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Build Brain Boutons
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"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Messages are processed in the brain and sent to different parts of the body through nerve cells. These cells are made up of a center called the nucleus, the surrounding fluid called the cytoplasm, and a boundary called dendrites that receive messages, and one long sending fiber called the axon; it transmits messages to the neighboring cells. Between the sending fiber of one cell and the receiving fiber or body of another, there is a tiny space called a synapse. At this junction are tiny enlargements called boutons (French for buttons) that secrete various chemicals that close the tiny gap and stimulate the next cell to send on the message.

Habits Established

Brain scientists have discovered that any thought or action that is often repeated builds these little boutons on the ends of certain nerve fibers so that it becomes easier to repeat that same thought or action the next time—and thus habits are established. To change a habit one must build new pathways by choosing a different response; this builds more boutons on the new pathway.

Say you are offered a piece of cake when you are on a diet. You think, That looks good! Immediately the coded message backed by, say, 30 millivolts of energy, says to your brain action cell, “Fire!” Just then comes the thought, No, I’d better not! Immediately the chemical GABA is secreted to your brain action cell. This one is backed by, say, 40 millivolts of energy with the message, “Don’t fire!” (The stronger your decisiveness, the more energy will reach the cell). The hostess hands the cake your way, but you say, “No, thanks.” By a margin 10 millivolts of energy your diet wins the day.

What if you yield to temptation? Start working on the new pathway again. You never lose ground on the new pathway—those boutons are not erased by the occasional fall! But every success strengthens the pathway. Eventually you will have developed such a strong response to the right that it’s unlikely you’ll respond in the old way.

Think about something good, be kind, smile. Isn’t it incredible that chemical changes in your nerve pathways are being made that will be a blessing to you when strongly established.

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By Elden M. Chalmers. Excerpted from Fit Forever, compiled by Kay Kuzma, copyright © 2005 by Review & Herald Publishing. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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