Lead Your Brain: Joy is the Fuel  

We have the God-given authority to lead our brains. 2 Corinthians 10:5 teaches us, We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (NIV) Philippians 4:8 teaches us, Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. (NLT) Both of these verses teach us that we have the God-given authority to lead our brains. (Read more at here, here, and here.) Choosing joy helps our brains.

Our brains have two halves—the left and right brain. You may feel inspired to insert a left-brain joke here or a right-brain joke. The new brain science tells us that these jokes are based on outdated science…and our tendency to love to generalize people.

The left-brain action is commonly thought of as “the mind.” Left brain dominant functions are logical thinking; problem solving; strategies; language; cause-and-effect relationships; words to our experiences; planning; arguments formulated; truth defended.

The right brain governs the whole range of relational life:  who we love; our emotional reactions to our surroundings; our ability to calm ourselves; our identity, both as individuals and as a community; manages our strongest relational connections, both to people and God; and character formation.

You can see where the jokes come from. But all of us creatives and left-brained nerds have two fully-functioning sides to our brains—with one side working faster than the other side. Here is where our brave lives make sense. And where so much misunderstanding in our relationships happen. 

To summarize, the right brain governs our emotions and awareness of our bodies. The right brain functions begin with our important relational attachments and are intended to help us be ourselves in relationships. The right-brain action is continually scanning our surroundings looking for people who are happy to be with us.

This is why this neurological definition of joy was created. This is…

 “Joy is what you experience when you can see in another person’s face and eyes that they are happy to be with you.”

–Dr. Allan Schore of UCLA psychiatry

Joy is the fuel our right brain needs.

That fuel is needed because it is the right brain that works faster than the left brain. A smoothly running right side is necessary for our entire brain to function as designed.

The right side of our brain starts processing our surroundings and draws conclusions before the left side is even aware of what is happening. This time difference is a small minutia but it does matter. We know things faster than we can speak them.

The left brain runs at the speed of words, the right brain runs at the speed of joy.

From the book The Other Half of Church by Jim Wilder. A book that gave me the science to make all of these Bravester connections. Science has always been a weak subject for me so when I find a book that breaks down the science for my non-science mind, I am amazed every time at the beauty of God’s creation.

I shared my discovery notes with my son who is serving a long-term prison sentence. Humorously this is what he confirmed:

“A lot of us in here are guilty of drawing an inaccurate conclusion of a situation before our brain consciously picks up on the event that is taking place. That six second delay is crucial in the brain science. Some of us sound like kooks when we tell the story of an event that has multiple witness and the witnesses have different versions of what truly happened. This type of thing happens all the time.”

Aren’t you picturing that scenario?! Wait…have you been in that scenario but you aren’t living in prison?!

How many hurtful words have been said before time was taken to let the brain catch up?

How many assumptions have been made before time was taken to let the brain catch up? Have some of those assumptions come because you have some relational wounding?

We know that loneliness lies to you. From the science on loneliness, during those prolonged lonely times the brain changes to self-preservation. My brain becomes hypervigilant to social threats so I start seeing threats everywhere—whether consciously or unconsciously. I become like the animal on the edge of the herd. I feel vulnerable believing the possibility that everyone is going to hurt me.

When your right brain is missing the joy of seeing faces it leaves your left brain to draw conclusions based on untruths (a left brain operation).

(I have a hard time unseeing the image of “the animal on the edge of the herd” when I’m talking to people who are stuck in loneliness.)

Brain science reveals that this joy sensation is crucial for emotional and relational development. Our brain looks specifically to the face of another person to find joy, and this fills up our emotional gas tank. The face is key.

Joy is primarily transmitted through the face, especially the eyes. Secondarily through the voice. (Oh the joy I used to feel when my long-distance boyfriend called me back in the 1980s and paid those long-distance phone fees. And the joy I feel now when my son calls from his prison.)

Oxytocin is released when we have eye contact with others. Oxytocin is shown in some research to lower stress and anxiety. Oxytocin has the power to regulate our emotional responses and pro-social behaviors, including trust, empathy, gazing, positive memories, processing of bonding cues, and positive communication.” (source: https://www.psycom.net/oxytocin)

Let’s contrast this with our increasingly joyless world presently. In social media, we don’t see the faces of our “friends.” Social media does the exact opposite of in-person bonding. Science has discovered that social media is linked to heightened levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and dopamine addiction. We feel anxiety in between hits of dopamine, which are produced by “likes.” Social media literally rewards us for being contentious, which decreases our social skills.

Do you find yourself communicating differently if you can’t look someone in the eyes?

Is it easier to be mean over the phone or on social media?

Then there is this. We keep our faces in our phones. We aren’t connecting with our faces in our homes like we used to and we certainly aren’t connecting with our faces in crowds. We find it easier to “hide” our faces in our phones when left in a crowd.

This is having long-term affects of living with less joy. Think about that one for a bit.

Joy is the fuel our right brain needs to run our left brain functions of problem solving, cause-and-effect, and truth defending. More joy means more ways to lead your brain.

Could it be this simple?

Think of the cranky people you know? Is it this simple?


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