The mind is a powerful thing. Almost scary powerful. And how we think affects us more than we realize.
In my profession I have relied on the power of neuroplasticity. What neuroplasticity in a nutshell is the ability for the brain to create new neuronal paths.
When we have a habit of thinking, it’s like creating a groove in our brain. Each time we think that thought it’s like the groove deepens and elongates. A deep trench forms where the path of our thoughts goes down that groove.
The fascinating thing is that brain research has showed us that we can reroute those paths. If we have a negative neoronal pathway, we can actually rewire our brain with new and different thoughts (Check out books by Dr. Caroline Leaf). But it takes repetition. A lot of it.
For many years I have worked with the elderly and old age reveals a lot about a person. Someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s can be almost completely unaware in their cognition but those groove patterns remain.
One woman I knew would chase you around to tell you thank you for what you’ve done. It’s because she had created life based on the priority of thanking people and even when she couldn’t remember hardly anything, at times even her own family, she remembered to say thank-you.
Another woman I know was in self-pity and despair most of her life and in her older years it showed too. She couldn’t recognize sometimes even family but those thoughts patterns of pity and despair and helplessness were like pushing the “repeat” button over and over again in her actions. She voiced and she acted helpless.
It has caused me to think on these things as I’m going through Philippians where he tells us to think on righteous things (Php 4:8). Our brains create grooves. With repetition we can reroute them to be what we want them to be.
Where do I want them to be carved and stuck when I am old?
The last few years my thoughts have not been what I would like them to be. My circumstances have been ridiculous and my thoughts have gone to anger, being in protection mode, self-pity and more. Not all the time but they are very much there. And I don’t want to get stuck in them.
In my mind I think to myself that when this season is over and I can get away from some unhealthy things, my thoughts will be better. But is that the case?
The reality is that I’m forming deeper and smoother running trenches every single day. It’s possible that those trenches will become very difficult to un-form. They most definitely can be undone as neuroplasticity has shown, but the deeper they are the harder to reroute.
It’s a sobering thought.