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Thursday, April 25, 2013

We Are What We Think

Most people understand the concept that “You are what you eat.” If we feed our bodies processed foods, our brain power and energy levels decrease, while fat increases. The same principle holds true for our minds. As food nourishes our physical bodies and affects our overall health, what we put into our minds affects our thoughts, actions, and behaviors.

I heard a pastor describe a study that measured the impact of what people put into their minds. The subjects listened to a five minute radio broadcast that contained four negative pieces. They found that the subjects were:
1. More depressed 2. Believed the world was a negative place, and 3. Believed that negatives things would happen to them.

Our thoughts are extraordinarily powerful. So powerful that when distorted and led by our flesh, they rob us of joy. Every thought we have sends electrical signals though our brain. They have significant influence over every cell in your body. When your mind is burdened with many negative thoughts, it affects the deep limbic system of the brain and causes problems such as irritability, moodiness, depression, etc.

Now imagine what watching hours of television, facebook, and other media is doing to our minds. By the time a kid is five, he or she has already logged thousands of hours of television watching. The average teenager spends nearly four hours a day watching TV, while the average Christian in this country spends ten minutes a day with God. Studies consistently indicate the negative impact TV has on children’s behavior, correlating it with brain problems.

Why do you think that pharmaceutical companies and Super Bowl advertisers spend millions and billions of dollars on 30 second commercials? We are influenced by their messages! Whatever message is put into our mind has a high potential to influence us to go out and buy the product. It is no secret that advertisers frequently use psychological pressure, such as appealing to feelings of inadequacy or love, which may be harmful.

Advertisements are intended to exploit the desires of a consumer by making a particular product more appealing, and by manipulating the consumer’s needs and wants. We are what we think. Our thoughts become attitudes; our attitudes spawn actions; our actions braid themselves into habits; and our habits determine our destiny. What are you are feeding your mind with? Listen to what Paul said:
Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6, NLT)

None of us want to be controlled by our fleshly, sinful nature. Usually the assumption is that by exerting willpower and trying hard in our own strength, we can stop negative behavior. I used to think I could stop my obsessive behaviors with mere willpower, but was wrong. Willpower can produce short-term change, but it also creates constant internal stress because the root cause hasn’t been dealt with. And when you do fall, those nasty feelings of shame rise back to the surface again. The change doesn’t feel natural, so eventually you give up and quickly revert back to old patterns. For many people, the behavior is driven by deeper emotional factors such as, overwhelming helplessness, failure, rejection, anger, depression, abandonment, criticism, anxiety, or even boredom.

Some people do explore their emotions and perhaps discover that they binge eat when they are lonely or have had a stressful day at the office. Yet, they have not asked the key question, “What do I believe?” “What is the source—the thoughts—behind my actions?”
╪ It has been documented over the ages that those who set their minds on Christ, and meditate and memorize Scripture, their minds change. Mind change equals life change. When the Holy Spirit and the Bible take over our mind, there is an explosion of power, called mind renewal. And God has designed it so that our whole being is strengthened.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Addiction: The Greatest Tragedy

Drug abuse is one of the prevailing social problems, and has proven difficult for scientists to tackle over the years. It was reported this week in Digital Journal that doctors can now stimulate one part of the brain with laser light, and wipe away addictive behavior….and conversely turn the non-addicted into compulsive cocaine seekers. I am not a doctor or scientist so cannot comment, except to agree that new methods of treatment are needed because any kind of addictive behavior can be problematic.

With addiction, the desire of the heart is to habitually attach itself to a specific object or activity or person, which harms or deters our ability to function in a major area of life. Impossible to control, the attachment ultimately enslaves the person’s will and masks their true feelings. It can be physical—to substances or food; or psychological—to compulsive behaviors.

Addiction is a form of emotional anesthesia; an escape from responsibilities; even an excuse to blame someone else. Addicted people feel the need to deceive themselves and others. They lie, deny, justify, or cover up their behavior; and rely on confused perceptions and misbeliefs. Life issues which need to be acknowledged and dealt with are not, thereby, enabling them to remain addicted.

