Presentation on theme: "Spirituality and wellness. Is God in our genes? Time Oct. 25, 2004 “Does our DNA compel us to seek a higher power?” Do we seek spiritual outlets."— Presentation transcript:
Spirituality and wellness
Is God in our genes? Time Oct. 25, 2004 “Does our DNA compel us to seek a higher power?” Do we seek spiritual outlets because they are adaptive? Does spirituality help humans cope and flourish? Foster health and well-being?
Buddhist Belief Existence of a spirituality “gene”. Inherit a tiny fragment from a previous life. This small “gene” merges with those we inherit from our parents. Shape our physical and spiritual profile.
God Gene Dean Hamer is a geneticist works at National Cancer Institute (NIH). Ph.D from Harvard Medical School. The God Gene: How faith is hardwired in our genes Idea came from a study on smoking and addiction.
Temperament and Character Inventory TCI designed by Robert Cloninger. Researcher on genetics of addiction. Self-transcendence trait made up of: 1) Self-forgetfulness: To get entirely lost in an experience. 2) Transpersonal: Connectedness to the larger universe. 3) Mysticism: Openness to things not literally provable.
Self-transcendence Gene Hamer ranked 1000 subjects on Cloninger’s self- transcendence trait. Got DNA samples from subjects. Focused in 9 genes involved in production of monoamine neurotransmitters related to mood and reward (serotonin, dopamine). Gene for vesicular monoamine transporter. VMAT gene variation high in those with trait.
VMAT gene for spirituality? Buddhists have found Hamer’s finding “amusing and fun”. What do you think? Is our tendency to believe in God due to levels of our brain chemicals? Most religious leaders are not impressed.
John Polkinghorne British clergyman. Winner of the Templeton Prize in Science and Religion. “You can’t cut faith down to the lowest denominator of genetic survival. It shows the poverty of reductionist thinking.” Reductionist thinking: The nature of complex things can always be reduced to (explained by) simpler or more fundamental things.reduced
Spiritual inheritance God “gene” may be a stretch. But spirituality does convey adaptive value. Could be inherited in a broad sense. Might help us cope and flourish. Promote health and well-being. Those who possess this trait more likely to have productive lives and strong families.
Minnesota Twin Studies MZ twins share more in common than do DZ twins. Phobias, illnesses, habits. MZ twins more likely to share spirituality but not religious faith. Spirituality is search for meaning in life, need to relate to something greater than one’s self. Religion is how spirituality is channeled by institutions, specific beliefs and rituals.
Spirituality and religion Spirituality is found in all human cultures. Expressed differently in religious faiths. Common mechanism for transcendence.
Changes in Brain Function Writing and speaking brain active now. Processing language. PET scans show language areas active. Limbic system (emotional brain) is quiet.
Path to Meditative State Begin meditation exercise. Parietal lobe goes quiet: time and space. Frontal lobes becomes more active. Inputs from limbic system.
Deep Meditation Powerful feelings begin to emerge. Time and space disappear. Feeling of peace. Lose world around you. Spiritual experience Centering prayer. Quiet, reflective state. A meditation class
What are the benefits? Spirituality has a biological expression. Benefits: Provides good stress reducer. Neuroscientist Michael Persinger: “God experience is a brilliant adaptation. It’s a built-in pacifier.” Seek meaning in our lives. Hope there is a purpose to it all. Religion provides additional benefits.
Religion and Health Most medical schools now expose students to spiritual issues. Harvard Medical School: Armand Nicholi Question of God Contrasts Freud and C.S. Lewis. Viewpoints about the role of religion in psychological and physical health.
Religion and well-being Benefits of participation in religious behavior. Not just beliefs. Those that attend services on regular basis report greater well-being and better health. More than just social association. Six factors
1. Provides Social support Social support strong predictor of well-being. Community of like minded individuals. Social psych: we strongest bond with others like ourselves. Help others with problems in mind, body and spirit.
2. Support Health Lifestyles Many religions urge moderation in use of alcohol and drugs. Some prohibit use. Others promote family guidelines. Discourage other risky behavior. Natural helpers: Referral sources.
3. Personality Integration Deeper commitment helps people focus on goals and strivings. Life-long path of discovery. Meditation and prayer help us integrate our personalities. Who we are and what we are about.
4. Increase Generativity Erik Erickson’s Developmental Stages Stage Seven – later adulthood, marked by generativity versus stagnation In this stage generativity refers to the adult's ability to care for another person. Not just your own children but the next generation(s).
5. Unique Coping Strategies Providing hope, optimism. Relief from stressors. Place lives in a greater perspective. Positive forms: Working with higher power to get through difficulty. Negative forms (guilt and blaming) offer no relief.
6. Sense of Purpose Life has meaning and purpose. Religion provides framework for life’s journey. Traditions and rites of passage. Add meaning to events. Good times and bad. Sense of control: Not just pawns.
Not alone on our journey Prayer: “You are close to us as breathing and further than the farthest most star.” Provides moral code of conduct. Most religions have a version of “do unto others as you would have them to unto you.” Foster a sense of self-worth, shared meaning from the community.
Dark Side of Religion Religion can become evil. Religious wars. Exclude and devalue others who don’t share your beliefs. Ethnic cleansing. John Lennon’s dream of a perfect world with “no religion too”.
Benefits from other sources? Commitment to an important cause. Examples: Promoting peace, protecting nature, securing equality. Might provide sense of purpose, social support, generativity, personality integration. Healthy lifestyle? Unique coping strategies?
Spirituality takes many forms. Have to be engaged. Not just beliefs, but also actions. Benefits come from active participation. Walk the talk. Generativity: Care for the next generation. Amazing returns on your investment.