God is great—for your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Based on new evidence culled from brain-scan studies, a wide-reaching survey of people’s religious and spiritual experiences, and the authors’ analyses of adult drawings of God, neuroscientist Andrew Newberg and therapist Mark Robert Waldman offer the following breakthrough discoveries:
• Not only do prayer and spiritual practice reduce stress, but just twelve minutes of meditation per day may slow down the aging process.
• Contemplating a loving God rather than a punitive God reduces anxiety and depression and increases feelings of security, compassion, and love.
• Fundamentalism, in and of itself, can be personally beneficial, but the prejudice generated by extreme beliefs can permanently damage your brain.
• Intense prayer and meditation permanently change numerous structures and functions in the brain, altering your values and the way you perceive reality.
Both a revelatory work of modern science and a practical guide for readers to enhance their physical and emotional health, How God Changes Your Brain is a first-of-a-kind book about faith that is as credible as it is inspiring.
Over the past decade or so, numerous studies have suggested that prayer and meditation can enhance physical health and healing from illness. In this stimulating and provocative book, two academics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Spirituality and the Mind contend that contemplating God actually reduces stress, which in turn prevents the deterioration of the brain’s dendrites and increases neuroplasticity. The authors conclude that meditation and other spiritual practices permanently strengthen neural functioning in specific parts of the brain that aid in lowering anxiety and depression, enhancing social awareness and empathy, and improving cognitive functioning. The book’s middle section draws on the authors’ research on how people experience God and where in the brain that experience might be located. Finally, the authors offer exercises for enhancing physical, mental and spiritual health. Their suggestions are commonsensical and common to other kinds of health regimens: smile, stay intellectually active, consciously relax, yawn, meditate, exercise aerobically, dialogue with others and trust in your beliefs. Although the book’s title is a bit misleading, since it is not God but spiritual practice that changes the brain, this forceful study could stir controversy among scientists and philosophers. Illus.