Some people insist addiction is a failure of society, or a spiritual weakness called sin, or a state in which people simply won’t take responsibility for their behavior. These moralistic understandings are usually rejected by American society. The most popular theory is addictive behaviors are diseases. What is clear is addiction is a complex interaction of psychological, biochemical, neurological, and spiritual influences.

Like other compulsive behaviors, addiction is driven by deeper emotional factors such as, overwhelming helplessness, failure, rejection, anger, depression, abandonment, criticism, anxiety, or even boredom. You can have all the willpower in the world, be working like crazy to stop, but you can’t stop the behavior. Founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, said, “Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine or idealism.”

What I’ve learned is the difference between having a passionate desire towards something and an addiction is freedom. If you have been unsuccessful in your attempts to cut out or cut down on your favorite thing, it may be an addiction. If your favorite thing interferes with your relationships, your work and family responsibilities, or your worship of God, it may be an addiction. If it dulls your awareness of your true feelings, it may be an addiction. If you continue to use it or do it despite negative consequences, it may be an addiction.

The consequences of addiction are estrangement from God, habitual sin, health, and relational problems. Unbeknown to us, the heart of any addiction is the longing for the holy. The only way to heal completely, I believe, is to first fill the hole in our soul with God Almighty’s healing grace made available through Jesus Christ.

This is an excerpt from the book Something Happened On My Way To Hell"" by author Kimberly Davidson

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Living Out and Radiating Our True Selves

Last week talked about how toxic thoughts can reap havoc on our lives, and the importance of not supressing them, but work to overwrite and change them. We are all children of God—valuable, loving, and worthy. This is who we are. Like Jesus, we have the ability to love deeply, make wise decisions, extend forgiveness and grace, and live a joy-filled life.

When we claim and empower our true selves we heal our pain and live the life God destined for us. We believe in ourselves. We embrace our true spiritual roots. We walk with dignity and integrity. We feel joy and radiance. We honor and savor life itself. Celebrating life and love is a gift from God to us, and our gift to ourselves and others.

Here are some affirmation activities you can do:
1. Write down on a piece of paper the ways you would like the important people in your life to describe you as a person. Now look at the list and affirm all those qualities you feel you already possess.
2. List three people you are thankful for and why you appreciate each one. Then do one “random” act of kindness for them.
3. As you study the Bible, either in a journal or notebook, write down all the positive things you learn about yourself. Reference the Scripture verse. For example, “God loves me!” (Jeremiah 31:3). “I am fearfully (which means I’m awesome) and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139: 14).
4. Savior each affirmation. Repeat them often. Say them out loud. Ask God to help you to feel the truth of each one. If it is hard for you to say the affirmation in the present tense, then add the word capable or desire to the affirmation. “I desire to be wonderfully made.” “I am capable of being fully loved.”

In time, the new affirmations become subconscious. The old negative programming is replaced with the new behavior. The more we repeat words of Truth, the more our hearts and minds will believe them and the old beliefs begin to lose their power and eventually disappear. Affirm yourself today!

Lastly, an important part of our journey involves “self-soothing” because it helps our minds and bodies to relieve stress. For example, schedule in a hot bubble bath and meditate on what you have learned this week, take a short walk and use all your senses and take in God’s creative work, watch a funny movie, or put on some self-soothing or upbeat worship music-- sing and dance if you feel like it! Let yourself go!

Here is a list of biblical truths you can begin meditating on right now. Take a deep breath after saying each one.

THIS IS WHO YOU ARE I am God's child (John 1:12) I am Christ's friend (John 15:15) I am united with the Lord(1 Cor. 6:17) I am bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20) I am a saint (set apart for God). (Eph. 1:1) I am a personal witness of Christ (Acts 1:8) I am the salt & light of the earth (Matt. 5:13-14) I am a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27) I am free forever from condemnation (Rom. 8: 1-2) I am a citizen of Heaven. I am significant (Phil.3:20) I am free from any charge against me (Rom. 8:31-34) I am a minister of reconciliation for God (2 Cor. 5:17-21) I have access to God through the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:18) I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6) I cannot be separated from the love of God (Rom. 8:35-39) I am established, anointed, sealed by God (2 Cor. 1:21-22) I am assured all things work together for good (Rom. 8: 28) I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16) I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph. 3: 12) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13) I am the branch of the true vine, a channel of His life (John 15: 1-5) I am God's temple (1 Cor. 3: 16). I am complete in Christ (Col. 2: 10) I am hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). I have been justified (Romans 5:1) I am God's co-worker (1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 6:1). I am God's workmanship (Eph. 2:10) I am confident that the good works God has begun in me will be perfected (Phil. 1: 5) I have been redeemed and forgiven (Col. 1:14). I have been adopted as God's child (Eph. 1:5) I belong to God I know now who I am!

