An article from Psychology today had considered the question: What is the link between your faith (i.e. “religion”) and mental health? For the full article, visit the Psychology Today website here.
Our mental health is part of the human rat-race.
MENTAL HEALTH AND THE AMBITIOUS
The human race comes in all forms. You could be aspiring for a promotion or some executive position with your employer. You are an ambitious type. This may be your current race to achieve something.
MENTAL HEALTH AND THE NOT-SO AMBITIOUS
Or maybe, you don’t consider yourself so ambitious. Life for you is perfect if you can spend the day in front of a television with your favorite bowl of chips and the TV remote control in close proximity. This is probably the “I-don’t-care” end of the spectrum, where you don’t consider yourself to be someone who should take life so seriously.
Or, you may be mid-way in-between ambitious and I-don’t care. All you want is to have a decent place to live, maybe a good car, and a family that loves you.
Whether we know it or not, all these choices are life pursuits, in some way or the other. Sitting on the couch and watching TV all day is a pursuit. It may not lead to anything life changing, but it was the goal that the individual set for themselves for that day – or everyday.
Of course, aspiring for a promotion, planning to buy a decent home, raise a family and more are all pursuits – Goals that one person or the other has set out to achieve.
WE SHOULD REMEMBER SOME FOUNDATIONS FOR OUR EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING
It is good to have pursuits. It gives us all a purpose in life.
Unfortunately – Pursuing life has led to the neglect of some key foundations in our lives. These foundations are the building blocks that keep us sane and able to enjoy the things we chase after in life. They help us to stay alive and vibrant, even after achieving those goals we prepared for each other.
If you have pursuits in life, or even if you are the more laid-back type who ‘let’s life happen as it comes’, you need to always pay attention to one thing so that you don’t lose it all.
What is that thing that needs your attention, and requires maintenance so that your life, your goals can be meaningful and enjoyable? The answer is: The mind.
“DO NOT LET YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED…”
If you are a Christian, you may have heard the following words many times, and in the world of mental health, it becomes more relevant: “Do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.“ It is something that Jesus Christ said to His disciples. You can find the full words here at Bible Gateway.
The mind and the heart are sometimes used interchangeably, except in the medical field. In medicine, the mind is a psychological thing. The heart is a physical entity (i.e. the organ that pumps blood in the human body).
Just like in medicine, the Bible speaks of the mind and the heart like they are 2 distinct things as well. The mind is the point where a person ponders ideas that are not rooted in them, or has not become a part of that person yet. The heart is the place where that thought has gained a foothold in you, and that thought or way of thinking has now become who you are.
Therefore, when a thought has gained root in a person’s heart, meaning that it is ingrained so deeply in that person, it could either accomplish two things: It could be soothing; or it could be as disturbing as hell – Literally. There is a mid-point, of course, but mid-way between soothing and hell is probably a bad place too.
That is why care is needed on the things we allow into our minds because they could end up becoming deeply rooted in our hearts, impacting who we are, maybe even changing us into someone else – Someone we may not want to be.
You may think that the Speaker of these words, Jesus, had it easy: Do not let your heart be troubled, He said. If He was Who He said He was, the Messiah, the Son of God (disputable by some, but this blog is not to argue opinions or views about Him here), maybe He did have it easy!
If He was Who He said He was, He could perform some unusual acts, like turning water to wine, or feeding more than 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and two fish, and all the other things that history accounts that He did.
Therefore, since He had control over so many things, how could He have any problems with keeping His mind sane and untroubled and unafraid, and therefore, maintaining a heart that stays undisturbed? Afterall, that is what He is asking you to do.
Maybe He is asking for the impossible. The human mind is never really at rest, you may be thinking.
THE RACING MIND
We all know how the mind runs nineteen to the dozen every minute. For instance, you start out at 8:00am thinking about what to have for breakfast.
By 8:02am, two minutes later, your mind has already mixed other subjects in: The subject of your boss at work, and your brother that is getting married next weekend, and what you are going to say to your noisy neighbors when you go over to their house tomorrow, and on and on and on, the mind keeps running.
You started with one thought two minutes ago. You do not understand how you ended up with the current thought that is running through your mind, two minutes later.
Imagine how much worse it is when there are big problems coming at you, and your mind is thinking of them, almost ‘all at once.’
How can Jesus dare to say ‘do not let your heart be trouble‘? Did He not know that the human mind races and afflicts the heart with its troubles?
The ‘racing of the mind’ may be a reason why we should aim for emotional well-being. We don’t want our mind running all over different places. It can lead to insane results.
I am not a psychologist, but know that the professionals have mentioned that chemical imbalances in the body cause these ‘racing mind’ issues as well, such as depression, irritability, insomnia and more. To see the article about this, please visit Healthline.com.
The medical community seems to be in disagreement as to the cause of chemical imbalances, but theorizes that there are many causes why a human brain (aka mind) could be imbalanced to the point of depression or insomnia, and other negative experiences.
THE MIND IS THE ORIGIN OF MENTAL HEALTH
As this blog is not a view on science, neither am I a scientist, I have only two sources of evidence about the mind, from a layman’s view: My observations and experiences.
Everything about us as humans originates from our minds. For example, if a person wants to become an engineer, it starts with a thought in the mind. After the thought occurs, actions may follow, such as enrolling in a college of engineering, to make the thought happen.
