[RE]FOCUSING on Health in 2021 – Part II
As I shared last time, change only happens with intent. As I wrote about ways to care for the body last week, noting that as Christians it is a matter of good stewardship, so this week I am focusing on the mind, focusing on the connection between body and mind. You will also find a few resources to help with caring for your mental health at the bottom.
As I noted last week, to care for one’s self – body, mind and spirit – is a proper response of a believer. The Apostles show how living in the body in this world is a practical faith matter. Paul wrote, ““Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, ESV) The Apostle Paul also focused on caring for the mind. In fact, among the New Testament writers, he is the most prolific writer when it comes to giving advice about caring for the mind. He pictured it as a daily battle, when he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4–5, ESV) Did you catch that? “Take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
There was an old acronym from my days of learning computer programming in high school: GIGO. It stands for Garbage In Garbage Out. If you typed in bad commands in MS-DOS, the program would not do what you wanted. Most times, it would not do anything at all. The same is true for our minds. Our brains are command centers. They not only receive the information from our senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. Our brains act on that information. They can discern. What does that mean? They learn to interpret the meaning of the information. Our brains can compare and contrast information. Our brains can put things into perspective, helping us be circumspect in understanding. Then we do not act on bad information or jump to conclusions. Too many people today get fed a perspective and do not challenge it.
There is one source of absolute truth to which we can always turn: God’s Word. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (12:2, ESV) True mental health starts here. I am not saying that medications should be thrown away if your doctor or psychiatrist prescribe them. Medication alone is not the answer. Challenging some of the distorted thinking that occurs with depressive disorders, anxiety disorders or any severe and persistent mental health helps with recovery and avoiding relapses.
One more reason to care for your mind comes from a recent study on the relationship between mental health and your body’s immunity. In 30 years of studies documenting the impact of psychological factors on the immune system’s vaccine response, Senior author Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, the director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University College of Medicine. Shared a recent article in Perspectives on Psychological Science that shared how stress changes the body’s response to vaccines, suggesting “people who are more stressed and more anxious might take longer to respond to the vaccines.” If you are thinking about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, this research indicates that caring for your mind will help your body more readily receive the vaccine and increase the benefits of it in the face of the growing coronavirus pandemic.
For more information on caring for your mind, especially in this new year, check out the following links:
If you are struggling with substance abuse and mental health, SAMHSA recognizes the challenges posed by the current COVID-19 situation and has resources to assist:
Christie Hansard, Michigan District, LCMS Mental Health Case Manager and Parish Nurse Coordinator speaks at Immanuel Lutheran before the start of the school year, discussing especially Christ-centered self-care.
Next week we will look at the connection between our souls/spirits and the mind and body. See you next time, here at the corner of faith and mental health.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Chad Wright