How to Activate Your Little-Known Genetic Gift

Your Unexpected Gene

My daughter just got the results of her ancestry genetic test in the mail. She is a 100% Ashkenazy Jew. I guess that saves me the money for taking mine. Genetic ancestry companies are booming. There is a fascination with our genetic provenance. People need to know their origins. As much as we cherish autonomy and self-determination, we long for belonging. We crave an inherited identity.

This year, I learned of a fascinating genetic discovery. I had the opportunity to participate in a certification program on mental health at The Spirituality Mind Body Institute, sponsored by Columbia University. Its director, Dr. Lisa Miller, researched and established that our capacity for a personal spiritual life is, on average, 29 percent innate. Spirituality is now part of our genetic makeup.  

What is the gene good for?

Genetics respond to an evolutionary need. Spirituality, then, must offer us an advantage. Dr. Miller found that “adolescents with a strong personal spirituality were 35 to 75 percent less likely to experience clinical depression.” (Miller, The Awakened Brain, p.61). Those with a significant spirituality by age twenty-six were 75 percent protected against a recurrence of major depression for the next ten years. Even more, those who were highly spiritual and suffered major depression were protected against recurrent depression by a staggering 90 percent. (p.141-142). Spirituality serves as a vaccine against depression.

Dr. Miller’s findings in her study of mother/child spiritual sharing are striking. “When the mother and child were both high in spirituality, the child was 80 percent protected against depression… a child was five times less likely to be depressed when spiritual life was shared with a mother.” (51-52). This measurement is among the highest protective factors in resilient literature.  

Spirituality is a measurable and scientifically proven preventive tool against depression. Brain resonance shows that spirituality and depression share some common physiology. The same gray matter areas activate during depressive and spiritual states.  

How do I activate my spiritual gene?

But how does this spiritual anti-depression vaccine work? Many of us recall how we raised fundamental questions about our journeys during adolescence, midlife crisis, or life setbacks. What is my life purpose? Am I a good person? Have I fulfilled my potential? What is important in my life? Our internal hardware seems to pause at determinate life stages for a much-needed reflection. This reflective state, in many cases, induces melancholy and depressive moods. It is through these moods that we activate the spiritual brain. The process of existential spiritual questioning and its depressive and contemplative blues is the equivalent of lifting weights at the gym. During depressive moments, our spiritual muscle extends and contracts, strengthening. Genetically encoded, those moments of uncertainty develop our resilience. Depression, in its mild form, is a call for spiritual development, and spiritual development entails the prevention of future depression- a wonderful dance.

You are biologically spiritual. We all possess a spiritual capacity. Spirituality, we know today, is essential to our well-being. Neglecting it would entail ignoring part of your brain. There are multiple ways of deepening your spiritual journey. Some entail institutionalized religion, meditation, prayer, or spiritual reading. What’s important is not to ignore, reject, or panic during periods of deep reflection and questioning. Unless the severity of the depression requires professional assistance, those processes are opportunities for developing and strengthening your mind for future challenges.  

Are you buying a genetic ancestry test? Ask for your spiritual gene. It is there.    

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