God gave us an amazing three pound part of our body called the brain. And today, the brain is big. Books about the brain are flying off the shelves. Neuroscientists are studying the brain like never before. And President Obama has set aside $100,000,000 for the BRAIN Initiative, an ambitious project to map the brain. So how can we keep this wonderful gift from God healthy?
Dr. David Rock and Dr. Daniel Siegal combed years of research to assimilate what they call the “Healthy Mind Platter,” seven activities that help people, including leaders, maximize that three-pound wonder.
I’ve put my own spin on their findings and listed those seven activities below that when practiced, can help leaders maximize their effectiveness.Leaders will keep their brains healthy when they make time for these activities. Both the Bible and brain science help us see their importance. Mentally check the ones you practice consistently.
- I take time to focus.
- Brain science tells us that when we deeply focus (like when we plan or prepare a sermon), the brain makes deep connections.
- Jesus challenged the crowds to think deeply about the cost of discipleship (Luke 14,25-33).
- I take time for fun.
- Having fun allows for novelty and spontaneity which helps the brain make new connections.
- Children were attracted to Jesus. Although we don’t have any direct Biblical references, I believe children saw Jesus as someone both approachable and fun to be with.
- I take time for family and friends.
- Neuroscientists are learning that the brain is a social organ and when we build relationships it deepens our relational brain circuitry.
- One of the hallmarks of Christianity is true community, spending time with others in deep relationships (Acts 4).
- I take time to exercise.
- Brain research abounds about how exercise improves brain functioning.
- The Scriptures tell us that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit which implies we should take care of them. Exercise is one way to do that (1 Cor. 6.18-19).
- I take time for stillness.
- Researchers have found that when we quiet our inner world through meditation, we are able to regulate our emotions better and think more clearly.
- Often Scripture tells us to be still before the Lord. When we reflect and meditate on Him and His Word, we not only draw close to him, but it keeps our brain healthy as well (Is 46.10).
- I take time to simply chill (down time).
- When we allow our brains to be non-focused (mind wander or daydream) our creativity increases.
- I doubt that Jesus held a non-stop theology class with His disciples. I imagine that at times he simple chilled out with His disciples with no specific goal in mind, except to enjoy each other and enjoy God’s creation.
- I take time for adequate sleep.
- When we sleep our memories deepen and our brain recovers from the day’s stress.
- I’m encouraged that when Jesus got tired, he slept, even in a storm (Mk 4.38).
How many of these practices do you consistently practice? Which one is toughest for you?