In my last blog I mentioned that I used to work on a farm. Part of my job was taking care of Black Angus Cows. The farm was located in Robertson, so there was always lush green grass around for the cows to eat. Something I noticed in the paddock was the well-worn paths or tracks which led to water. Once one cow knew where the water was, it kept walking along the same path to get there. Eventually all of the cows figured out the way to water and over time the path became so worn down that they didn’t have to remember how to get there any longer. If they were thirsty they just had to locate the closest path and join it knowing it was the quickest and most direct route to the final destination – water.
Interestingly, we actually form paths in our brain in a very similar way. Neural Pathways are paths that form in our brains carrying messages through our brain to make an appropriate response. These pathways are formed based on repeated behaviour. They can be negative and toxic, or they can be positive and healthy.
These paths are formed by the way we think. If we think positive thoughts about ourselves or about situations and we do so over and over again, the pathways that form will be positive ones. Positive thinking will become automatic and we will be recognised as positive people. On the flip side the same process happens for negative thoughts. If we constantly have critical or negative responses to the things happening around us, the pathways that form in our brains will reinforce that thinking and will become automatic. We will be recognised as negative people and that can even have an impact on our health.
The good news is that we can actually control our thoughts. It is harder if we have formed toxic pathways over many years; however, it can be done. We can form new positive pathways and if we force ourselves to find the positive rather than negative, over time it will became a habit and hopefully automatic.
Our world can focus on the negative. It is human nature to criticise and think negatively but the Bible reminds us that we don’t have to think that way. Romans 12:2 says “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
The good news is we don’t have to do it alone, we can ask for God’s help to change the way we think. So let me encourage you to ‘think about thinking’, consider why you react to certain things in certain ways, and if you need to, ask God to help you to transform the way you think.
On a side note, please know that my prayers will be with you while I am on sabbatical leave until 29 July studying Christian Leadership at Regent College. I look forward to sharing some experiences with you when I return and know that Mrs Cochrane will do a great job leading the College in my absence.