©Arlene R. Taylor PhD
Our heart speaks for our soul every moment while we are alive. Listen… as the whispering beat repeats: be…gin, be…gin, be…gin. It’s really that simple. Just begin… again.
What an exciting time to be alive in this, the Age of the Brain. Not so exciting are global pandemics such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, diabetes, anxiety and depression, and obesity—itself alone linked with more than 50 diseases. Obviously, the way people on planet Earth are living today is not working well!
Longevity Lifestyle Matters [LLM] is a brain-based lifestyle improvement program designed to help people prevent what can be prevented and to deal more effectively with what cannot be prevented. The program includes 14 components that research has shown can help people stay healthier and younger for longer, one of which is Life Satisfaction. According to David Schnaiter, the “Satisfaction” component is one of the most decisive factors for healthy aging and longevity.
Personal spirituality has been shown to influence Life Satisfaction. Someone has said that theology is what you perceive in your mind, religion is what you do with your hands, and spirituality is what you perceive in your heart.
I think of spirituality as the spirit in which you live life. Just as you have a level of mental and physical and emotional fitness, you have a level of spiritual fitness which impacts everything you do and all your relationships: with others, with God or your Higher Power (as 12-Step programs put it), and with yourself.
How does your level of spirituality impact your brain?
- Myrna Weissman and colleagues asked 103 individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 to rate the importance of spirituality (and/or religion) in their lives. MRI brain scans showed a measurably thicker cerebral cortex in those who placed an emphasis on spirituality/religion and were less prone to depression.
- A ten-year study of 114 individuals found that participants who indicated spirituality/religion as highly important in their lives had only about a 25 percent of the chance of being diagnosed with a major depressive disorder during the study period, as compared with those who categorized spirituality as not highly important.
- A 2014 study by Kaliman found that the stress response tended to be dampened in participants who placed a high degree of emphasis on spirituality.
According to Neurotheologian Dr. Andrew Newberg, “If you contemplate something as complex and mysterious as God, you're going to have incredible bursts of neural activity firing in different parts of your brain; your brain is going to grow."
Neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Amen says: “If your spiritual life is not developed, it can have a negative impact on the spiritual functioning of the brain. For example, if you engage repeatedly in pornography, it has a negative effect on how your brain functions. If you repeatedly give in to temptation, it makes you more likely to give in to it in the future. Conversely, prayer and meditation on the Bible have a positive effect.”
How is your level of spirituality? Do you need to “up your game” a bit? If so, listen to your heart whisper: Just begin….