Mental Health Awareness Month is over, but we’ll be discussing mental health throughout the year (and past that, of course) here on BPR. Even with all the attempts across social media to talk about mental health and discuss ways to treat and overcome mental health struggles, there are still many within society who often dismiss it as a serious aspect of our lives that needs to be addressed. When we talk about boosting mental health, we often refer to activities we do for therapy or mood boosters like going for walks or listening to music. But there are other aspects of our own mental health, such as thought patterns, that require behavioral changes.
Here are 2 ways I have found to be helpful in improving my mental and spiritual health:
1) Be self-aware.
We must be aware of why we think and feel the way we do about people or situations in our lives. As an introvert, I tend to spend a LOT of time inside my head. It comes naturally to me to put my emotions under a microscope and figure out where they’re coming from.
Being aware of the causes behind our own emotions and actions can make us aware of things within us that need to be addressed. For instance, if a person who constantly says nasty things in anger does enough reflection and examination, then that person may find out that the reason they lash out verbally is because of a situation in their past in which someone may have betrayed them. Every time I make a mistake or say something I shouldn’t, I think of when Jesus says in Matthew 12:34, “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” If it’s not in the heart, it won’t come through the mouth.
“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.”Matthew 15:18 (KJV)
Taking time to examine yourself, especially through prayer, can help you better understand yourself and work to overcome damaging behavior or thoughts.
Jodie Smith, a pastor’s wife with a degree in counseling who has written on mental health from a biblical and spiritual perspective, said in her book Bursting Alive: Healing Your Damaged Emotions Through Your Miracle Journey to Wholeness, “A healthy person lives in a world of honesty and reality.” Working to be more self-aware in order to improve our behavior and mindset requires honesty, which brings us to another way we can improve our mental health.
2) Admit when you’re wrong or made a mistake.
I know, this one can be difficult for those who have the need to always be “right.” Y’all, I will admit that as a strong-headed, knowledge-loving, youngest child, the need to be “right” or have the “right answer” all the time has been a lifelong struggle for me. Learning to become more self-aware can lead to recognizing and understanding our own faults and flaws. When we do, people tend to split off into one of two categories: hiding and denying mistakes or admitting and trying to overcome them.
As Smith writes in Bursting Alive, an unhealthy person who is in denial of their own flaws lives in an invented reality. They shirk responsibility, and they may often try to hide their pain or guilt through addictions or unhealthy behavior (Smith, Bursting Alive, 21-24). Whereas a healthy person is willing to accept responsibility, wanting only the truth.
Sometimes, the truth is that we have made a terrible mistake. Sometimes, the truth is that the reason we’re struggling so much is because we’ve got some cleaning up to do in our hearts. Maybe it’s bitterness or idolatry or addiction or another form of sin. Maybe it’s a weight or burden that we need to let go of and surrender to God.
Being honest with yourself is the first step to healing.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”Psalm 139:23-24 (KJV)
Once we become self-aware and admit our own mistakes, then we can move forward with repentance, opening the door for God’s grace and mercy to deliver and heal us.
That is when God can move and do a work in our lives.
And so I encourage whoever is reading this to take some time and examine yourself. Be open and honest with yourself about the things you’re struggling with. And then find a place to pray so that God can help you heal.