Book Review - This Is Your Brain on Joy: A Revolutionary Program for Balancing Mood, Restoring Brain Health, and Nurturing Spiritual Growth
Having fought a battle with dysthymia for a long time, I was attracted to the opportunity to read and review This Is Your Brain on Joy: A Revolutionary Program for Balancing Mood, Restoring Brain Health, and Nurturing Spiritual Growth by Dr. Earl Henslin. It took me over half my life to figure out that "normal" wasn't the way I was feeling, and I'm always interested in ways to improve my mental and emotional balance. Dr. Henslin looks at the mind using the power of SPECT (single photon emission computerized tomography) images, and explains things in a way that is understandable and approachable to anyone. Couple that with concrete ways to address specific types of disorders, and you end up with a book that can change the way you view and approach life.
Section 1 - Healthy Brain, Happy Life: My First Hug and Other Joyful Brain Matters; The Ah-Ha Moment; A Head Trip to a Happier Life; Testing, Testing... All Brains Need a Little Help Sometimes; Joy Boosters - The Science Behind Pleasure Prescriptions
Section 2 - Raising Your Joy Quota in the 5 Mood Centers: The Prefrontal Cortex - The Presidential Control Center; The Cingulate Gyrus - The Circular Gerbil Wheel; The Basal Ganglia - The Basement of Giant Fears; The Deep Limbic System - The Depressed Low-Mood Space; The Temporal Lobes - The Temper Lofts
Section 3 - Joy Everlasting: An Apostle on Joy - The Real Secret
Appendixes - The Day I Had My Head Examined; Common Questions About SPECT Scans; A Different Kind of Diamond Head - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Index; Notes; About The Author
Dr. Henslin works with Dr. Daniel Amen at the Amen clinic to perform the SPECT scans and interpret the results. Using a series of tests while the person is hooked up, he can see what areas of the brain are active or dormant during particular activities. Based on the resulting images, it's possible to tell exactly what areas of the brain are falling outside the boundaries of what would be considered "healthy". Dr. Henslin explains in rather humorous and memorable ways what each area of the brain controls, and how depressed or excessively stimulated activity plays out in one's emotional health. For instance, he refers to the prefrontal cortex as the "Presidential Control Center". It controls, among other things, your focus and impulse control. If healthy, you can think through the ramifications of actions before you take them, and you're able to focus on the task at hand. But if this area is hyperactive, you get things like Attention Deficit Disorder. For each of these types of issues, Dr. Henslin recommends a number of therapies and techniques that can bring the problem under control. Diet, supplements, exercise, meditation, and drugs are just a few of the offerings. He also presents his findings from a Christian perspective, so the spiritual side of his recommendations fall towards the Biblical end of the scale instead of Eastern or New Age philosophies. Overall, it's all very solid advice in an easy-to-understand package.
I've made some changes based on what I read here. There's a questionnaire of 101 statements where you can rank your frequency of occurrence. Based on the number of "frequent" or "very frequent" answers, you can determine what areas you may have issues with. It was no surprise that the depression area showed up, but I'm already taking steps for that issue. The other area that I've become more aware of lately (and that the questionnaire confirmed) was a tendency towards an inattentive form of ADD. Based on that, I'm making some dietary and supplement changes so I can become (and stay) more focused. Time will tell how it all works out, but I already feel I've gotten a lot of value from the book just based on what I've done so far. And if you can make positive changes based on what an author has written, it's a pretty good book...