5 out of 5 stars
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What if I told you that after reading Four Keys to the Natural Anabolic State by William G. Alston, you might believe that things like disasters, war, failure, aging, fear, laziness, disease, and lying could be good and that such things as peace, abundance, exercise, health, spinach, success, and honesty could be bad? Would you be interested in finding out why and how this is possible? You can either ask me about it or take matters into your own hands and read the book yourself!
In the preface, the author wastes no time in making grand promises to lead readers towards improved health, greater peace, and peak performance. Even if these assurances sound trite to some readers, the author is clearly committed to fulfilling them. In the realm of science, he delves into the art of attaining a natural anabolic state—a biochemical condition that optimizes the mind and body's performance. If true, this will surely be a damper for the sale of black-market steroids!
Alston starts with a discussion for all those "worry warts" out there on how worry triggers both stress and anxiety. Next, he delves into the fascinating world of the human stress response system, exploring the different types of stress and the crazy cocktail of chemicals that flood your bloodstream. He notes that a person's thinking plays a significant role in defining the type of stress and anxiety they experience. When a stressor is perceived as a threat, they get a debilitating chemical cocktail dropped into their blood supply; however, when they perceive a stressor as a challenge, they get something short of superpowers.
Of course this begs the question of how we deliberately change our mindset. The following chapters answer this question and transport you into the interface of your conscious and subconscious minds. It's like stepping into the movie "Matrix" and being faced with the iconic choice between the '"red pill" (the unsettling truth) and the "blue pill" (blissful ignorance). He ends the book with a treatise on faith and some interesting ways to align science and religion. He further acknowledges that much of this information is not new; nevertheless, the academic community still needs to agree on some definitions and a basic framework on this topic (both of which the author provides).
I appreciated that the book was written in a conversational tone, and the suspenseful buildup in the structure was totally unexpected for an academic read. He used a variety of entertaining sports stories, anecdotes, and a plethora of research to bring his concepts to life. I respect that he's not telling readers to find the "right" mindset, but rather the one that is useful, adaptive, or helpful for each of us personally. He is persuasive in that stress is neither good nor bad and that it mostly depends on how you see it, think about it, and ultimately perceive it. It made me think and even evoked change and action in my recent behaviors.
One thing that could have been improved in the book is the author’s choice of language. The use of provocative terms to describe leftists may potentially alienate a significant portion of the book’s broad readership. He self-identifies as "old as dirt" (at 82 years old), hardheaded, and opinionated. He is unapologetic in how he feels about the political left, if not unnecessarily harsh. I didn't quite see eye to eye with his portrayal of Israel's continued existence as some sort of "miracle," as there were plenty of other important geopolitical factors I felt were conveniently overlooked.
Readers can find evidence for or against anything presented in this book; we could argue and debate about it for eternity. This is not a perfect book, but it is perfect in its impact, and for that reason, I give it 5 out of 5 stars. While I may not agree with every idea, I must admit that the science is solid. It is cleverly organized, forcing us to put our thinking caps on, and I can't ignore the impeccable editing. This book will make you carefully examine your own mindset about not only stress but also people, your job, your relationships, nutrition, exercise, life, and most importantly, yourself. Get ready for some self-reflection! While this book is focused on a Christian audience, I would encourage students, teachers, athletes, coaches, parents, and anyone who is interested in personal growth and living a healthier life to read this book with an open mind.
Four Keys to the Natural Anabolic State
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