In my previous post I shared about how we need people in our lives. For the longest time I sought wisdom and answers from people–friends, family, pastors, counselors etc–about this struggle I was having with my thought life. With all the great wisdom I was receiving and applying, I couldn’t understand why I just couldn’t win this battle. Nothing was helping.
About seven months ago I hit a wall. I was spiraling into constant negative thinking. Besides dealing with our loss, there were a number of other things very heavy on my heart. I was deeply familiar with Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” as well as Philippians 4:8 “… whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things.”…take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5.
These were truths I was clinging to. Truths I knew in my mind, but I was desperate to have them mean something to my soul again and change this negative downward spiral I was on. I sought wisdom from others and begged God to help me change my heart, but nothing seemed to help. I ‘knew’ it but it wasn’t working. With each passing week the negativity continued to grow and fester. I felt trapped in my own brain. In early spring I was able to get in with a Christian counselor who ‘got me’. I knew I needed to change my way of thinking but the solution of, ‘Iris, you know what to do’ was not cutting it. Yes, I knew that I needed to think about whatever was true, honorable, just, pure, lovely etc. I knew that I needed to renew my mind and transform it, but how? No one seemed to have the ‘how’ answer for me. I needed a tool. This counselor had one ready for me.
Every day we have choices before us. How we think is also a choice. Do we think positively or negatively?
According to Christian neuroscientist Caroline Leaf, both science and scripture show us that the brain is a very powerful part of God’s creation. In her book Switch on Your Brain, she says, “It is with our minds that we reject or believe the lies of the enemy. It is with our minds that we change the physical reality of the brain to reflect our choices. It is with our minds that we decide to follow God’s rules and live in peace despite what’s going on around us. It is with our minds that we choose to follow the lies of Satan and spiral into mental, physical, and spiritual disarray.’
When Mikail was born, he had a stroke and his neurologist told us that our brains have a plasticity and adaptability that will allow new neurons to develop around the damage if we exercise his brain and make it believe that it can do all the things the brain damage tells us he shouldn’t be able to do. So, at a few weeks of age we started physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy. I know first hand that neuroplasticity is a very, very real thing. If it wasn’t, Mikail would have never sat up, crawled, walked, run, eaten, fed himself, or have been just like the rest of the kids on the playground. Neuroplasticity is real. A gift from God to us.
Dr. Caroline Leaf continues to say, “You can be presented with all the reason, logic, scientific evidence, and just plain common sense in the world, but you won’t believe something unless your brain’s limbic system–the central location of your emotions–allows you to feel that it is true. So you can’t imagine and feel–change your brain structurally–one way and speak something different, because if you do, there will be a lack of integrity operating in the brain, which will leave an overwhelming feeling of being out of control.”
Grief affects the brain, changing the chemical and physical make-up of it. For two years the enemy worked hard at getting negative thoughts into my mind and according to the studies done by Dr. Leaf, a combination of grief and negative thoughts taking over our brain, changes what’s going on in the brain. Learning this was a true “aha moment” .
So, if changes were made and neuroplasticity can go both ways–positive and negative–then I should be able to reverse the negative to positive. The lies the enemy fed me for two years can be reversed. Dr. Leaf has created a tool to help with this. It is called the 21 Day Brain Detox. This is an online guide that takes about 10 minutes of time every day. She walks you through and guides and coaches you on how to get toxic thinking out of your mind–from a biblical perspective. I have it on my phone and can quickly open up the app and work through the 7-10 minutes wherever I am at the moment.
Every moment of every day you are changing your brain with your thoughts in a positive or negative direction. Every time you think and choose, you cause structural change in your brain. Your thoughts impact your spirit, soul and body. ~ Dr. Caroline Leaf
This tool has been a literal life-changer for me. Yes, around day 4 or 5 I wanted to quit because “it wasn’t working” (she even warns that this may happen), but I kept on and I sure am glad I did. First you identify a toxic thought that you have and replace the lie with God’s truth. Some toxic thoughts may be: ‘I am not loveable’, ‘I am not good enough’, ‘nothing every goes right for me’, ‘everything I do fails’, ‘I always mess up’, ‘ replaying conversations and situations that have hurt you or conversations of situations that could happen but haven’t yet’, ‘distorted thinking that forms a personal identity around a disease or life situation’. The first time I did this, I quickly came to realize that the one toxic thought I was working through brought up many others. I had to consciously put the others aside and only work through the one I had chosen to work on the first day.The nice thing is that you have access to the program for a whole year and can go through it up to 17 times in a year. That’s 17 toxic thoughts you can work through. If you are curious as to what the program looks like, this link will explain it in detail.
The things I have learned while going through the 21 Day Brain Detox are many:
• Exactly how to break down toxic thoughts and build healthy replacement thoughts
• How to control negative stress
• How to bring all thoughts into captivity
• How to get a handle on worry
• How to beat anxiety
• How to overcome depression
• That I control my brain; my brain does not control me (I find it very difficult when someone says ‘this is just how I am’, blaming their character or their age. No, we are created to become more like Christ, not stay in the same stagnant place just because ‘this is just how I am’. God has created us for more and I refuse to allow my brain to control me like that. The thing is, I was starting to feel like it was and I am so thankful that is no longer the case).
I was at a point where I ‘knew’ the truths, but there was so much toxicity, so many lies of the enemy in my mind that I needed a step by step tool to work through the toxic thoughts and the lies. Thankfully this counselor could see that rehashing all that was happening to us wasn’t the answer, it was just opening the door for more negativity. We are more than our life’s situations. I may not be able to control all that happens to us, but I do have a say in how I deal with it. She pointed me to a tool that follows Biblical truths where I was able to work out a disciplined lifestyle of “bringing those thoughts into captivity” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and “renewing my mind” (Romans 12:2).
This was a tool I needed two years ago and I know I can’t be the only one here who battles toxic thoughts or knows someone who battles them, so I just had to share it. I cannot tell you that the difficult things we have been dealing with the past two years have changed any. They really haven’t. They are still there. They are just as difficult as ever, BUT my way of thinking and dealing with them has changed, and oh what freedom there is in that.