If a person is feeling hungry, yes, it is true that the tummy feels it first. However, it is the mind that gets to action to make a meal happen. The mind thinks: Do you cook or do you go out to eat? You make the decision based on what the mind is thinking – and you act on it. Getting a meal started with the mind pondering on how to get it.
If a person is feeling worthless and takes drastic steps to try and end it, such as suicide, the act of harming themselves started with the mind.
At this point, I am not so surprised anymore about why Jesus emphasized: Do not let your heart be troubled. He started preaching it over 2,000 years ago before mental health became a publicly discussed topic.
The point is: An undisturbed mind is a healthy mind. How can we achieve such a mind?
There is something to do for emotional well being to happen to us. Sitting in front of the TV and getting lost for hours in TV shows is most certainly not the answer. It would be a temporary escape.
“Practicing” a peaceful mind is not the answer. From studies, it appears to be attempting to keep the mind cleared up of racing thoughts. Anyone who has tried this before will attest that they usually do not win the race, since the racing thoughts always come back.
Therefore, a ‘blank’ mind is not the answer to peace or mental health. We still need our minds to be able to come up with intelligent, profitable ideas – Not make them blank and non-functional.
Over the last 7 years, I learnt that there was some mind ‘restructuring’ that needed to be done in me so that my thinking could become disciplined, the way Jesus described it – Do not let your heart be troubled.
Ultimately, this is the meaning of not letting your heart get troubled: Discipline. Mental health is not something that can be achieved with ‘practice.’
It requires knowing what to think and how to think. Here is what I learnt about a disciplined mind:
1. A disciplined mind starts with believing in something – or someone
I may not know who or what you may believe in – But I can speak from my own experiences and observations. I tried believing in a career, a favorite sport, authority figures or persons, and several other things around my life that could be considered as having influence around me.
The trouble with this was that if I believed in something about my career and had nailed it to the point of thinking I now owned that issue, the belief in my career did not resolve the doubts I had concerning, for example, other areas of my life: Like my health. Or relationships. Therefore, I had to find something to anchor my confidence for all those other areas outside my career that my mind was not racing with worry about them.
Let’s just say that having too many anchors to pin my confidence upon because of too many worries did not work. Anchors can fail from time to time – Whether they are human. like your parents; or inanimate, like your career.
I had to choose one anchor that could stabilize all the subject areas I tended to worry about. I found that the one anchor that holds all things together is faith.
While I may not be able to go into details in one blog, I discovered, over the past 7 years, that the concept of faith is not an intangible thing. It is the tool that enables a human mind to be able to understand that there is a God Who exists from the Bible. This is despite opinions to the contrary, or my life experiences from the past that may have indicated otherwise.
No one can preach faith to another. We can only experience it. Therefore, I speak of my observations, because everyone needs to get their own!
My experience is this – There is such a thing as an Anchor that sustains mental well-being, no matter what is happening in the world. Your mind is not moved to be disturbed or afraid because you have understood some things from the Bible that is not “open-book” for everyone to know, except they have understood it too.
2. Having a disciplined mind with mental well-being takes work
The idea of ‘work’ puts us to sleep sometimes. In our world, we wish that everything could be done for us because life has become extremely complicated. Imagine all the different areas vying for your attention. Family, friends, work…stuff. Why would you want to add more work to that?
When you do the ‘work’ that impacts your mental health, everything else vying for your attention starts to get easier. In other words, the work for your mental well-being is worth it. It gives you the resilience to deal with the troubles and triggers and ‘trials’ from all other work you have to do in your life.
3. Working towards emotional health starts with a choice
The choice is: Are you going to hang on to trusting yourself alone to be able to handle all the stuff that life throws at you? Or can you make the opposite choice, the choice to become vulnerable and start to believe some new things that may seem ludicrous to you at first – But wait for it…It begins to make sense if you only give it a chance?
For instance – It makes no sense that Jesus Christ Who lived on Earth as a man, and was killed on a cross, just like any common man, could be the One that Christians call “the Son of the Living God.” The concept is baffling, and downright annoying to many minds.
That’s why many don’t believe He could have risen from the dead, like the Bible says. Or if they do believe, they do not think He can do anything for them. After all, no one can see Him. He is Someone talked about in Sunday School or from church pews. Distant.
This is where your choice comes in. Can you make a choice to take a risk away from the way you have always believed or the way you have always seen life – and investigate something new and different? Something such as: If Jesus said He has given me peace that cannot be disturbed on Earth – How is it given? Can I figure out the equation to see if He on-functional’thi was speaking some truth or spouting tall tales?
4. Solve the Equation
This blog may leave you with an unsolved question, or asking for more: What equation do I need to solve for my mental health?
What is the thing I need to know that the Bible says about my mental well-being? When I know it, will my mind and heart miraculously stop ‘racing’ at 120 miles an hour into places I don’t want it to go?
The answer to these questions: Start with the choice first. Will you step out of your comfort zone for a bit by asking: Does the Bible work? Is Jesus real or Who He said He is? Am I curious to find out, or will I be angry that someone is telling me things contrary to what I have always known?
I had to ask myself those questions. I am glad I chose curiosity away from what I have always known. It has certainly been a saving grace, especially as the world begins to metamorphose into avenues we have never known before.
Have you considered these questions before? Did you take action? There is no wrong answer. Leave a comment to chat or vent 🙂
For more on the Bible and the guidance it can give to help you see decisions you need for your life, or start you on a journey of figuring out what God Himself has to say about your career, see more from the blog: How do I know who I am?