May is Mental Health Month 2018. Today, we want to help you better understand your own “mental health” by comparing it to some common experiences with our physical health.
The easiest place to start is to think about how you are feeling.
If your body feels ill or in pain, this alerts you to a health problem. You’ll notice a headache, but you’ll notice a broken bone more quickly. The same is true of your mental health. If you feel chronically sad, angry, or anxious, these are emotional signs that there may be a problem that can be addressed.
In a healthy life, we should be feeling the full range of emotions at the times and situations that make sense. If you are failing a class in school, it is healthy to feel a level of anxiety or sadness. If you are in a new romantic relationship, it is healthy to feel excited and happy. If a loved one is dying, it is healthy to grieve and mourn.
A bad feeling does not always mean that there is a problem. You’ll be sore after a new workout routine, and you’ll feel guilty when you sin or hurt someone. The goal is not always to change the feeling, but the feeling typically points us to a situation that should be addressed.
Of course, simply knowing how you feel does not immediately change anything. Whether we are considering physical or mental health, we need to consider three elements:
- How am I feeling?
- Why do I think I might be feeling this way?
- What could I change or impact to start to impact the situation?
This is a helpful assessment when you are feeling good and when you are feeling bad. If something is working, figure out why and stick with it!
So, what can you change to impact your health?
We all know that our diet, sleep, and exercise patterns impact our physical health. If we eat more vegetables, we will be healthier. With our mental health, we want to consider three patterns here too:
- Your thoughts. What you think about hugely impacts how you feel. Are you glass-half-full or focused on the worst-case scenario? Are you problem-solving or problem-dwelling in your mind? Look at Matthew 5:26-27 – our thoughts are just as powerful as our actions.
- Your actions. What are your daily routines and habits? Are they God-honoring? Do you allow time for Sabbath, rest, leisure? Look at Matthew 5:14-16 – what deeds do others see from you, and who are they glorifying?
- Your relationships. How strong and supportive is your community?What about your relationship with Jesus? With your spouse, kids, boss? Look at Matthew 5: 21-26 – our relationships matter more than giving a gift to God.