Thought before Reflection:
Negative Think is just how the brain works. According to an article in the Cleveland Wellness Center Magazine, we have a new thought about once a second, or something like 60,000 of them a day. That is one thought per second for 16 hours of seconds. According the the work cited by the Cleveland Clinic “Wellness” program, 80% are negative. Negative thinking triggers the brains centers for anxiety and depression. If we don’t manage raw thinking we become sad.
Are you surprised? The Cleveland Clinic tells us that each anxious thought stimulates depression. If we want to be happy, we have to intentionally recall the happy aspects of our lives. However, when people are depressed they are convinced that they don’t deserve happiness. So it turns out that our mother’s excellent advice to “count your blessings” is largely useless for the people who need it the most.
Why Would God Design our Brains to Be Hyper Aware of Danger?:
As I believer I see God’s love when I look at this hyper awareness of “what might get us in trouble.” As any good friend or parent, God wants us to avoid unnecessary sorrow. God wants us to learn from pain. Joy is God’s intent. Fundamental to Wisdom is to recognize that our thoughts reflect our need to be safe. They do not really reflect our actual experience.
The news is far more cheerful than what rattles around in our brain. God helps us gain a wise balance between joy and sorrow by taking time each day to look for what is right, giving thanks and sharing with another. This Spiritual Discipline fixes what is right in our minds quite the same way as what most of us do with negative moments: we take notice of them, we complain about them and we talk to another about them. That is just how our brains work.
Getting Beyond the Pile of Negative Thoughts to Our Actual Experience:
The Mindfulness movement councils us to separate an awareness of our actual experience from the commentary about it, then focus on the experience itself in various ways. And I think it is very good stuff. As a believer, however, we have other powerful resources.
One of those resources is to take 10 minutes once or twice a day. Relax, slow down and ponder, “Lord, where have I met love today?” You might want to focus on joy, peace, patience or others “gifts” of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23. When you recall such a moment, thank God and jot it down. Then share it with at least one other person. Sharing any impression, positive or negative, strengthens it.
As anyone recalls and celebrates and shares “the good stuff,” our brains begin to develop new neural pathways to facilitate the new habit we are forming. For good or ill, that is what the brain does in response to any regular stimulation. A habit of looking for, thanking God and sharing good stuff reconfigures your brain. In time it becomes easier to see the beautiful, joyful, generous and strong. We become quick to share and celebrate life’s blessings. The power of God restores us to our rightful minds (Romans 12:2).