He may not know it, but physicist Dr Klein has proven the powerful truth of a Scripture verse written over 2,000 years ago. He is so struck by it that he’s written a book, ‘The Science of Happiness: How Our Brains Make Us Happy-and What We Can Do to Get Happier.’[i]
He doesn’t quote the Scripture verse, and he may not even know about it. But the thrust of his book is that dwelling on negative feelings is harmful, whereas focusing on the little things that cheer us up each day does us good. And to help us focus we should keep a diary. He writes, ‘Even in states of severe depression there are moments of happiness, but the person suffering it doesn’t believe they have these moments in their lives,’ he said. Writing ‘happy’ events down is evidence that they do.
More and more research is showing how negative emotions affect not just the health of our brains but our bodies. Depression can reduce blood flow to the brain and is bad for its health. Recent books by eminent neurologists describe patients referred to them with extreme physical symptoms, even blindness and paralysis, whose causes turned out to be psychological. And in a big study, of 70,000 older people over 10 years, Public Health found that out of the 10,000 people who died in that period, most of those who died with dementia had higher levels of stress and depression. On the other hand, studies are finding how good emotions can benefit the brain.
Some tips are –
- Compassionate Thinking. Put aside ten minutes a day to deliberately think kind thoughts about yourself and other people. No negative thoughts allowed! Researchers found beneficial changes in the brains in a group of computer company employees after taking part in a study.
- Write down in your diary, at the end of each day, five things you noticed during the day that you are grateful for. Then when things look black, you can read about the ‘happy events’.
- Doing things for others produces good feelings. A retired builder spends hours every day putting together puzzles donated to charity shops to make sure they are complete. Charity shops are often looking for volunteers, and we have heard how one worker made friends and found herself sharing her faith.
- Find things that make you laugh. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Focusing your mind on good things is Scriptural. Philippians 3:8 tells us to ‘focus your thoughts on what is true, noble, righteous, pure, lovable or admirable, on some virtue or on something praiseworthy,’ (CJB).
- [i] Da Capo Press, 2015, ISBN-13:978-1569243282