Mental Health Monday: 4 Strategies for Intentional Living
May is Mental Health Month! So every Monday we will be sharing some strategies for mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. I love taking a holistic approach to counselling.
Check out this article by my favorite Christian meditation app and resource, Abide:
It’s Mental Health Monday and we’re teaming up with Brittney Moses all month long to bring more awareness to mental health. Brittney Moses is a Los Angeles-based writer and content creator – passionate about the intersection between faith, mental health, and wellness. Brittney’s popular blog advocates for wholehearted mental wellness for everyday living. Join Brittney, Abide, and UHSM in our 31-day Mental Wellness Challenge throughout the month of May. Click the button below to download the calendar and follow along with us!Join our 31-day Mental Wellness ChallengeDownload Calendar Now
Every Monday in May, we’re bringing you exclusive faith-based advice from Brittney – designed to help you put your mental health first and grow your faith. This week, we sat down with Brittney to ask her a few questions about intentional living.
Regarding intentional living, what are a few daily bad habits that people tend to overlook when it comes to our mental and emotional health?
Often in the rush of busy days, many of us fall into the flow of our thought patterns without taking the time to step back and reorient how we’re really doing that day or where our mind turned that corner into a downward spiral of anxiety or negativity.
For one, many of us start the day from a state of reaction instead of from intention. From the moment that we crack our eyes open, pick up our phones, and sift through our social media feeds to catch the latest status update or check our morning emails, we’ve already given our mind over to the hum of society and the demands of others. We’ve set ourselves up to let the rest of the world set the tone and thought priorities for our day.
Even if we’re not engaging, we’re still mentally orienting ourselves around what we’re seeing. And if what we’re seeing is anxiety-provoking or negative, it’s already planted a seed in our emotions. We can’t always predict how the day will go, but we can choose to create a moment of space and take back ownership of our mindset before we let the rush in. Think about what seeds you’re planting before the day begins.
There are also some practical ways we can take care of our bodies as it fuels our brains such as staying hydrated and getting in some essential nutrients. We can understand food as two things: fuel for our body and the chemical building blocks for our brain. Having a lack of essential nutrient sources such as found in greens, proteins, and fatty fish (omega-3’s) or energy depletion because you haven’t been eating, can both be immediate (and resolvable) reasons you’re mood has been feeling off. Likewise, water is literally lubricant for your organs, including your brain. 75% of your brain is made up of water. Dehydration can slow down brain functioning, cognition, attention, and focus. So consider what it may look like for you to stay hydrated throughout the day, such as keeping a refill bottle by your bed or on your desk!
What are some ways people tend to self-sabotage their joy and what can they do about it?
This really ties into the idea of foreboding joy. It is when we convince ourselves to fear things that either haven’t happened yet or don’t even exist. Sometimes it’s so bad, we won’t allow ourselves to get too happy, enjoy ourselves too much or experience the fullness of a great relationship. We self-sabotage our own joy all out of the fear of disappointment. Fear that it’s only so long before something goes wrong. We’d rather be prepared than endangered, but these walls soon become a self-imposed prison.
It can look like overthinking every situation. You think that if you replay things in your mind often enough or think about it long and hard enough you’ll somehow breakthroughto gain control over the things you humanly can’t. This is where we need to create better thought boundaries of knowing when we’ve done all we can do and when it’s time to let go. And once you’ve given it to God do not take it back. You trust Him, you take each day at a time to make the most of the present and you trust that no matter what the outcome is, you have the ability to readjust, bounce back and keep going forward as you have time and time again with previous trials in your life.
We may also draw conclusions on situations too quickly. Most of these conclusions are shaped by our fears. And this sabotages any chances we may have had to experience the fullness of love, hope, or joy because making assumptions puts us in a premeditated state of mind. We are now going into the situation from a place of fear and disappointment.
In these cases, we also have to learn how to go into situations with an open mind and heart because many times the things we fear do not turn out the way we pictured in our head. But if you are already set in your head then you will begin to see and confirm things from your mentality and not as they genuinely are. This is called a confirmation bias. It will cut you off from experiencing the potential beauty of moments that only an open heart can see. And you can maintain this all while remaining realistic about your situation. Again, that is by trusting that if it doesn’t go the way you hoped, with God as your strength, you have the ability to adjust and move forward as needed.
For those of us that overthink, what advice would you give to aid us in stopping?
From one overthinker to another, there are a few things that have helped me overcome overthinking and have become a practice:
Set aside a designated time to think about the issue on your mind. When your mind is running on and on about something that does not pertain to the moment that you’re in, or you can’t focus and you miss out on the present.
Designate a time when you have more peace and better timing to think things through. Literally say to yourself “After dinner, I will sit down and journal or think this through, until then I have to let it go.” You’ll feel better because you can redirect your focus to what’s in front of you without the lingering feeling that things have gone unresolved.
Pause and realize you’re caught up in a mental loop. Literally, do a breathing exercise- deeply in and out for ten seconds. Visualize yourself pushing everything out of your brain and to the side. Take a walk. Meditate solely on what’s in front of you. Readjust your concentration and slow down. In fact, pick a time to not think about anything. That could be reading a book, taking a bath, taking a walk, painting a picture, you name it.
And definitely consider prayer and mediation. Realize that you are not alone. Overthinking is very much hand in hand with control issues. You feel everything is relying and weighing on you so you take on the total burden- the burden of having to know everything, having to figure it out, having to have all the answers. When you have God, you are never alone. So whatever is out of your control can be given to Him because in the grand scheme of things He is working all things together for your good.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
You share often about the importance of treating our mind like a temple. Speak to us about that.
We often like to quote 1 Corinthians 6:19 about our body being a temple, and I like to encourage that this very much includes our minds. Because the temple is the sacred place where God meets us. The temple houses the core of who we are. The temple, our minds and bodies, is something that we live with every single day. Only we can take responsibility for our own temple.
In one way this means making our mental health a priority. Are you taking time to check in with yourself or have you been running on the never-ending hamster wheel of life and consuming everything that comes your way? Many of us just accept our mentalities as what they are and don’t see them as important enough to regularly stop, reflect and realign.
My encouragement to you is to start becoming more self-aware and pay attention to the red flags your mind is sending you. Where is your mind going when it wanders? Get to know some of the usual patterns your mind drifts toward. Take the time to step back and get your temple in order. That could mean taking a social media hiatus, separating yourself from certain people, talking to a counselor or therapist, or practicing a better work-rest life.
It also means filling your temple with truth. That could look like getting on a daily Bible reading plan or routine that keeps your spirit filled such as meditation with Abide. It looks like keeping yourself planted around other individuals who will speak God’s truth into you when you’re lost in the lies of your fears, doubts, and insecurities.
And treating your temple with love and respect. Some of the conversations we have with ourselves internally would never be appropriate if it was said to another human being out loud. Seeing your mind as the temple is understanding that your mind deserves to be treated with love and respect- even from yourself. You’re in partnership with yourself, not enemies. That means being gentle with yourself through failures and mistakes and letting them be learning, growing opportunities rather than a means to attack your identity. It means understanding you are still worthy of love and respect even though you’re flawed. It means working with your thoughts to better understand how you need to seek help rather than hating yourself for having the thoughts you have. You are the temple. Treat yourself as such.
We couldn’t agree more, Brittney. We’re absolutely thrilled you’re here to help us become more self-aware this month, as we fill our temples with truth. For more content with Brittney, be sure to download the Abide app. Along with our library of 2,000+ meditations, we’re releasing new content in the next few weeks featuring Brittney! Don’t forget to download the 31-day calendar too, so you can follow along with our Mental Wellness Challenge all month long.