AMEN! You may also be interested in reading my Christ-based book: “Breaking the Cover Girl Mask: Toss Out Toxic Thoughts.”

I Changed My Mind!

Every week I run into women who ask me why they have to dig up their ugly pasts and memories. They ask if their toxic memories will ever go away.

There’s a good chance you have heard of Dr. Caroline Leaf through her best-seller book “Who Switched Off My Brain?” and Dr. Daniel Amen through either Amen Clinics and/or his bestseller, “Change Your Brain. Change Your Life.” They have researched the human brain extensively and give us great hope that we can alter our emotional and physical health, and destiny. I have gleaned so much from their work and want to share some insights with you.

First, our mind is a battleground. There is ongoing conflict between toxic thoughts and positive, good thoughts. Good thoughts feed our mental and physical health positively, while negative thoughts deplete our bodies and minds of health. Brain cells have memories. Because of this cellular memory and all of the communication between the cells of the body and the brain, our bodies literally affect and reflect our thoughts. Understand that the chemicals that accompany toxic thoughts and memories are coursing through our brains and bodies. They create toxic waste and produce stress responses in the body (yuk!).

Science supports the benefits of fighting the battle. We should consciously and regularly pour in good information into our minds. The apostle Paul says it this way: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

Think about it: If our minds are filled with the Word of God, then it can't be filled with impure thoughts. Following God’s Word eventually leads to righteous living which can literally change and heal our brains. We actually can “rewire” our minds. The brain can remember and learn stuff, so it’s not surprising that it changes with use [called plasticity or neuroplasticity]. It refers to the actual rewiring of the structure of the brain for a new type of use. Brain plasticity has two primary functions: developmental and damage repair. So when God says we are to renew our minds, he gives us the ability, to some extent, to do that.

This is the beginning of changing your thought process and detoxifying your brain. Dr. Leaf stated that our brains may come close to complete destruction under the years of toxic waste, but it can start to recover in as little as 4 days! All we have to do is learn to control and capture our thoughts—renew our minds as the Bible states (Romans 12:2).

Why do I have to dig up my toxic past? Good question. No one wants to replay trauma. Repression or suppression of bad memories is how we temporarily deal with the traumatic emotions. But there is a reason we ask you to: suppressed emotional pain doesn’t just go away with time. It can turn into prolonged physical pain. When we chronically suppress our emotions and memories, we destabilize and disturb the intricate psychosomatic network by interfering with the peptide flow and feedback loops in the brain. If you bury them, they don’t go away. Toxic thoughts and memories undermine our immune system and hamper its ability to do what God created it to do. The sooner we deal with them the better (Dr. Leaf, 40, 70, 78).

God said, “…I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). The only way to deal with toxic symptoms that plague our physical bodies and minds is to start dealing with repressed unforgiveness, anger, hate, bitterness, and jealousy…whatever negative emotions are taking over our mind.

Can we build new memories? Yes! It’s been said that the best way to erase bad memories is to build new good ones.

Dr. Leaf said that when we learn to control our thoughts, we create conditions under which brain cells (specifically neuronal, dendrite and glial cells) can do their work in perfect harmony. When these cells can do their jobs well, we can build healthy memories in place of toxic, distorted memories (p. 19).

God designed humans to adapt. Dr. Norman Doidge, in his book The Brain that Changes Itself, said if we learn to refocus, we will not get sucked in by the content of an obsession but can work around it. (p. 173) Already formed habits will resist. The flesh will fight, but will be bridled by the Holy Spirit. The devil will trouble you, but prayer will send him away.

Next week we’ll talk out how to live this out: “Living Out and Radiating Our True Selves.”

You may also be interested in reading my Christ-based book: “Breaking the Cover Girl Mask: Toss Out Toxic Thoughts.”