7 Spiritual Exercises for Enduring Mental Health

The 2012 Olympic games are about to begin. Team selections are being finalised, uniforms presented and bags are being packed. The athletes have been preparing themselves for many years for this very moment. Daily they would have been doing various activities that would fine tune both their bodies and their minds for success.

The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine. Mike Murdock

They practice and practice and practice. They train the brain so much so that it is hardwired to think in a particular way and then behave in a certain way. The Corinthian Christians would have seen athletes training for the Greek Olympics at Olympia, not far from them. So Paul in encourages them to undergo strict training.

24 In a race all the runners run. But only one gets the prize. You know that, don’t you? So run in a way that will get you the prize. 25 All who take part in the games train hard. They do it to get a crown that will not last. But we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
26 So I do not run like someone who doesn’t run toward the finish line. I do not fight like a boxer who hits nothing but air. 27 No, I train my body and bring it under control. Then after I have preached to others, I myself will not break the rules and fail to win the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

I have observed that those with good mental health have habits they follow day in day out, so that when the inevitable stressors come along they can ride the waves rather than be crushed and overwhelmed by them.

Spiritual disciplines, exercises, or habits (call them what you will) have been around a very long time.

Here are my top 7 that I believe are crucial for enduring Mental Health.

1. Stillness. Still candles burn brighter. We can get so busy and frantic that we don’t find any time to be quiet and just be. People with good mental health have learnt the habit of being still. God says to be still and know that I am God.

2. Caring for the Body. Paul tells us that our body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. Do we care for the physical needs of the body? Sleep, diet, exercise, taking of medications etc. People with great mental health learn to look after their body and treat it with care.

3. Feeding on Scripture. Rubbish in, rubbish out! What are you regularly feeding your mind. God’s word, the Bible, has to be a regular part of your daily diet. You can read large sections or maybe just a couple of verses. Write a verse on a small card and carry it around all day with you as a truth reminder. The Psalmist writes

Lord, I really love your law!
All day long I spend time thinking about it. Psalm 119:97

4. Fellowship with a few others. Training with others is crucial. We can spur each other on, offer advise and encouragement when the going gets tough. I encourage you have at least one other person in your life to be your running buddy. Someone who run alongside you and encourage your daily run. The writer of Hebrews says this.

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. Hebrews 10:24-25

5. Prayer. Spend time daily in prayer. Moment by moment offer up your thoughts as prayer. Pray both prayers of needs and thanks. You may see something, feel something or your just having a struggle. Just put it out there as a quiet prayer. Give thanks for any little thing. Develop your thought life as an on-going dialogue with God.

6. Acts of Generosity. Look for various ways in which you can secretly give your life away. It doesn’t have to be financial, it could be simple little things such as making someone a coffee, picking up a piece of rubbish on the ground, giving an encouragement. Generous people I have found have better mental health than those with stingy selfish hearts.

7. Journaling. Writing down your thoughts and feelings has a way of downloading the busyness of the mind. Its getting the clutter out, and in the process, being able to bring various thoughts, prayers, scriptures etc. to bear on what is happening to you. I prefer to do this by using pen and paper. I find there is a better cognitive effect when I journal without using a computer.

    Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through your fingertips. Dawson Trotman

You might have your own list of Spiritual Exercises that you have found helpful. Share them with us by leaving a comment.
Barry Pearman
Image: Michael Connell Creative Commons Flickr

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