Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This is your brain on joy

I requested a copy of This is Your Brain on Joy from Thomas Nelson partly because I love the cover design and partly because I’m interested in all aspects of psychology. This is Your Brain on Joy, by Dr Earl Henslin, offers a great deal of advice on dealing with mood disorders and the underlying neurological causes.

The first interesting thing about this book is that it’s not a Christians-only read. There’s an emphasis on spirituality and the last chapter deals with the Paul’s letter to the Philippians in-depth. But the book is filled with references to secular media and people, including a quote from the agnostic orator Robert Ingersoll, and the author even recommends that people watch movies like Titanic to lift their spirits. That was refreshing. I’d rather jump off the Titanic than watch the film again, but it’s the thought that counts.

The book also mentions a fascinating follow-up to an experiment where rats were given access to addictive drugs. Ignoring food and rest, they proceeded to dope themselves up until they died. However, in the follow-up research, an experimenter provided them with drugs but also gave them access to toys, mazes and other rats. The addiction rates were nowhere near as high that time, a result which has some interesting implications for humans as well.

The third thing I like is the healthy attitude towards altered states of mind and emotion, whether these are grief, depression or ADD. Rather than claiming that these are due to demons or that Christians don’t grieve (both of which I’ve heard before), Dr Henslin makes it clear that everyone faces these kinds of problems.

However, I wasn’t comfortable with the book’s emphasis on SPECT (3D brain scans) and drugs/herbal supplements. If the author didn’t financially benefit from either of these, I’d be less skeptical. There’s nothing wrong with taking fish-oil supplements, but this book recommends far too many types of medication, and in one case they correct a man’s lifelong anger problem in 48 hours. It’s a bit too good to be true.

So I’d take that aspect of the book with another great chemical supplement – a grain of salt. But other than that, it’s worth reading.


writtenwyrdd said...

So I gather this is a Christian-based psychology book rather than just mainstream psychology? I'm afraid that a particular religious bent tends to make me more leery than the slightly outrageous 'cures' you found a bit eyebrow raising.

I like my science unadulterated with religion of any flavor. Because it smacks of bias, and that's what science tries to avoid.

But I really agree with you on the topic of the movie "Titanic." Didn't care for it.

Marian said...

I'd say it's Christian-influenced (Thomas Nelson publishes inspirational books).

I was actually bracing for something along the lines of "prayer is better than medicine", which I heard frequently when my mother was having chemotherapy. So it came as a pleasant surprise to find equal emphasis being given to medication (even if I didn't agree with the types of medication). And to find secular films and books (like the Harry Potter series) being recommended was good too.

You're right about the bias though (there was a line in the book about science finally catching up with religion). If I wanted to learn about neurology, I wouldn't get something put out by a publisher of inspirational books, and if I need something to help me be a better person, I'll try Think your Way to Happiness, which uses rational-emotive therapy.

But out of all the inspirational books I've read, it's one of the most even-handed and reasonable. I really wish I'd been able to give my born-again Christian family a copy.

writtenwyrdd said...

The mind-body connection is undeniable and not well addressed by many mainstream scientists writing about health or recovery, but in a psychology book I'd figure that would be there. That's not religion to me, but looking at your response I suppose that a 'religion can be helpful and here's how' commentary is probably useful.

Marian said...

That's a really good point I didn't make - the mind-body connection.

The book's recommendations might actually have had a greater effect on me if I hadn't felt these verged on product placement. I like the idea of improving my moods and thinking processes through nutrients.

And the religion was held in check. While the author obviously approves of prayer and bible-reading, it didn’t come across as preaching or an attempt to show non-Christians how much better off they’d be if they converted.

colbymarshall said...

Hm, haven't heard of this one. Is this anything like The Secret? I always thought that book was a bit of a crock...but, it takes all kinds, I s'pose

Tara Maya said...

I realy, really like books with brain scans.

Yes, I have issues.