Thoughts follow specific pathways in the brain. When a thought occurs, the part of the brain called the thalamus goes to work making sense of the information and running it through the part of the brain that stores memories, the amygdala. In her book, Dr. Leaf notes:

Remember that the amygdala is much like a library and is responsible for the first emotional response to any thought. It activates and arouses you to do something. If your “library” is filled with “books” that tell a story about not being able to cope with the incoming information, the response will be to react to the information based purely on an emotional level. This is why it is never wise to react to the first emotion you feel. It is a physiological response designed to alert and focus you, not to direct your actions.

When your thoughts are toxic or negative, you’ve handed of control to your emotions, chemical reactions that aren’t always reliable. Part of the amygdala’s purpose is to alert us. But unless it’s steadied with nontoxic, balanced thoughts, the emotions it generates can dominate. And that can cause a negative, even irrational, response.

That’s why memories, even those we don’t consciously recall, can have powerful effects. Even if they’re not readily accessed by the brain, so-called hidden memories still exist. Their information isn’t lost; it’s stored somewhere in the mind. It’s as if those memories are burned onto the hard drive of the mind, and when we hit the right keys to trigger them, they reappear clearly to us.

We all have memories hidden somewhere beyond our conscious memory, blocked because the event was extremely painful or traumatic. It’s as though God has built into the functioning of our mind the ability to repress emotionally painful material. Some of these memories stay there until our subconscious minds believe it’s “safe” to access them.

We need to remember that, like so many other things, accessing memories is a biological process.

Which memories did you activate today? Were they negative or positive? Did they hinder your life or enhance it?

We Are What We Think

You can learn to control your thoughts that change your brain’s chemistry, affect your emotions, and even influence your character.

And that means you can have significant control over your physical well-being too.

Pastor and author Charles Swindoll describes the power we have to direct our thoughts:

Thoughts, positive or negative, grow stronger together when fertilized with constant repetition. That may explain why so many who are gloomy and gray stay in that mood, and why others who are cheery and enthusiastic continue to be so, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Please do not misunderstand. Happiness (like winning) is a matter of right thinking, not intelligence, age or position. Our performance is directly related to the thoughts we deposit in our memory bank. We can only draw on what we deposit.

What kind of performance would your car deliver if every morning before you left for work you scooped up a handful of dirt and put it in your crankcase? The fine tuned engine would soon be coughing and sputtering. Ultimately, it would refuse to start. The same is true of your life. Thoughts about yourself and attitudes toward others that are narrow, destructive and abrasive produce wear and tear on your mental motor. They send you of the road while others drive past.

Stop for a moment and reflect on your thought life. What type of deposits do you usually make?

Science simply confirms what Scripture has been saying all along: We are shaped, in large part, by our thoughts. Why else would the great apostle Paul say, “Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right” (Phil. 4:8 TLB)?