I love how science and scripture intertwine so beautifully. Unfortunately, not everyone perceives this to be the case. Typical objections revolve around claims that “real science” does not harmonize with the creation story in Genesis. There is a wealth of books and resources out there to address that –and I may write a post about it in the future myself. For now, you may want to take a quick glimpse here to address any questions along those lines: www.answersingenesis.org.
Anyway – all that aside, I want to shift my focus to the following verse, which popped up on my YouVersion app the other day:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
After letting the verse sink in, I wanted to find out if anything in the “secular world of science” reflected this sound piece of biblical wisdom. In my search, I stumbled across an interesting statement from an article published in the Journal of Neuroscience:
“…even if two individuals experience similar initial joy from an event, some will savor it while others will not (Wood et al., 2003). The ability to experience and sustain positive emotion is critical to daily function, well being (World Health Organization, 2013), and health (Pressman and Cohen, 2005). Positive emotion is a precursor in the recovery from psychiatric illnesses (Zimmerman, 2012). Experiencing sustained positive emotion has several other salubrious effects including lowering levels of inflammation (Steptoe et al., 2005) and may extend life expectancy (Steptoe and Wardle, 2011).”
So you’re telling me…that by meditating on “…whatever things are lovely…” one may actually extend their life expectancy? Sounds perfectly applicable to me! (Note the word translated “lovely” here stems from the Greek word prosphilés, an adjective meaning “worthy of personal affection; hence, dearly prized, i.e. worth the effort to have and embrace” – clearly something that would elicit sustained positive emotion while meditating over).
Another interesting note from the study is that they could actually observe the response of elongated positive thoughts in the brain as visible “sustained ventral striatum engagement.” I have no idea what a ventral striatum is. Apparently it’s in your brain. Wikipedia says it’s somewhere around here:
According to the Medical Dictionary, the ventral striatum is “associated with decision, risk and reward” – hence the activation in the study. Now the next time someone asks you how your ventral striatum is doing, you will know what they are talking about.
However, one thing I noticed that the study didn’t answer – was how to focus on positive thoughts (or maybe it did… there was a lot of medical jargon that I didn’t understand). That’s where I’m going to refer back to the bible again:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 ESV
With God’s word as a roadmap and the conviction of the Holy Spirit as a moral compass, we are well equipped to discern what things are true, noble, just, and pure to focus on. With prayerful surrender, God grants the ability to resist temptation and focus our eyes instead on the things that help us to better reflect Christ in this world – with an actual, measurable benefit towards our own physical wellbeing as well.
Nicolas C. Day