Thursday, 30 January 2014

toxic trees

Back when I first set up the page for this blog, about a year ago, I was thinking of trees. About how, if our roots are broad and deep, we can grow strong and tall, flexing but not breaking in the storms life inevitably throws at us.

Then at a conference in mid-2013 I heard about Dr. Caroline Leaf, a specialist in the study of the human brain. Dr Leaf's key discovery is that we - weak feeble humans that we are - can literally, physically, change the structure of our brains depending on the thoughts we think. (Image below borrowed from the University of Minnesota Psychology Blog)

"As a man thinks ... so is he."

As our brain accepts the seed of a thought, brain chemicals lay down a protein pathway with multiple branches, creating an actual, physical tree in our brain. If we think positively the 'good' trees flourish, leading to overall health and wellbeing. But if we dwell on the negative, toxic trees take over - leading to mental, emotional and physical distress and disease.

toxic trees vs. trees of life (source: Dr Leaf)

Incredibly, the process - either positive or negative - can be reversed! Damage can be undone folks! This is a message of hope that so many of us need to hear. You were damaged by abuse or rejection in your childhood? You can change that! Sure, the neural pathways for rejection or depression have been reinforced year after year and the roots of those trees in your brain ARE strong and deep, but you can pull them out by the roots ... if you deliberately choose to think more positively about yourself and your future.

In her book, 'Switch on Your Brain,' Dr Leaf describes how we begin this process of undoing lifelong patterns of toxic thought and re-training our minds.

Some key facts (based on actual scientific observations of the human brain):
- your mind is in control of your body and your mind is stronger than your body
- you are not a victim of your biology
- you can't control the events and circumstances of life but you can control your reaction to them
- you are designed to stand outside yourself, observe your own thinking and change it
- you are wired for love, and fear is a learned, unnatural response
- you are not a victim of the things you shouldn't be doing (bad habits, addictions, self-harm ...)
- you can overcome and control depression and anxiety
- 75-98% of mental, physical and behavioral illnesses come from toxic thinking
- each choice you make - and we make thousands every day - results in proteins forming in the brain to capture the thought as a physical reality. Make your choices count!

Dr. Leaf's book 'Switch on Your Brain' is now available on Amazon. But if you prefer something visual, TBN began airing a new 'Switch On Your Brain' series in January. Below are the links to the first 4 episodes:

Episode 1: Thoughts are Real
(To be honest I wasn't all that fussed on Episode 1. The producer has stitched as many talking heads together as possible, maybe to avoid boring us, but I would have preferred watching one head giving what amounts to a short and simple intro.)

Episode 2: Wired for Love

Episode 3: Stress

Episode 4: Bad Choices Lead to Toxic Thinking

One thing that strikes me about Dr. Leaf - it's amazing how one person who has new information, insights or skills to offer the world can change the lives of millions of people, given the right door of opportunity. That thought alone is mind-blowing.


  1. I know I'm focusing on the wrong bit here but all this talk about trees and roots and then the Doctors name is Dr. Leaf, that just got me!

  2. This brings a whole new meaning to "..but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life". Also...Dr. Leaf hehehehe.

  3. hi to anonymous, who seems to have disappeared - thanks for the encouragement!