Plugged in

We have, perhaps, never been more aware of mental health than we have been during these past few months.

On top of the anxiety caused by the presence of a deadly disease that we cannot see, we have experienced the uncertainty and worry of the financial impact of the lockdown, on ourselves and others around us.

All the while we have been spending our days alone or cooped up with others whom we have at times found difficult in a number of ways.

Even if we have enjoyed being at home there has still been the challenge of physical exercise and variety, two things that are in themselves good for our mental health.

And let’s not be shy, for some of us the last few months have been wonderful too, with more time on our hands, more peace and quiet to focus our minds and bodies on the things that we have wanted to for a long time.

There is no doubt that the last few months have been quite an experience and we have learned much about ourselves and others.

I want to say something about mental health, fully knowing that I cannot possibly say everything that needs to be said.

I am not an expert on mental health.

I simply want to direct us towards a way in which we might use our faith, scripture and knowledge of God to help ourselves stay as mentally healthy as we can.

look at Psalm 23.

Speaking of God, Psalm 23:6 says this, ”Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.

Although this Psalm is used a lot at funerals, these words apply to the living as well as to the dead.

Once a day, usually at night, take some time to evaluate the day coming to a close.

Did anything happen to upset me?

Did anything make me anxious, afraid or angry?

Was anybody unkind to me?

Did I mess anything up myself?

Was I sick or in pain?

Commit it to memory or write it down and put it to one side.

Do not ignore your feelings.

Attend to them.

Know that you are sad, frustrated or angry.

One important feature of good mental and emotional health is to attend to our feelings and not to bury them.

Unattended anger is like a bubble under water — it will rise somewhere whether you like it or not.

We need to be honest with ourselves about how we feel about the events of the day.

Psalm 23:6 : Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

If you read enough of the Psalms you will know that the Psalmist is well aware of the ups and downs of life, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

But he knows that every day good things happen, that God is with him. He is a child of God (you are a child of God, I am a Child of God ) and God is good to His children.

Jesus teaches it too and we need to remind ourselves of this every day.

Now make a list of the good things that happened today, and try to name at least six — just do it — it is a good practice to recall a good number, a good mental health habit, to meet the challenge of positive recollection, and to avoid harmful negativity.

This is not just about mind over matter and mindfulness — it is about acknowledging and being grateful for all that is good.

If we do not, we will jump onto the top of a negative spiral with our little mat of misery and the only way is down.

Stop to thank God for every one of these good things, good moments in the day or good people who you have met.

Now, try dividing the things into three groups:

1. What was my fault? What do I need to repent of? This is a prayer of confession. Again, this is about honesty and integrity before God. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”.

God does not expect us to be perfect, but He does expect us to be honest.

Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us”.

Do you want to sleep with your sins or would you like God to remove them?

2. Next we deal with all those things caused by somebody other than me.

Mark 11:25 says, “when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins”.

On the cross, Jesus forgave the sins of everyone who harmed him.

We must do the same.

Do you want to sleep peacefully?

Then trust him and do it.

3. Lastly, we must try and deal with those things that appear to nobody’s fault but they happened and they trouble us.

They threaten to rob us of our peace, and maybe our sleep.

I mention sleep so often because poor sleep will certainly contribute to poor mental health and poor mental, emotional and spiritual health will also contribute to poor sleep.

Psalm 23:4 says, “even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me”.

Many of us know what it is like to be in a valley, emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

I do, trust me.

It feels like no other living thing is near, it is cold and lonely.

Is there even a way out of this present experience?

And yet God says, “I will be with you”.

Jesus says, “ I will be with you always, I will never leave you”.

Some things may not go away but we are still to trust and know that God is with us.

God will not go away either.

Try the following simple prayer:

God made me and knows me.

God loves me.

God has a plan for me.

I will trust Him

Please hear what I am saying: this is no magic pill for a permanent state of happiness.

Life is tough as well as wonderful.

There may be plenty else we need to do to improve our own mental health — we can talk about that another time.

What we are trying to cultivate here is an attitude of mind and some basic daily habits that can help us stay mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy.

Learned these amazing insights from my spiritual mentor Stuart Gay. Really I thank God for all the spiritual mentors and loyal and trustworthy friends who are my constant support and strength when I feel low.

Forgot to mention when you feel low learn to express your feelings to friends their one word of encouragement gives us a lot of strength and encouragement so surround yourself with loving, caring, and faithful friends.

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