|This Is Your Brain On Joy
A Revolutionary Program for Balancing Mood, Restoring Brain Health, and Nurturing Spiritual Growth
Author: Dr. Earl Henslin
Hard Cover, 242 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
This book is divided into three sections, which I will provide individual posts on. I have finished Section I; my initial reaction is uncertainty. I’m just not sure where the book is going. I’m not sure what the good doctor wants from me. I am confident that he has a lot of knowledge to share, a lot of experience and wisdom. I’m just not entirely trusting, though. I don’t read a lot of Christian “self-help” style books. I am much more likely to be found reading about theology or biblical studies. Then there are those Christian books geared at applying Scripture to specific settings, like how to be a good dad or be a better leader. But this book is wholly different.
The first chapter is an introduction to the author, which is understandable. If we are going to trust the author – that he understands our brains and the way we react to the world – then we will have to know something about him. We need to know that he is a well-adjusted and skilled individual. The author shares his own problems growing up – the cultural and familial relationships that have made him who he is. He shares that his current approach to psychology and brain-health has changed, and that this book is an outcome of that change.
Now where many Christian books begin with Scripture and then apply it, the author is upfront that he doesn’t think this is the right approach for his topic. He first wants to look at the brain, our current scientific understanding of it and its part in our mood and health. But it is certain that Dr. Henslin sees his work and research as complimentary to faith, helped by faith and supporting faith. “When I see brains that are simply not functioning on all cylinders, it stretches my compassion for patients,” he offers, intending to help readers understand that the study of brain-maladies and illness can give us a more compassionate and realistic footing with which to approach a hurting world. I concur with his aim but worry that in trying to make it clear that not everything is a spiritual problem – that some things are entirely chemical or physical imbalances – that real spiritual problems will be excused as physical, to be tolerated rather than corrected (and thus bad behavior excused rather than repented of). But I don’t wish to pull the rug out from under Dr. Henslin’s feet yet. Later chapters may yield more information that might color this discussion.
The second chapter, though, made me very uncomfortable. Repeated references to SPECT, a brain scanning technique being highlighted in this book, made me wonder if this book was more information sharing or advertisement. Moving into the next couple chapters calmed my fears a little. Clearly, Dr. Henslin is using this book to share how his experience with these brain scans has changed his approach to patients, and how we can take advantage of our new knowledge about the brain to change our lives in the here and now. So it would be hard to do all that without talking about SPECT.
The next chapter uses some rough images of the brain to show how the brain can mess up. The author’s aim is to give a very high level look at how our brain, part by part, can effect our interaction with the world. With this backdrop, he is able to then move into some more directed and individualized questioning. Henslin is pulling the reader in, helping them to apply the information to their own lives. This is not just about information, but about helping the reader understand that the material he is sharing can help them, or if nothing else, someone close to them.
Having covered the parts of the brain in brief, and how they can go awry, Dr. Henslin closes the section by sharing some key ways in which we can affect brain operation for the better, so called “joy boosters”. Music, relaxation, community, aromatherapy, exercise, along with a number of other items are reviewed and offered to the reader as ways of increasing joy, if not even making life more meaningful. Finally, a large portion of chapter 5 is geared around describing the best diet for brain health. He stops short of recipes, but he offers cooking tips and techniques, like the right spices for kale and fish. I myself enjoy cooking, so his descriptions of the best ways of preparing a healthy and tasteful meal piqued my interest.
Going into section 2, I am wary. But I am enjoying the book, and he shares a lot of useful information. Since this is not my normal read – a book about health, medicine, nutrition, the brain – much of it seems novel. At the same time, I doubt any of the information on nutrition, the benefits of rest, or the value of continual learning will surprise the reader.
Of course, more to come in Section 2.