Friday, August 30, 2013 in the Journal Science, Sendihil Mullainathan from Harvard, Eldar Shafir from Princeton, and Jiaying Zhao reported that people worrying about money to pay bills lose the equivalent of 13 IQ points. In a release by the Associated Press, Mullainathan states, “When we think about people who are financially stressed, we think they are short on money, but the truth is they are also short on cognitive capacity.”

This study looked at 400 shoppers in central New Jersey giving them financial scenarios. The study also observed real life farmers in the fields of India where farmers only get paid once a year. Before harvest they take out loans and pawn goods to “get by”. The 464 farmers in India had a 25 percent improvement in cognition after pay day.

Of course this study has far reaching implications as we learn more about stress, whether the stress comes from lack of sleep, dehydration, poor nutrition, pain, social problems or now financial stress. The stress cascade including epinephrine, cortisol, leukotrienes, and other inflammatory cells are released and damage the entire body over time. This study show the IQ coming down because of the stress. When the brain is chronically stressed, the body has problems. The stress part of the brain, the amygdala, becomes over activated and the thinking part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, becomes under activated to make it simple. The IQ diminishes. Thus to increase the IQ and cognitive ability, it only makes sense that we want to do things to properly stimulate the thinking part of the brain and diminish damaging stress at all levels.

Our healthcare system is built around treating symptoms not causes. Yet, here is a study proving what we think about, and the stress we are under, does matter. Dr. Newberg, at the University of Pennsylvania, has done research in which individuals who worship 10 minutes a day for two months show improvement in brain function. Worship decreases the stress chemistry of the body. Worship is a way to lower stress and improve your IQ, all without a pill. There are also many other activities which help with brain stress, including exercise, good nutrition, outdoor activities, helping others, deep breathing, laughing, being creative and the list goes on. I think you can imagine some of the activities that increase mental stress. Basically, any activity that goes against our original design has the potential of creating stress. Remember we were never designed to be “stressed out” over money. The study in Science looked at those with too little money or worries based on certain financial scenarios. I am sure the stress would also include those who worry about making money as well.

Again we see Biblical wisdom as I think of the text, “As a man thinketh so he is…” and the Biblical treatment found in Matthew. “Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” This is why I continue to encourage others to develop a relationship with the Great Physician. This is a part of every treatment program. This will lead to a change in physical chemistry with few side effects and far reaching benefits. I hope I have given you something to think about because, what we think about does matter!