Pray often. Brain research shows that people who engage in at least 15 minutes of prayer or meditation daily strengthen their anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a part of the prefrontal cortex where they experience love, compassion, and empathy. The healthier your ACC is, the more calm your brain’s amygdala (the alarm center in your limbic system) will be, decreasing the amount of fear and anxiety you’ll experience.

Pursue healing. Confess your sins and unhealthy thought patterns to God, and intentionally turn away from them and toward healthy attitudes and behaviors that promote love (such as trust, mercy, and forgiveness). The more you use your brain’s prefrontal cortex to govern your limbic system and make healthy choices – despite how you happen to feel – the easier it will become for you to keep making healthy decisions, because you’ll strengthen your prefrontal cortex in the process. The more you invite the Holy Spirit into your life, the more God will bring your thoughts into harmony with His, strengthening your character and purifying your motives as your brain grows healthier. Then God’s perfect love will drive fear out of your life as distorted ideas disappear from your brain and your limbic system calms down. As a result, you’ll experience genuine peace and joy.

Live in harmony with God’s design for life. Take good care of each aspect of your health (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) because God has designed them to be connected. Get enough sleep and exercise, eat a nutritious diet, and build close relationships with God and other people. Keep God’s basic law of love in mind and let it motivate you to give to the world whenever God gives you opportunities to do so. The more you love, the more your brain will grow to support your efforts to love – and in the process, love will come back to you.

Adapted from The God-Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life, copyright 2013 by Timothy R. Jennings, M.D. Published by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.

Timothy R. Jennings, M.D. is a board-certified Christian psychiatrist, master psycho-pharmacologist, lecturer, international speaker, and author. Dr. Jennings was voted one of America’s top psychiatrists by the Consumers’ Research Council of America in 2008, 2010, and 2011. He is a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and president-elect of the Tennessee Psychiatric Association. He also serves on the board of the Southern Psychiatric Association and is in private practice in Tennessee.

Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the new novel Dream Factory, which is available in both paperback and ebook formats. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.

Publication date: June 18, 2013