Most of us have heard of Rene’ Descartes famous saying, “Cogito Ergo Sum,” meaning, “I think, therefore, I am.” Is it true? I don’t know; should we talk to the goldfish in my aquarium? He exists and I don’t believe he thinks. If he did, he would jump out of there in a heartbeat. After all, he will spend his entire life in a very small confined space. If he could think, he would either be on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. He would most certainly need to be treated for a severe case of claustrophobia. Not to worry though…he’s happy. He probably lives responding to his innate biological needs and instincts.
One thing we do know for sure is that we think and we exist. Are our thoughts important or are they just ethereal things that fly through our brains randomly? Jesus said, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” So what does that mean? I think it means that the things we spend our time thinking about become a part of who we are. If we spend our time thinking about positive things, we will become a more positive person. The same goes for the negative. If we dwell on hateful, negative thoughts, we will also become more of that kind of person. We do have a choice about what kinds of things we think about and dwell on.
Do we always have a choice about what comes into our brains initially? No, not always. We may be driving down the street and see a billboard with a negative sentiment or image. A thought will come into our mind about that image or sentiment. What do we do with that thought? We can choose to think about it or we can refuse to. We have to learn to be intentional about the things we think about. Scripture says that we are to “Take every thought captive.” Kay Arthur said it another way: “Frisk every thought at the door!”
How do we do that? Simple, we replace it with another thought. We say to ourselves, “No, I don’t want to think on that, I will think on this.” We then choose to think about something positive or different than that image or thought. It takes practice and discipline to stop the negative and move to the positive. Does it really work?
Yes, it happens to me every day. I may be doing something and a random thought will come into my mind. Let’s say it is something negative about someone. I can choose to dwell on it or I can say to myself, “No, I choose to think differently about that person.” I then think about them in a different way and then I move on. I don’t want to harbor a negative image about anyone in my brain. There must be something good about them I can think about if I have to think about them at all. Sometimes, I will think on a Scripture verse that helps me put my mind back into a more positive mode.
Will it make a difference in our lives? I think so. I know two people who have dementia. One was a positive person during the course of her life and the other was negative. Now that they don’t have their faculties the way they used to, the basic thought patterns that they have developed during their lives have taken over. The positive person is cheery although she doesn’t remember much, and the other is as negative as she always was. It is sad to listen to her talk; she views everything from a negative perspective. They are examples that our thought choices really do matter.
What if we have chosen the negative most of our lives? Can we reprogram our brains? Yes, it is never too late. Our brain is a living entity and we can begin to be intentional about what we think about. If you need something concrete to help you get started, I would recommend a book I read a while ago, “Switch On Your Brain,” by Dr. Caroline Leaf. It talks about “The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health.” She has a 21 day Brain Detox Plan to help people reprogram their minds from the negative and help them get their brains on a more positive track. She has worked with the very young and very old and has seen success in both groups. I enjoyed reading her book and appreciated the scientific backdrop for her work.
What about you? Have you found a way to be intentional about your thought life or are you letting thoughts take root in your brain that are harming you? Cogito Bonum or Cogito Malum: Think on the good or Think on the Bad. It’s your choice!