The Limbic Brain, Honoring God and the Magnification of Gifts

There was a very interesting series of articles on aging in the Oct/Nov 2016 AARP magazine. In Part 3, p 36, The Happiness Cure for Aging talks about the Limbic Brain. It says, in part:

“The Limbic brain is the part of the brain that runs our emotions, and it may be the most important brain component we have. Complex emotions from the limbic brain are one reason mammals dominate the earth and reptiles don’t. The reptilian brain (the purely physical brain) has control centers for fear and aggression; it runs on negative reinforcement. The limbic brain (the emotional brain) invented love, joy and play in mammals. It lets us love our young and work in groups. A third part of the brain (the thinking brain) speaks the language of thought and words.

“These three parts of the brain are intricately wired together, but careful research shows that most of the time our emotions are in the lead. Emotion is stronger than thought. We are social and emotional creatures from start to finish. So staying connected turns out to be a biological imperative, a critical part of the good life — and a real challenge as we age.

“The good news is that you can foster positive emotions by consciously creating positive environments, driving away stress and loneliness, and reaching out to others. Happiness comes primarily from connection. And being part of a group means giving back to the group. Altruism is a biological need.

“Connect, commit and care!”

I don’t know about the Limbic Brain being the most important, but emotions certainly are something to be reckoned with.  I remember reading once that all of our decisions are really made on an emotional level seconds before we consciously think about them and “make our decision.”  I don’t know if that theory has been proven or not, but I do find some evidence of its truth in my life.  I often find myself reacting strongly to something and then having to go back and figure out why I reacted so strongly and whether or not my emotional response was appropriate or not.  Then, I have to do something with those emotions.  They need an outlet — a physical and emotional outlet.

The clearest case in recent memory for me was on election night when Mr. Trump won the election.  Along with all the election-day pundits, I was caught off guard.  I knew very well the impact the “Joe six-pack” element could have from the election of Jesse Ventura here in Minnesota some years back.  When people get totally fed up with the existing order, look out.

I heard one man whom I respect say “I voted for change.”  Yes, and “change” we will get.  Obama was for change, too.  The question we must ask is what kind of change?  From what to what?

Like it or not, Trumps election put the stamp of approval on racism and bigotry in the minds of some supporters and some are acting out based on that belief.  Mr. Trump may not endorse or support such actions, but they are occurring none-the-less.

My emotions definitely kicked into high gear on Nov 8, and as a result, I have had to take action to try and channel them into positive directions.  I needed an outlet for all of the pent-up energy.  This blog is one of the results of my efforts to diffuse those strong feelings and channel them into something positive.

Another effort is that of doing a daily meditation and posting a Bible verse and some commentary on my Facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/bob.jasper1)

Over the years, I’ve found that the best way to work off emotions is through physical activity.  So, in addition to this blog and my Facebook posts, I’ve also started an exercise regimen that includes renewing my membership in the Y and working out there several times per week.  I’ve also gotten back into taking prayer walks around the neighborhood when the weather permits.

I like what the article quoted above suggested as strategies for combating aging:  connect, commit and care.  We can connect through social media, true, but we can also connect through church activities and various community service organizations.  We can connect not only to those who think as we do, but also to those who need our help.  We can commit to helping them in some way.  There is no better treatment for depression or a simple case of the doldrums, as my mother used to say, than to get out and help someone.  Get involved in their problems and you will soon forget about your own problems.

When we commit to helping others and when we follow through, we show that we care.  It doesn’t have to be in some big, earth-shaking endeavor, either.  It can be something small to start with.  My wife baked cookies and gave them away to neighbors and to support our church’s Mission Jamaica work.  I helped by delivering them and getting a sign made for the bake sale:  small things, but every little bit helps.  And who knows what unknown good those little acts did.

I’m a firm believer that God takes our small gifts and magnifies them.  He magnifies them in two ways:  He magnifies them to the receiver, but He also magnifies them in our own hearts so that we become even more generous.  The more we give, the more we want to give.  I suspect there is some brain activity that takes place so that brain function and growth occurs whenever we bend our will to help someone else and do so with a glad heart.  I think it may be something like what an addict experiences.  He or she takes a little dope and they want more and more.  Only in the case of doing good deeds, the effect is positive, not negative.  Also, while the addict will experience a build up of tolerance so it takes more and more of the drug to reach a “high,” the “high” we get from giving and doing good deeds grows and grows.  I’m quite sure there is a chemical/phyisical change that takes place in the brain when we do a good deed.  The more we do, the greater the change.

They say you cannot out-give God and I believe it.  The more we give to God and to others in the name of the Lord, the more we get in return.  We don’t give with the expectation of getting something back, but if we give with the right motivation, we surely do get something in return.  The Bible says that with the measure you give, you will receive.

At this time of year when we have a natural tendency to give, our limbic system is nourished and we experience that good feeling that comes from being generous.  And it is good to remember that the more we give, the more we receive.  We may not get our just rewards in this life, but we will surely get them.  As my wife likes to say, “Our reward is in heaven.”  And, my belief is that heaven starts here and now, today, when we do things that honor God.

When we honor God, He honors us.

Happy Boxing Day everyone!

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