Brain Science

Now there is a catchy title for you! LOL Actually I’ve been reading about it a lot in the last year and it is fascinating what all they know now about what is happening in our heads. And, what is more important, how it lines up with what the Bible says about us. Well, I’m not going to go deeply into that.

A big chunk of the brain is devoted to relationships. When our brains are “turned on”, relationships work much more smoothly. There are neural pathways running through our brains which are our “relational circuits”. With the right equipment scientists can see when those circuits are active and when they are not. Therefore they can test what is happening when they see these light up, or for that matter, turn off. There are a lot of factors that affect their ability to be on, or to be fully on, or to shut down.

The higher the stress–fear, anger, shame–the harder it is to keep relational circuits on. Pain can dim or turn off relational circuits. Even tiredness, lack of sleep, affects them.

If we become irritable, frustrated, when our problems seem more important than our relationships, then we know our circuits are not firing correctly. When that happens, I have no joy being with you, even if normally I would. I don’t feel compassion for you. We could even say that when our relational circuits are off, we are operating in what the Bible calls the “flesh”.

On the other side when our relational circuits are “on”, we enjoy people, enjoy being with them, actually “see” them.

The good news is that there are things we can do when we realize our relational circuits are dim or off to get them rolling again, so that we can connect more easily with people and with God. The main one is a little thing called gratitude. It’s impossible to feel gratitude and be non-relational.

All you have to do is deliberately think of a positive memory, calling it up with as much detail as possible, and begin to be thankful for it. This process actually releases “feel good” chemicals in our bodies–serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins. Even just thinking about appreciation when you don’t want to, will begin to release these chemicals! And this process of appreciation will turn on the circuits if they are off. Or if they are on, it will increase the intensity of your ability to interact.

So…if you take the time to sit and recall a positive memory, then focus on the details (where, when, with whom, how it felt, colors, smells, emotions), you will begin to feel appreciation and as you continue to connect with this postive memory, it will activate your relational circuits. This prepares our brains to connect with people, and with God.

So, light up your circuits!

What is a positive memory that comes to mind, whether something from yesterday or from your childhood? Whether it’s a beautiful sunset, a favorite meal, a cup of coffee with a friend. But find a specific memory and spend time thinking about it. And then God for it. He was there with you, you know? He is with us all the time. Every good gift comes from Him.

I can testify to the fact that this works. I’ve done it many times during this year as I was learning and seeking. And I was especially fascinated with the fact that we are told over and over to give thanks to the Lord. I have memorized many of those verses to remind myself to have a thankful heart. And this is actually the way God has designed us. Life is better with gratitude!

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 107:1 ESV
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