Changing our thought patterns

Last week, I ended the post with the fact that it is possible to influence our thought patterns and this week I want to share one of two ways I believe we can do this: with the things we say. Lets start with our anchor scripture:

Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. 

Phil 4:8 NIV

Have you ever heard the saying “watch your thoughts, they become your words…” This connotes a forward linear relationship between thoughts and words but in reality, it is more complex than that. While it is true that your thoughts become your words, research has shown that words inform our thought processes on both a conscious and a subconcious level. We respond to words not only at a conscious level but also at a visceral, autonomic level. Neuroplasticity is the term used to describe how the brain continues to re-invent itself. What we think about actually rewires our brains—for better or worse. Older, unused neural pathways fall away, and new ones, with repetition and focus, are created and words are one way in which we do rewire our brain’s responses. This is true whether we are responding to words spoken by someone else or responding to our own self-talk which what we say to ourselves in our heads. So in as much as your thoughts becomes your words, your words become your thoughts and they become you.

For as he thinks within himself, so he is.

Prov 23:7a NASB

Gary in the Oct/ Nov edition of Focus on the Family gives very sound advice on this topic. He says when it comes to leaning into positive thinking, “talk to yourself more and listen to yourself less.” What do you say to yourself about who you are, how you view the world, what your reactions to situations should be? Your words shape both your internal and external worldview. So a practical way to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy is to surround yourself with words that possess those qualities. Remember, neural pathways are created with repetition and focus and so if we want your thought patterns to be positive then we need to be intentional in speaking positive things to ourselves and surrounding ourselves with positive speech. This is a process known as priming and what priming does is that it triggers the production of oxytocin in the brain which is a “feel good” neurochemical to trigger feelings of wellbeing and happiness. This is one way to ensure that the wellspring of your heart always flows with freshwater (in reference to the question posed in James 3:11-13 when he was talking about being careful what we say).

In summary, if you want to change the way you think, one way to do it is to change the way you speak. There is nothing phony or “new age” about this principle. It is bibical- Solomon told his son, “Above all else, guard your heart; for out of it are the issues of life?” Why? Because one’s thought life controls the rest of his/her life- and the words we speak have the potential to shape our reality (James 3:3-6) as they create neural pathways in our brains which govern how we live and intepret our life experiences. I conclude with a scripture to reflect on:

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

Prov 4:23-27 NIV

Join me next week as we talk about another way to change your thought patterns.

Yours Truly