View Full Version : HOw Spirituality protects the brain against depression.


Kunga Dorji
01-26-14, 05:02 AM
Another interesting link to some of the evidence on neuroplasticity:
http://www.dyslexiaonline.com/blog/spirituality-protects-brain-depression/



Engaging in regular meditation or another spiritual practice is linked to a thickening of the brain cortex, according to new research published in JAMA Psychiatry. Furthermore, the relatively thicker cortex was found in exactly the same regions of the brain that had
otherwise shown thinning in people at high risk for depression, claims Dr. Lisa Miller, professor and director of Clinical Psychology and director of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Prior research conducted by Miller and her team revealed a 90 percent decrease in major depression in adults who placed spirituality or religiosity at high importance and whose parents suffered from depression.

janiew
01-26-14, 06:22 AM
Doing what one is supposed to do is a very worthwhile pursuit.

It's called dharma...

There's a lot of this of every religion / church.

So I say choose your slant and grow with it...

Corina86
01-26-14, 06:44 AM
It could be true, but there are many things to consider: it's not entirely known what causes depression in the brain, so the idea of the thinner brain cortex is just an assumption, since it can either a cause or an effect of prolonged depression. Also, I did read one study that mentioned more intelligent people being prone to depression and another one that concluded that intelligent people are also less prone to being religious (I just read this, don't start throwing stones at me!). This could explain the correlation to some degree.

Another thing, religious folks often take comfort in they prayer, meditation, community and the fact that there's a better after-life. Meditation benefits everyone, with or without any belief and so does having a supportive community- something which most people lack and which is enough to cause depression in itself. Also, most religions attribute hardships in life to some god's great master-plan and even believe that hardships can improve chances of a better after-life; after all, it's not that important how hard this life is, as long as you spend eternity in absolute bliss.

And even if the study is true, if you simply do not believe than trying to practice some religion just for the benefits is brings you, will result in failure. You either are religious or spiritual or you're not, case in which you should find something more appropriate to relieve depression or any other mental disorder.

someothertime
01-26-14, 06:53 AM
so does having a supportive community

Quoted for brevity... that's pretty powerful Corina...

Abi
01-26-14, 06:59 PM
MY problem is for those of us who are extremely rational and educated - it's impossible for us to believe in "woo".

To a lesser extent, CBT is even a problem for us - it's very difficult for us to learn to tell ourselbves that the world is not a *****, sad, scary, infuriating place when we objectively KNOW it is.

I maintain that for people above a certain level of rationality, perceptiveness, education and IQ, pharmacotherapy appears to be the only truly viable treatment at present.

Kunga Dorji
01-27-14, 09:07 AM
MY problem is for those of us who are extremely rational and educated - it's impossible for us to believe in "woo".

To a lesser extent, CBT is even a problem for us - it's very difficult for us to learn to tell ourselbves that the world is not a *****, sad, scary, infuriating place when we objectively KNOW it is.

I maintain that for people above a certain level of rationality, perceptiveness, education and IQ, pharmacotherapy appears to be the only truly viable treatment at present.

If that is what you believe - then nothing else will work for you as you will have generated your own nocebo effect.
Look closely at Bruce Lipton's work- as he traces all this from cell membrane to perception.
I remember attending his lecture:

"No black boxes here, no room for faith- just a linear linkage between the activation of RNA transcriptase by signalling at the cell membrane level, and the alteration of which signals are generated ( via the the generation of higher or lower levels of cortisol) according to whether we percieve a situation as threatening or promising.

The really high end of the psychology of self transformation has been diecussing the mechanisms by which we can turn around our perceptions for many centuries.

What follows, is not "woo" (a childish term used by those who would evade serious discussion by subtle derision), but is a highly sophisticated instruction manual on exactly how to go about altering ones perception of a given situation, in order to remove the perception of threat:


<style type="text/css">TD P { margin-bottom: 0cm; }P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }</style> The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning of things is not understood,
the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.




I actually do know how to work this- do you?

someothertime
01-27-14, 09:51 AM
belief and knowledge are secondary to mood.

I believe what your saying Kunga is that one has a choice to adopt, practice and alter ones mood from mere choice. This is a highly individual thing.

Were it not, then history would have shown us so. Any choice comes about from experience... that choice sits atop of some seriously complex neurobiology, which no amount of understanding or reasoning can fully unravel.

Knowing... is only part of the picture. Stillness in some earthly creatures ( sharks ) occurs via movement. Perception is relative... were it not it would not exist.

I actually do know how to work this

If that were true you would not be here. The fact is that clarity can help to alleviate much of our self generated discontent. Harnessing that clarity and realising the value relies on underlying chemistry... yes... to an extent it's cyclical... not always though...

