The Awakened Brain | Lisa Miller

Summary of: The Awakened Brain: The New Science of Spirituality and Our Quest for an Inspired Life
By: Lisa Miller


Embark on a transformative journey with ‘The Awakened Brain: The New Science of Spirituality and Our Quest for an Inspired Life’ by Lisa Miller. This book explores the profound connections between spirituality and mental health, unveiling the substantial protective power of spirituality against depression. Delve into the groundbreaking research that uncovers the innate, biological capacity for spiritual development and reveals the physiological basis of depression and spirituality. Discover how cultivating your spiritual capacity leads to an awakened brain, enabling deeper connections with others, nature, and a greater unity.

Spirituality and Depression

Dr. Lisa Miller discovers that spirituality protects against depression after witnessing a dramatic change in patients during a Yom Kippur dinner. Her research reveals that high levels of spirituality in both mothers and children provide the strongest protection against depression.

Dr. Lisa Miller’s interest in the relationship between spirituality and depression began early in her career when she organized a Yom Kippur dinner at an in-patient ward where she worked. The four patients who attended, normally agitated and volatile, became calm and happy as they sang and prayed together. Intrigued by this change, Miller began researching the factors that increase children’s risk of depression. She discovered that poverty and having a depressed mother are risk factors, whereas an affectionate parenting style is protective. However, Miller still wondered about the potential protective impact of spirituality.

Her research analyzed survey data from mothers and children who reported high levels of spirituality. She found that when both the mother and child reported spirituality was important to them, the child was 80% protected against depression. This intergenerational transfer of spirituality was the strongest protective factor against depression she had found.

Dr. Lisa Miller’s findings show that spirituality can protect against depression, and high levels of spirituality in mothers and children provide the strongest protection. Her research opens a new frontier in exploring the science of spirituality.

Spirituality and Mental Health

In her book, Miller discusses Dr. Kenneth Kendler’s groundbreaking study, which reveals the connection between spirituality and mental health in adults. Kendler used pairs of twin siblings to establish that spirituality is embedded in our genes, and humans are born with an innate capacity for spiritual development. He found that a person could be spiritual but not religious and spirituality protects against depression, alcoholism, and negative stress. Furthermore, the presence of spirituality is twice as protective against depression for teens than for adults, and the disentanglement between religion and spirituality is stronger in adolescence than in adulthood. Miller argues that spirituality has a genetic basis and forms part of our individual spiritual beliefs and personal development as humans.

The Brain and Spirituality

Research has shown that there is a link between depression and spirituality stemming from differences in brain structure. Individuals with a family history of depression have a thinner outer cortex in the right side of their brain responsible for perception while those who are spiritual have a thicker cortex in the same areas. People who are high-risk for depression but also spiritual have a thicker cortex than those who are low-risk. Studies show that spirituality is heightened during times of struggle and suffering, and failure to embrace it can increase the likelihood of depression. The research suggests that spiritual awakening is written in our biology, and a spiritual brain is a healthier brain.

Signs of Hope

After struggling with infertility, Miller receives a fertilized duck embryo and the subsequent events lead her to believe in synchronicities and messages from the universe. She starts paying attention to these signs, which helps her make a decision to pursue adoption. Miller reflects on the two types of attention and concludes that spiritual healing is about tuning in to what life is revealing to us.

Want to read the full book summary?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed