick look in the mirror and notice how your face is communicating to the world. Look inside and see if there is a difference.
I have a word on a piece of wood on my office wall. I look at it many times every day. It says this.