Now comes along neuropsychologist Rick Hanson who explains how you can exercise your brain to achieve greater happiness and well-being. Hanson describes how when the brain changes, the mind changes. "For example, more activation in the left prefrontal cortex is associated with more positive emotions. So as there is greater activation in the left, front portion of your brain relative to the right, there is also greater well-being," according to Hanson.
More interestingly, he next describes how when the mind changes, the brain changes. Now we're getting to something that sounds like it might be of interest to A Course in Miracles students, like me, working to change our minds about the world, people, situations and events. Hanson points out that "...the mind also can change the brain in lasting ways. In other words, what flows through the mind [our thoughts about what we perceive] sculpts the brain... As the mind flows through the brain, as neurons fire together in particularly patterned ways based on the information they are representing, those patterns of neural activity change neural structure."
And most interesting of all, Hanson wraps up his article by explaining "You can use the mind to change the brain to change the mind for the better." He speaks about those things to which we give our attention. If we attend to negativity we will "build out the neural substrates of those thoughts and feelings." However, if we keep our thoughts focused on positive aspects such as Love, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Joy and Peace, we "then we build up very different neural substrates."
I find it fascinating to know that our world-of-form brains actually respond to what we think by growing neural connections, by becoming denser, thicker and actually supporting our most frequent focuses of attention. I think this has real significance for ACIM students because it even further stresses the importance of finding our Right Minds.
Some might argue that this brain in our heads is just a world-of-form piece of wet-works, just part of this body we've each invented. I agree. And I agree with Ken Wapnick's video discussing the difference between mind and brain to which Danielle gave such excellent exposure at MiracleShare.org. The mind is not a physical entity. It doesn't exist in some place, including the brain. Yet does anyone but me find it quite amazing that practicing Forgiveness and the other Loving Miracles the Course teaches actually has an affect on our little brains?
Oh well, this entire post might be nothing more than an exercise by my ego in "loving to analyze and discover" things of this ego world. But I'll close it by saying again: "Use it or lose it." I am going to use my mind to follow the Course teachings as best I can, asking always for help from Holy Spirit, especially when in doubt. If my brain wants to follow along like Dr. Hanson says good brains do, I'll be grateful to accept that growth help as well!