It’s intriguing to me when science, in this case neuroscience, and the Bible streamline and support each other in an expressed idea. I find the intersection and complimentary nature both fascinating and encouraging. I love how brain science can support with research how God wired us to be like Him in a loving, peaceful state of being.
The findings of world-renowned neuroscientist Richie Davidson share the scientific factors that shape well-being. These include: resilience, a positive outlook, attention, and generosity. The science supports that mental training in these areas can make a difference in our well-being and that within the brain, the neural circuits involved in these areas can “change in enduring ways for the better.”
Let’s explore here how the last three skills suggested by science work in concert with what scripture offers in the form of wisdom, inspiration, guidance and spiritual development. These two bodies of work are teaming up to show how we can live from our best selves.
Outlook, is a skill that entails believing and seeing the best in others, situations and I would say, offering yourself the same grace and courtesy when needed. It requires developing an attitude of trust that all will work out just as it should be (which it always does, just not always how WE want it to).
Davidson speaks to the power of loving-kindness and compassion meditations as a means to impact outlook – something the Bible speaks to quite vividly. (Try an example meditation included in the full article or do the scripture meditation from my previous post)
Attention is the third component of well-being. I tend to think of it more broadly as being in the now. Whichever way you want to think about it – attention or now, the goal is to be in the here and now; live in this moment – the only one you can guarantee you have. Live it fully. Give it your full attention. Davidson highlighted work by social psychologists at Harvard who found that “almost half the time, we’re not actually paying attention to the present moment.”
Hmm . . . This is a difficult skill for many of us to master. Too often we find ourselves thinking about something that happened in the past or planning towards the future (tomorrow, three weeks from now or even next year). That trap of thinking keeps us from appreciating and savoring the present moment and fills our time with unnecessary worry or distractions.
Oh, yeah, the Bible has a lot to say about this one!
Science backs up what those who meditate have known and practice: the art of quieting the mind. When the mind is quiet, it can more easily be present to all that is going on in the present moment.
Enhance your own devotional time by adding in this best practice: learn to quiet your mind with silence and breathing exercises to create an inner quiet. Simply paying attention to your breath can bring you fully to the present moment and help shut out distractions.
(And let me know if after you’ve tried this for a couple of weeks, if you start see a slight change from your new disciplined approach. Mind you – this isn’t a silver bullet, but focusing on the breath is a tangible way to refocus when your thoughts are scattered. It gives you a place to turn to.)
Generosity, the act of being generous and altruistic, Davidson explains, can have a “more enduring activation than other kinds of positive incentives” to the circuits in the brain that are key to fostering well-being.
Showing others compassion, giving, serving, extending kindness, forgiving, or simply caring about others is the best of all the well-being skills we can develop: it’s good for others; it’s good for us. And it falls in line with the life guidelines that the Bible coaches us to follow.
From science and from the Bible, we have four aspects we can control and shape to strengthen and enhance our lives for good: both for ourselves – our health, how we live, how we enjoy life and ourselves, and for the betterment of others – sharing from our best selves with others to positively impact them and show by our deeds our care for them.
Which skill is easy for you? Which one is difficult? As you think about where you are right now, is there one you know you need to work on? What will help you take that first step?
Perhaps returning to resilience and outlook might help: these skills will help you be and live well with yourself and others. Created in the image of Him, I’m pretty sure He wants that for us. Do you want it for yourself?
Be brave. Be disciplined. Pay attention to your own well-being – there are spiritual, quality of life and brain benefits for doing so. Go. Be well with yourself.