Simple steps for better mental health
Your mind is incredibly powerful. Inside your skull right now about 100 trillion different connections form a filter you experience the world through. Goals, dreams, emotions and desires within your mind shape the way you behave every day.
I'm passionate about the mind. Here's 3 simple things you could do to keep it healthy - things demonstrated by research AND recommended in the bible …
1 - Be aware! Mindfulness gets some bad press because it is often attributed to eastern spirituality, but it is simply about what you choose to pay attention to. Psalm 8:4 marvels at how amazing it is that God is 'mindful' of mankind, and throughout the Bible are prompts to be aware of our own thoughts. Romans 12 advises that we let God transform us 'by changing the way you think.' (Romans 12:2, NLT). 2 Corinthians 10:5 challenges us to 'take captive every thought' and 1 Peter 1:13 calls on us to 'be alert' (NIV) - in some translations 'prepare your mind for action.'
If your thoughts are automatic and unconscious, you respond in the same way. Becoming aware offers you the choice - if you need to change something, you can.
2 - Take control! The Bible's pretty clear that we shouldn't just let our thoughts wander anywhere. Colossians 3:2 calls us to set our minds 'on things above'. And Paul gives some great advice about where to focus your mind - on 'whatever is true… noble … right … pure … lovely … admirable … excellent or praiseworthy.' (Phil 4:8 NIV). Don't just accept where your mind goes - plan times to think and dream about good and God stuff. Your mind has a natural bias to remember negative things you have experienced. Research shows one of the simplest ways to feel happier is to spend time at the end of each day writing down 3 good things that have happened that day. It’s a simple way to exercise your mind and practice focusing on the positive.
3 - Give it a rest! 'In 6 days God made heaven, earth and sea; He rested on the seventh day.' (Exodus 20:10 The Msg). Did you know that to your brain 'stress' is anything which requires it to respond to the world around it? Don't blast it with stuff day and night - your brain needs rest! An overworked or overtired brain forgets more things, struggles to keep focus and feels more 'manic' with thoughts going round and round, hard to switch off. Emotions like anxiety and frustration are triggered more easily and little things can seem impossible. It's tempting to push the limits I know. Stay up a bit later, plan an early meeting - we all want to cram in as much as possible. But Jesus - God living in a human body - knew he needed rest and often walking away from crowds and needs to get some. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you don't. Respect your body’s need for rest and prioritise it when you can to make sure you get what you need.
Your brain does an amazing job. Don’t take mental health for granted. Respect your mind, care for it, and to make sure you get the best from it, follow the Makers instructions.