Happiness and contentment are not our default state of existence

We all experience physical pain and emotional stress but some people handle it better than others. A lot of research has focused on what makes people susceptible to stress and how that, in turn, can trigger depression. Depression and susceptibility are the broken state. Resilience seems normal by comparison. But resilience is not normal, and like happiness and contentment, it is not our default state of existence.

According to a new study, from Eric Nestler’s laboratory at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, reported in the November 25, 2014 issue of Science News, a protein called beta-catenin plays an active role in resilience. Nestler’s lab also identified a large number of new targets that could help neuroscientist understand why some people are susceptible to stress — and how they might be made more resilient.

The nucleus accumbens is an area of the brain most often linked with reward and pleasure from items we enjoy, such as food or drugs. But the area also shows changes in people with depression. “It makes sense — here’s a region important in responding to rewards,” Nestler explains. “One of the symptoms of people with depression is that they don’t derive pleasure from things in life.”

Scientists have already found that religious optimism and faith in the effectiveness of placebo medicine strengthens the human immune system.

I do not think it will be long before future studies will find that regular contributions to charity is a sign of religious optimism; and a strong faith in the effectiveness of God’s help in times of trouble; increases the production of beta-catenin proteins.

Victims who believe in the Divine attribute of Mercy will despair less and victims who believe in the Divine attribute of Judgement fill feel less powerless. Both despair and powerlessness undermine human health.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 450 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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