This Is Your Brain on Faith

You may recall that I recently posted about how different experiences can “change our brain” and create more empathy (see The War For Kindness by Jamil Zaki — Book Review). 

Well, I have more good news for you!  In the brain health class I’ve been taking at the local senior center, I’ve learned that religious disciplines such as prayer and meditation also change our brains in a good way.  Such practices calm down the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that regulates the fight/flight response to fear.  During meditation the brain becomes more balanced and we experience calmness and peace.  Over a period of time as short as eight weeks, the brain actually changes and depression and anxiety can be decreased.  (Of course, as Christians we know that we do not meditate on nothing, but on something, and even more important on someone!)  There is a relatively new branch of science called neurotheology which studies the effect of faith on the brain.  This quote from Why God Won’t Go Away:  Brain Science and the Biology of Belief describes some of the findings:

“The sensation that…. the Franciscans attribute to the palpable presence of God is not a delusion or a manifestation of wishful thinking but rather a chain of neurological events that can be objectively observed, recorded, and actually photographed. The inescapable conclusion is that God is hard-wired into the human brain.”

In addition, humans are a gregarious species, and isolation and loneliness contribute to dementia.  People who regularly attend worship services, and belong to a community of faith live longer, and have a reduced risk for developing dementia.  They are encouraged to forgive, and forgiveness actually rids your body of toxins!  They have a purpose in life, which contributes to staying active, excited and animated while aging.

My question is this:  why are people flocking to the gym, and not to church?  It looks as if the evidence points to this as a simple way to increase your health and quality of life.

My assignment for my next class is to write a personal mission statement.  If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I already have one.  You can read it by going to this post:

What’s My Mission?

My mission statement has helped me immensely in making important decisions about what I want to do next in my life, how I want to behave toward others and prioritizing.  I also recommend that everyone try to articulate their personal vision.