Flipping the Switch and Renewing Our Minds
Negativity can make us feel distracted, annoyed, depressed or even angry. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to feel that way.
Every time I touch my phone someone is reminding me what a doozy 2020 has been so far. Whether it’s an email cancelling another fill-in-the-blank, the news reporting another political rant, a snarky social media post, or a text with a desperate prayer request from someone I care about.
Our culture has been hit hard. And not surprisingly all the negativity can make us feel distracted, annoyed, depressed or even angry. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to feel that way. I want to be filled with excitement, contentment, compassion and hope. Jesus offers us a rich, full life. But when the world feels upside down—how do we focus on the peace, love, and joy He provides?
How to Rebuild Healthy Thoughts
There is a way. We can actually retrain our brains. By focusing on positive thoughts, we can reduce anger, worry and fear and rediscover joy and peace. Neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf, says in her book, Switch On Your Brain, “Every morning when you wake up, new baby nerve cells have been born while you were sleeping that are there at your disposal to be used in tearing down toxic thoughts and rebuilding healthy thoughts.
So, we can do this. But how do we get there? When we’re on the go or the words won’t come, or we’re wound too tight how do we start rebuilding those healthy thoughts?
Psalm 96 does it for me every time.
This hymn written by King David thousands of years ago flips a switch in my twenty-first century brain. From the get-go it gives us a command complete with an explanation point—something to do right now other than worrying and wondering: Sing to the Lord a new song!
How Hymns Renew Out Minds and Souls
If your mind is anything like mine, you might consider, Sing. Okay. I like to sing. A new song. Different than the grumbling, skeptical, critical one? Sounds great. But then my brain is quickly distracted by wondering how virtual learning is going to go or wondering if I remembered to bring my mask and if I have hand sanitizer in my purse. Anyone else?
But it’s alright. The Bible is more authoritative than our tripped-up trains of thought. This psalm recorded for all time in the pages of scripture is powerful. The next line grabs our attention—Sing to the Lord all the earth! Not only do we get another explanation point, but all our excuses get ripped up in a hurry. The psalmist instructs all the earth to join in, so that probably includes us.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name. Okay. I was stressing about the kids’ mixed up school year, but I can think of something to praise God for, right? Even in the midst of pain and chaos we have something to thank our Heavenly Father for—a heart that beats, food in the fridge, a pillow under our head, a text from a friend, a wave from a smiling neighbor.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/frankiefotografie
There are real struggles in our lives, but verses five and six of this hymn put our concerns in perspective reminding us that some of the things we worry about are worthless. That maybe we’ve put too much importance on how we thought things “should look or be,” instead of thanking God for all that He does for us every single day.
all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Yes! Splendor and majesty are before God. Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. I want to sit in that for a minute or ten or twenty. In God’s strength. In His beauty.
And I can. I can stop in awe and wonder. You can too. Savor a bite of sweet, creamy peach ice cream on a sweltering summer afternoon. The sun hot on your shoulders. The ice cream cool on your tongue. While it melts in your mouth thank God for creating peaches and milk and sugar cane. Let the worries and fears fade. Do the same when you spot a flicker of a firefly just around dusk—an enchanting twinkle that takes you by surprise. Push pause on your frustrations to see if you can spot another. Marvel at how God could create that glow on the end of a tiny insect. Or take a moment in the midst of a frenzied morning to glance out the window. Let your eyes linger. Breathe in a spectacular sunrise—rich in shades of violet, gold and fuchsia. Catch your breath and allow God to renew your thoughts through this glimpse of beauty. Then thank Him. For all of it.
Welcome Awe and Wonder back into Your Life
As King David continues to sing of God’s goodness in this hymn, he talks about the heavens rejoicing, the earth being glad, the sea resounding, the fields being jubilant, the trees singing, and it makes me look all around at the sky and trees, wanting to join in their beautiful song. I’m amazed by the swirl of the clouds or the flash of a goldfinch’s bright yellow feathers as he darts from a branch. This hymn gets me to notice God’s creation—to sing a new song.
I switch from a place of worry to one of gratitude. And this is what the neuroscientists have been trying to tell us. Science is on to something, because it finally figured out how God engineered our brains in the first place. We are designed to praise Him, to worship Him, to delight in Him. And when we tap into that part of our brains, this beautiful way our loving Father has created us, our moods and emotions elevate.
When we sing new songs to the Lord instead of dwelling on our worries, we’ll notice His magnificence all around us, and then that switch will flip inside our brains. The world will feel less swirly. Our problems will seem more manageable. Because we’ll remember that our great and glorious God, the one who created the roaring sea and the forests full of towering trees, He loves us. He’s almighty. And He’s in control.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Chi Liu L
Laura L. Smith, best-selling author and speaker, grew up singing old hymns in her traditional church, then rushing home to count down the rest of the Top 40 on Billboard’s music charts with Casey Kasem. Smith loves all kinds of music, and although she can’t carry a tune, she’s often seen singing or dancing around her house. Smith speaks around the country sharing the love of Christ with women at conferences and events. She lives in the college town of Oxford, Ohio with her husband and four kids. Her newest title, How Sweet the Sound, releases in August. Connect with her on Instagram @laurasmithauthor and at www.laurasmithauthor.com