Amtram
01-27-14, 11:07 AM
For some people, spirituality actually exacerbates depression. There are even large, randomized, blinded, and controlled experiments demonstrating this effect. Spirituality protects against depression for people for whom spirituality protects against depression.

peripatetic
01-27-14, 11:40 AM
moderator note


the spirituality section, as noted above, is for:


This section is here to offer a place for members to discuss meditation and spirituality as a means of treating and/or managing their ADHD or other disorders.



Our goal is to offer a safe, supportive atmosphere for all members. We are a diverse group, coming from many different cultures, religions and backgrounds. It is important for us to remember and respect that. Therefore the following guidelines apply:

*The bashing of other religions, groups or individuals is not permitted.

*Evangelism is not permitted in this section. Share what has encouraged you, don’t sell it.

*There is a Private Debate Forum (http://www.addforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=18251) if you are interested in a more in-depth exchange of differing opinions.


found here: http://www.addforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=34038

the thread start is in bounds as a means of coping with adhd/co existing conditions. debating that means is NOT within the boundaries of this section and any further debating will result in post removal and infractions as needed. this is NOT the place to debate. this is the place to say what has worked for you. start a new thread if you want to say something else that's worked...and move to debates if you'd like to discuss the relative merit of this approach.

cheers,
-peri

Abi
01-27-14, 02:07 PM
I agree. This is not the appropriate place to discuss the benefits of rationality and atheism / agnostism in the management of mental illness.

Many years ago, I started a topic on this subject, located here (http://www.addforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=112824).

Anyone interested in exploring those ideas may use that thread.

peripatetic
01-27-14, 02:17 PM
thank you, abi, and hopefully with that we can return to topic x

Kunga Dorji
01-27-14, 04:29 PM
belief and knowledge are secondary to mood.

I believe what you are saying Kunga is that one has a choice to adopt, practice and alter ones mood from mere choice. This is a highly individual thing.

Were it not, then history would have shown us so. Any choice comes about from experience... that choice sits atop of some seriously complex neurobiology, which no amount of understanding or reasoning can fully unravel.



Actually - what history has shown us- in both the Western and the Eastern traditions is that this process of altering mod by choice is an achievable skill.

It is not easy to achieve, and it requires persistence, and supportive friends to help the process.

However all the major Eastern spiritual traditions are devoted to the formal practice and enhancement of these skills. They have not persisted as long as they have because they were ineffective.

I have had my first two Qi Gong lessons in the past fortnight. The teacher, a former drummer of a well known Melbourne rock band is now a TCM practitioner. He has studied under very highly regarded Chinese master in Shaolin- the whole works- meditating in the snow, swordfighting etc.

He has just started his business- so I have been lucky enough to get two one on one classes.

The effectiveness in summoning one's energy and alertness is palpable, and in the context of the issues with regulating alertness and processing speed that are documented in ADHD, Qi Gong (energy-work) is obviously a potentially useful practice for us to investigate.

The critical claim that is being made here is that one can use one's mind to change one's brain.

In this context, simply choosing to assume that this is possible makes it possible to harness this effect.

All learning and acquisition of habits good or bad is accomplished through this well recognised process of neuroplasticity.

However, if we are not conscious of it, it still happens.

A classic example of the negative neuroplasticity that can occur without directed attention is the evolution of a chronic pain syndrome.

If we do not become aware of this

someothertime
01-27-14, 05:47 PM
Thankyou for the clarification and substantiation Kunga Dorji.

I am grateful you are here, and choose to share your perspective.

Kunga Dorji
01-28-14, 05:10 PM
It could be true, but there are many things to consider: it's not entirely known what causes depression in the brain, so the idea of the thinner brain cortex is just an assumption, since it can either a cause or an effect of prolonged depression. Also, I did read one study that mentioned more intelligent people being prone to depression and another one that concluded that intelligent people are also less prone to being religious (I just read this, don't start throwing stones at me!). This could explain the correlation to some degree.

It is likely that the causes lie earlier in life, where the person has not had the necessary life experience to stimulate neuroplastic growth in particular areas of the brain.
The increase in cortical thickness seen with mindfulness based psychotherapies is pretty straight forwards and well documented and fits well with known understandings of the feedback mechanisms in the brain.

Now- re the intelligent versus religious question-- that really is a bit of a red herring in the context of this discussion, but a very interesting one:
1) Intelligence, like all psychological characteristics, is largely based upon surveys of the very narrow group favoured by academic Western psychologists when they do their studies. They are mostly drawn from students on campusses of the universities where the studies are done.
The acronym for this group of people routinely studied is rather funny:
Westernised, Industrialised, Educated, Rich & Democratic
-e W.I.E.R.D.
(no - I did not make it up :))
2) The educated group within society is very much dominated by the dogma that everything is material. People like John Dawkins, who sees us as merely robots whose purpose is to replicate our DNA, are great examples of this dominant theory.
3) The discussion is actually about spirituality- and there is terrible confusion between religion and spirituality.


Another thing, religious folks often take comfort in they prayer, meditation, community and the fact that there's a better after-life. Meditation benefits everyone, with or without any belief and so does having a supportive community- something which most people lack and which is enough to cause depression in itself.

Both correct and well observed.
However- meditation does involve familiarising oneself with one's mind- and that is sometimes not particularly easy. Meditation can be enjoyable and somewhat addictive, but sometimes is plain hard work.


Also, most religions attribute hardships in life to some god's great master-plan and even believe that hardships can improve chances of a better after-life; after all, it's not that important how hard this life is, as long as you spend eternity in absolute bliss.

I personally adopt the rule of thumb that "I chose this incarnation because of the advantages and lessons it would give me".
Now I have no way of proving that, and do not care to even try-- but I do know 100% that that view forces me to confront the difficulties in life head on.
When really difficult things happen (and they have happened and are still happening even right now in my life) taking this attitude shifts me from "victim mode" to proactive mode.

Same thing with the "reincarnation" idea.
The bottom line of that one is "get it right now-- or you will be kept in after school until you do get it right".

Not easy- but feeling defeated and slipping into a well of helpless despair is much worse. People can and do remain in chronic depression for years, living in a half world.

So the above two ideas are ones that I adopt that help me navigate life and have a better time. Despite the difficulties, I am making new friendships, and I am still learning about the subtleties of overcoming some of the interpersonal issues in ADHD.


And even if the study is true, if you simply do not believe than trying to practice some religion just for the benefits is brings you, will result in failure.

Very well spotted- but the real answer is more subtle.
Meditation practice does alter our behaviours, and if we choose to adopt it so that we may bring more happiness and less distress into the lives of others, then we have a powerful motivation, that will work.
All you need to do is look at the question of practically manifesting the love for those you love.

Meditation practice does not, as you correctly observed, require a given religious belief. It does require an ethical orientation.


You either are religious or spiritual or you're not, case in which you should find something more appropriate to relieve depression or any other mental disorder.

This is where the definitions become important.
"Spirituality" involves the underlying principal that we use to order and structure our priorities and ethics.
We ALL have a spirituality, whether we like it or not.

Now as for being religious or not-- I really am rather a hard edged analytic type. The reason I rejected the religious tradition I was born into was that I was being expected to believe in ideas that were mutually contradictory.

I spent many years as a hard edged atheist.
I adopted Buddhism because I liked the way advanced Buddhist practitioners acted. I loved the subtleties expressed in Zen:
ie From the 3rd Zen Patriarch a piece called faith mind:
[quote]
<style type="text/css">TD P { margin-bottom: 0cm; }P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }</style> The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning of things is not understood,
the mindís essential peace is disturbed to no avail.
[quote]

I could see the truth of that, and I could see that people who fully realised that idea and carried it into everyday life were truly admirable-- and often very funny.

I certainly was not into any of the religious practice side of the whole thing.
However- as time went on, I saw how those practices could be turned into a tool to further my understanding of Buddhist method- which clearly does make us happier if we investigate it and apply it with sense- and not slavishly stick to one tiny fragment of it.

So, I do not agree that one is "religious or not". I will say though that I personally fins that control and hierarchy are really important part of many religious institutions, and that I will not submit to that.

Kunga Dorji
01-28-14, 11:07 PM
Thankyou for the clarification and substantiation Kunga Dorji.

I am grateful you are here, and choose to share your perspective.

Hi, thankyou for the good question.

The truth is that my ADHD symptoms have caused a lot of damage in my life- and my children are still very badly affected.

It took years to get diagnosed, then years to settle onto a path that was really forward progressing.

I do not like the suffering that ADHD causes, and I am determined to do what I can about it. Equally, being here is good for me and makes me think about the problem in ways that would not have occurred to me without the perspective of other people who are in the know.

I am having a good deal of difficulty re-connecting with my son- and I am still getting useful ideas from interacting here. It is, as all worthwhile transactions should be, a win-win situation.

I would clarify a little more on the issue of choice:

When we start this process of mindfulness and deliberately cultivating our ability to pay stable attention so that we can focus our intention well, we start from a place of confusion and pain.

It is virtually impossible to make exactly the right choice the first time.
The first thing is to get out of the procrastination trap and make a choice.

The next thing is to evaluate the outcome of that choice as well as possible.

In making choices I always try and analyse "which choice looks likeliest to reduce suffering, to bring more happiness to all and to refine my ability to see more clearly and make better choices".

Those are the basic parameters that guide my choices.

I really don't think there is much sense getting caught up in the endless free will/predestination debate. The Buddha commented 2,500 years ago that it was essentially insoluble and time dwelling on it was wasted time.

I do know though that if I act as though I have free will, and that I can improve myself and my brain, and if I pay the best attention I can to each of the actions I plan with that in mind, then the results are consistent with a world where free will exists and brains are plastic.

That's all I need to know.