Your Brain On Joy, A Book Report, Part 1

25 Feb

Through the miracle of modern science, we can actually see joy on the brain.  Studies have been done to better understand happiness, joy and well-being.  The studies centered on the meditation and prayer habits of Tibetan monks and Franciscan nuns.

Not surprisingly, both groups experienced a sense of well-being, peace and joy during meditation.  The interesting part is that their feelings of serenity lasted throughout their day.  Their time of quieting the mind of typical worries allowed them to handle negative circumstances with grace and slowed down the automatic reactions of anger, frustration and fear.

In terms of the brain, the area of the brain that most lit up in our monks and nuns were the region associated with clarity and happiness.  Areas that were subdued were the area involved in fear memory.

Research by Andrew Newberg has found that spending just 12 minutes a day quieting your busy mind, getting centered on what really matters most in your life or connecting with God or your higher power significantly impacts your ability to have a calmer, more constructive day.

Hands in the air – how many of you are SHOCKED by this information?

I’m guessing not many are surprised.  In the 1950’s Norman Vincent Peale wrote in The Power of Positive Thinking, “A primary method of gaining a mind full of peace is to practice emptying the mind…I recommend a mind-emptying at least twice a day… especially of fears, hates, insecurities, regrets and guilt feelings.”  (Love this!)

This stuff isn’t new it’s just that we now have the technology to SEE it!

calming-mind-brain-wavesSo, why don’t we help ourselves have a calmer, more productive day by ‘emptying our brains of negative thoughts’, praying or meditating?  The number one answer is – time.  “I can’t make the time to learn to do this well.  Even if I knew how to do it well I don’t have the time to do it.”

OK, what is the time-cost associated with ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) which might send your day into a tailspin wasting precious time gossiping, fretting, fuming and stewing?  Does 12 minutes to help prevent ANTS seem like a worth while investment?

Here’s your point of choice for today.  For the next week, pay attention to how much time you spend being frustrated, wound-up, worrying and generally unproductive.  If it’s more than 12 minutes I’ve got an idea for you!

Back to the book report, Henslin’s book This is Your Brain on Joy was written to bring knowledge of how the brain works into the average Christian home, so there are a fair amount of Biblical references.  However, the real focus of the book is on Daniel Amen’s work with SPECT scans of the brain as it relates to behavioral challenges such as ADD/ADHD, OCD, anger, PSDT and depression.   If you know anyone that experiences these challenges, you might want to take a quick peek at the book report.

I’ll be honest, this isn’t my favorite brain book, but I felt it worth outlining because I love SPECT scans – more on that coming in my next blog!

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