10 things Christians can do to improve mental health
Mental health is a huge topic in today's world. Especially over the last year with the Covid-19 health crisis and social distancing, this issue has become more important now than ever! Even before the pandemic, suicide was the #2 cause of death among young adults.
As Barna research has said, there is a great need to help those who struggle with mental health.
I once struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, but thankfully through God's grace, He delivered me! My husband Justin has also had a struggle with anxiety he is coming out of now.
Below are 10 things we've found that can improve your mental health.
1. Spending time with God
A counselor/former pastor I used to see before he passed said one of the most important things that helped him in his walk with God was to sit and wait for God's presence as soon as he woke up in the morning. Setting aside time with God greatly changes the tone of your day. God has solutions for us that we wouldn't have thought of on our own, and focusing on God centers our hearts around what is most important -- Him! "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." -Jeremiah 29:13
The Bible says to "never stop praying." 1 Thessalonians 5:17. I wonder if that just shows how important prayer is, for us and who or what we're praying for? God always wants to hear from us. He needs a vessel for His kingdom to come to earth. One of the ways this happens is through prayer!
Some people are gifted to be intercessors or burden bearers. If you often get a burden for someone or something, that probably means that God is calling you to pray for that individual or situation. Part of prayer is giving the situation back to God, knowing that He is ultimately in control. If we're not sure what to pray, we can start with the Lord's prayer, as Jesus taught us to pray.
When we set aside time to sing and praise God, our focus shifts from our situation and onto the God who is the ultimate problem solver. He knows what we need before we even ask it. But worship help us to refocus on Him. The Bible says that worship is the anecdote for depression. "To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory." -Isaiah 61:3
4. Connect with others
The Bible says not to neglect meeting together in Hebrews 10:25. This has many reasons, many which have been proven by science! Face-to-face contact has been shown to reduce depression in a big way.
Even though we may not be able to be in the same room, technology has afforded us the opportunity to meet online, whether through Zoom, Facebook Rooms or other video chat solutions. Our weekly Bible study of women from across the US has been a great encouragement during the unusual time we are living in.
If you're not feeling comfortable to go out and meet in person, there are many online groups churches are offering now, or you could even start your own!
5. Serve others
Research has shown that helping others decreases depression. Interesting to note, all throughout the Bible we are encouraged to help those in need! I love the verse in James 1:27 that says, "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."
We may be going through an incredibly difficult time, but there will always be someone who has it worse off than we do. In spite of our struggles, there may be something we can do to help make someone's day a little brighter and make the world a better place. Whether it's buying groceries for someone, serving at church or simply sharing a smile, there are always opportunities to share God's love with others!
6. Keep a positive attitude
Another thing that's been shown through science is that habitual thinking creates ruts in our brains. The good news is, when we choose Christ, we become a new creation in Him! As the Bible says, "The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)
We are continually being formed into God's likeness as He molds and shapes us. Old thinking patterns that may be detrimental are replaced with God's truth.
I remember having a recurring thought in my mind that I was unworthy of love and good things. This lie developed from my upbringing and I believed it nearly all my life. It wasn't until God broke in with the TRUTH that I was set free. My thinking changed. I realized I was a precious daughter of His, and I needed to kick that stinking thinking to the curb, once and for all! I realized that lie, among others, was a lie from the enemy to keep me bound.
One great book that discusses this is Battlefield of the Mind, by Joyce Meyer. We are called to live filled with love, hope, peace and joy, the fruits of the Spirit. If we're not there yet, some healing work might be in order. God has more for us!
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” -Philippians 4:8
7. Work diligently
This goes along with the service aspect of a healthy mental life, but the Bible says in Colossians 3:23 & 24, "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ."
In Proverbs 12:24 it also says, “The diligent find freedom in their work." Working diligently can not only help to put food on the table, it's a form of serving and worshipping God too!
8. Take care of your physical health
There are so many ways our mental health connects to our physical health. In the winter months, some people experience something called SAD, (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which is a depression caused by not having enough sunlight. Sun lamps can help, as well as getting plenty of Vitamin D -- whether through getting outside in the sun or a supplement. (Side note, Vitamin D also helps protect against Covid!)
In my husband's journey, we found that his thyroid was causing some things to be very off. Sometimes overcoming depression requires a doctor's help, and that's ok! God also works through doctors as well as ministers. We are three part beings -- body, soul and spirit -- so it makes sense to consider all aspects when thinking about mental and emotional health and well being.
The Bible says “A cheerful heart is good medicine” in Proverbs 17:22. I remember when I lived with my mom after my parents divorced, we would find something to laugh about, and it helped so much. Now my husband and I like to watch Dry Bar Comedy sometimes on You Tube. According to studies and the Bible, laughter really is great medicine!
10. Move forward and get a vision
What is your passion? We only have a limited amount of time on this earth. What do you enjoy doing, or what really lights you up?
Doing what we love can have a huge impact on our mood, even if we only do it as a hobby or part-time. It may be that your passion emerges out of service to others, or you find it by trying new things. The Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Proverbs 29:18
When we have something to look forward to, we look forward. And the good news is, as Christians who will one day meet Jesus face-to-face, we have a lot to look forward to. 💖
Thank you to FaithTalk Live for having me on to discuss such an important topic!
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