Three Ways to Maintain Mental Health

Song of the week – You Are Good –

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Song Chart – Your Are Good

Where’s Your Focus?

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I started exercising together. I can feel myself getting fitter. Each time we work out, it seems like I can do a little more. When I look in the mirror, I see a trimmer me, and my belly doesn’t jiggle when I go down the stairs anymore. There is evidence that my efforts are effective. I feel pretty good about what I’ve accomplished. That is, until I weigh myself.

My stubborn scale will not admit that I have made any progress. I can see it. I can feel it. My workout pal acknowledges it. But every time I step up to the judgment plate, I get a pronouncement of failure in angry red numbers.

If I focus on the positive effects of the exercise, I will keep going. I will get stronger, have more energy, and see more muscle definition.  If I focus on how much I weigh, I will give up. I will stop exercising and start snacking. I will lose strength, have less energy, and lose confidence.  Wherever I focus will determine how I move forward.

Looking at the options written out in black and white, the right answer seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? I should ignore the scale and keep working out. But it’s not that easy. If it were that easy, I would make fitness a  top priority and I would always work out every day of my whole life.There are too many things that blur my view of what should be a simple truth: exercising is good for me. 

Exercising is hard. Exercising doesn’t seem as important as other things. It takes up time, and space, and, sometimes, money. And then there are days when I just don’t feel like it. It’s easy to let the wrong thoughts direct my actions.

I have to control my thoughts in order to achieve physical fitness. The same thing is true for mental and spiritual fitness. If I want to have a life of joy, peace, and contentedness, it starts with controlling my thoughts.

The Bible says in Isaiah 26:3 ESV “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” The NIV replaces the word stayed with steadfast, which means “resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering”. If I want peace, then I need to constantly remind myself of God’s trustworthy character. For me, it’s nearly impossible to constantly think about anything, so I need to surround myself with reminders.

One of the best ways to remind myself of God’s love for me and His authority over my circumstances is to get outside. Romans 1:20 NIV says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” I can take a hike in the woods, walk around the block, or just step outside and look up at the sky, and I see the broad strokes of His master artistry.  The love and thought that go into the design of each leaf of each tree, and the power required to create each skyscape speak volumes to me about the God who also made and loves me.

Another way I can direct my thoughts to God is by surrounding myself with other God followers. Hebrews 10:24-26NIV says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” I love the time I spend with my Bible study group each week. They encourage me to study, they pray for me, and they share insight to God’s word and personal experiences that help me understand more about God.

When I can’t spend time with others, and the weather keeps me indoors, I can still be intentional with my thoughts. Philippians 4:8 NIV says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” The easiest way for me to think about good things is to write them down. I keep a gratitude journal. I am encouraged when I am writing, and I can be encouraged again any time I go back and read the things for which I am grateful. Each entry in my journal is a special gift from a loving God. James 1:17 NIV says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

I guess the bottom line is, I have to think about what I’m thinking about. I have to choose where I focus, because my focus is what moves me forward.