The thesis of Dr. Marsha Lucas’s new book is simple: By changing your brain, you can change your relationship. In fact, the title says it all: Rewire Your Brain for Love. The basic idea at play is one that is gaining more mainstream notice nowadays: neuroplasticity. In the introduction, Lucas highlights new research that confirms our suspicions that the brain is actually quite malleable. She goes on to capture the idea, as well as its implications for relationships, quite well:
We can, in fact, not only cause the neurons in our brains to change and to grow new connections and pathways, but we can produce new neurons, throughout our entire lives. It’s called neuroplasticity… What does this mean for you and your relationships? If you can grow new connections and new neurons, your old, getting-in-your-way wiring can be redirected and/or overridden. You can rebuild it. (Italics in text.)
This is all well and good. But how exactly does one go about doing this? Lucas’s prescription is a radical approach: “The ancient practice of mindfulness meditation, as it turns out, produces real, measurable changes in the brain in key places so that deeper connections, better love, and healthier relationships can really take hold.”
Lucas continues: This can be done “in as little as 20 minutes a day. Whaddaya think? Are your relationships worth 20 minutes a day?”
As evidenced by the style above, Lucas writes quite conversationally, which is refreshing considering how academic and formal the book could have been. Yet Lucas is able to take the complex idea of neuroscience and boil it down in a highly readable, highly engrossing way.
Rewire Your Brain for Love is divided into three sections. The first, containing just two chapters, is filled with preliminary information to give the reader a basis from which to approach the “rewiring.” The second section contains the bulk of the book. In each of its seven chapters, Lucas works with one singular idea before giving a meditative exercise to complement the words. The final section, just one chapter with a brief epilogue, provides wisdom for continuing this new practice.
Throughout the book, Lucas maintains her unique voice. Even when explaining a complex idea, Lucas is able to break it down into its simplest parts. Her casual writing style helps readers feel that complex scientific ideas are workable and capable of being successfully implemented.
A solid example of Lucas’s ability to relate with the reader comes in Chapter 6 when she discusses emotional reflexes:
We all have those d’oh moments when we realize we’ve blown it with our partners and said something we regretted. And we’ve all had the experience where, upon later reflection (sometimes days later), we finally let the authentic, meaningful response that we wish we’d had the presence of mind to come out with earlier bubble up into our awareness. By practicing mindfulness meditation, you’ll be able to give your brain more time to generate an awareness of choices.
Lucas’s casual, intimate style draws the reader in where more academic prose might have failed to do so. This is in no way to assert that Lucas does not write intelligently. She writes both with intelligence and authority. Those traits, couple with the occasional wit and of course her eminent relatability, make Rewire Your Brain for Love somewhat of a fun read.
This review has focused primarily on Lucas’s writing style and ability to present information in a readable way. But the book’s meditative component is equally important. As stated previously, each of the second section’s chapters culminates in a different meditation. It should be noted that these are not the meditations you will find an experienced Buddhist monk doing. That said, they revolve around the same basic idea: mindfulness. If you are new to meditation, or even if you have some cursory experience, then you will find what Lucas offers to be of great benefit. Each of the meditations is meant to address a different aspect of your psychological outlook. In this way, each meditation is slightly different, preventing the possibility of getting bored or frustrated by one specific exercise.
Rewire Your Brain for Love is one of those great hybrids between self-help and education. If you’re looking for a method to tackle relationship problems (or even just ‘life’ problems), you’d be hard-pressed to find a better primer.
Rewire Your Brain for Love: Creating Vibrant Relationship Using the Science of Mindfulness
By Marsha Lucas, Ph.D
Hay House Publishers: February 1, 2012
Hardcover, 201 pages