Neurotransmitters in our brain

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Dear Young People,

Do you like big words? I usually do not like them, but sometimes, if it is a name like Bhaktamitran, I do not mind. Big words scare us because they look complicated.
The big word ‘neurotransmitters’ does look scary and complicated. Neurotransmitters are so complicated that even big scientists do not know much about it.

Neurotransmitters and motivation
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are released in our brains when we feel pleasure, anger, sadness, and so on. These chemicals are also responsible for cravings and addictions in people. Scientists try to study these chemicals. When we see a plate of steaming biriyani, for instance, these neurotransmitters give us a temporary feeling of pleasure. Once that feeling stops, we crave for that good feeling again. But another plate of biriyani does not now give us so much pleasure. We need a variation of food to feel the same pleasure. So when you feel good about a storybook or a chocolate, remember that it is just a chemical feeling.

Neurotransmitters are studied in mice, rats, monkeys, dogs, and humans. As long as we are in this body, we will be influenced by these chemicals. But if our joy and pleasure is wholly dependant on these chemicals, we are no better than animals.

We do not need to understand how these chemicals work. Young people like Sam who is studying to become a doctor, and Prathiba who is doing her postgraduation may need to know these matters, not the rest of us. But we can remember one little thing, and that is that we are superior to animals.

The Bible commands us to be happy and motivated. So do we eat a lot of chocolates or some thing else to pump our brains with the right chemicals? No. The word of God also tells us to be self controlled and indulge in worldly pleasures with moderation.

Open your Bibles now and fill in the blanks.
Phil 3:19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their __________, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on ___________ things.
Col 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on ___________ things.
Jam 5:5 You have lived on earth in __________ and __________. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.

Motivation in the life of a believer
So do we need to be moderate and miserable? No, we must be moderate and motivated. The Bible wants us to be highly motivated and happy, as we will see at the end of this article. But to rely on short-term earthly pleasures is not right.

Many of the short-term paths to happiness lead to addiction. With addictive substances, the brain requires more of the substance to produce the same effect. If the addict does not seek help, very soon, the addict will not be able to get much pleasure out of the addiction and will lose all motivation. It is true that you can get addicted to alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and pornography. But you can also get addicted to food and video games. Why, you can get addicted to craving itself.

When you get addicted, the addiction takes God’s place in your life. Playing video games becomes your god. Or your stomach becomes your god. This is idolatry.

Isn’t it interesting that the Bible says just this?

  • Eph 5:3,5 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an ___________ —has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
  • Col 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is ____________

Have you craved for some thing very very badly? Then when you finally got it, what happened? You probably found that you were not as happy as you thought you would be. You felt empty inside of you until you began to crave for something else. Everytime you have a craving, because of the neurotransmitters, you feel some pleasure. However, once you get the item, you must crave for something else to feel motivated. Knowing this, can you see how pointless worldly goods are? Progressing in heavenly things is so much more satisfying and sensible.

Craving for worldly things is thus an addiction that the Bible calls greed or lust. We studied about greed in a two-part lesson called Materialism (Part 1, Part 2).

  • Luke 12:15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

For worldly people, happiness and pleasure is marked by chemical highs. For us, things must be different. Even when we are in all all-time low, we know that it is well with our soul. That kind of inner happiness is what Paul was referring to in his letter to the Philippian church.

  • ___________ in the Lord always. I will say it again: __________! Philippians 4:4

That is what Nehemiah meant when he spoke to the weeping congregation. Not just Nehemiah, but the Lord and Peter too.

  • Do not grieve, the __________ of the Lord is my strength. Neh 8: 9,10
  • ____________ in that day and _________ for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets. Luke 6:23
  • But ___________ that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be ___________ when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13

As spritual people, we are commanded to be happy. But this happiness is not a chemical happiness but a joy that comes from the Holy Spirit.

  • For the kingdom of God is not a matter of __________ and ___________, but of righteousness, peace and __________ in the Holy Spirit, Romans 14:17

(Nahomi Dhinakar; Published in Youth Column of Dhyanamlar October 2006) Click here for other Youth Column articles

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