This Is Your Brain On Joy

I was excited to read this book because it offers help for people suffering from anger, depression, mood swings, anxiety, and addictions. Millions of people struggle with one or more of these disorders, yet few understand that the problem might lie—not with them—but within them “in a very fixable part of their brains’ anatomy.”

This Is Your Brain On Joy begins with a brief introduction to the author and how he came to write the book. Earl Henslin was raised by parents who struggled to verbalize affection, demonstrate physical love, and show open-faced, smiling joy. This background of sensory deprivation led Henslin to develop an almost insatiable curiosity, even fascination, with the subject.

This Is Your Brain On Joy is a reflection of the passion that Earl Henslin has for bringing “brain science into the average Christian home where couples are struggling to love each other.” I particularly enjoyed the real-life examples where people with a history of abusive behavior were given a brain scan that revealed a fixable condition. Like the eighty-year-old angry man who was so difficult to be with that his grandchildren never wanted to visit him. A brain scan revealed an injury in this man’s temporal lobe, caused by a childhood accident where he stood too close to
the batter and received a thud to the head that knocked him out. Dr. Henslin suggested “an antiseizure medication that is especially helpful in calming the temporal lobes” and within forty-eight hours, the man felt so relaxed and calm
that he told his son, “So is this the way other people feel?’

Dr. Henslin’s empathy for other people is evident throughout his book. I especially like this quote from chapter two where he writes: when I ponder what I would like my legacy to be, at least in part it would be for people to say, “Dr. Henslin helped me to be more compassionate to others, and toward myself, through a deeper understanding of the Bible and the brain.”

After reading This Is Your Brain On Joy, I feel that I have a deeper understanding of both. I learned, for example, that Jesus’ command to “Be perfect” in Matthew 5:48 is, in fact, a call to be more compassionate.  I felt this compassion when a friend told me that her daughter was struggling to overcome her fears and I told her about Henslin’s book and how he referred to the Basal Ganglia part of the brain as the “basement of giant fears”.

While the author is at times a bit academic and the suggestions offered for each mood disorder can be a bit overwhelming, I recommend This Is Your Brain On Joy to anyone who is struggling to find more joy in life. It is definitely a worthwhile read.