RiseVibes: Switch on Your Brain: the key to peak happiness, thinking, and health by Dr Caroline Leaf

I knew I was reading the right book when I stood in the aisle of the plane waiting to disembark and the gentleman behind me indicated that I was about to walk off and leave it in the seat pocket. Every day we have to filter, interpret and make choices on a massive amount of information, while at the same time our attention spans are decreasing. Self-help books, programs, and television talk shows promote the benefits of ‘positive thinking’, Pastors preach about ‘taking captive every thought’[i] and thinking on those things that are ‘true, and honourable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable’[ii]. More of us are experiencing depression and anxiety. And most of us accept the general principle that how we think has an impact on our health. So what does all this mean?

Dr Caroline Leaf connects the dots, as it were, and explains in fairly simple terms exactly what happens in our brain when we think certain ways. As a scientist who has worked in the area of cognitive neuro science since 1985, she shows us that changes in thinking actually change physical aspects of the brain. Our mind controls our brain, and our brain controls our physical state. So it makes sense that how we think makes a difference to how we feel and behave.

The other key aspect of this book is that it reveals the science behind scripture and why Bible verses such as ‘be still and know that I am God’ and ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ are so important to our mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Dr Leaf shows us that we have a lot more power over our circumstances than we think we do. And that negative thoughts and feelings acquired over many years can, with a bit of effort, be turned around. The negative can be switched off and the positive switched on.

The book includes a 21 day detox plan which I have yet to launch into. But I am now more aware about the way I think and what it might mean for my health, behaviours and even intellectual capacity. I have learned that I should focus more (not attempt too many things at once, or think about other tasks while carrying out my current task); that I should make more time to be still and enter into deeper thought (not be distracted or think I need to keep ‘doing’ all the time); that when a thought enters my head that I know to be negative, destructive or harmful I can choose to take it ‘captive’ and change it into something more positive or helpful. I am learning to focus on and enjoy the moment.

I was encouraged to learn that we are in control of our own brains and, if we work at it, we can actually grow more brain cells and become as intelligent as we want to be. That we often receive information from the outside world that is untrue, but we process it as if it is true. This results in wrong attitudes, a low sense of self-worth and sometimes depression and anxiety. Believing the lies will process them into physical realities. But the good news is we can intercept these lies and resist their destructive influence by choosing not to let them infiltrate our brains.

“The hardest part about achieving peak happiness, thinking, and health is remembering that we can choose them. Achieving them is not accomplished by putting on a brave or happy face, nor are they obtained by adopting an ostrich mentality and pretending that problems don’t exist…the way to find this state is by harnessing the neuroplasticity God has designed in our brains and choosing to re-wire – or renew – our mind.”

If you are interested in how the brain works, are looking to improve your state of happiness and health, or you have an interest in the relationship between science and faith, then this book is a must read. Described as the owner’s manual for the brain, it’s a book we should all read and re-read if we want our brains to achieve peak performance.

Reviewer: Wendy Rush

‘Switch on Your Brain: the key to 0peak happiness, thinking, and health’ is published by Baker Books and can be purchased at Koorong (online and instore).


[i] 2 Corinthians 10:5

[ii] 2 Philippians 4:8