In a world where contentment and happiness tend to be driven by the entertainment industry, and at a time when the entertainment industry is growing in innovative, all-encompassing ways of keeping our attention in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life, it is easy to become addicted to an oversaturated, overextended and overstimulated state of mind.
How then do we battle the repercussions of this cultural norm? As the demands on our lives become ever increasing and time is consumed, our minds and thoughts are following the patterns of our daily decisions (as menial as those decisions may seem at times). And as Christ followers, if we hold fast to the message Mark was communicating in Mark 12:30 when he talks about loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, then we can't argue against how those four elements are intricately linked. Therefore, those "menial" decisions are explicitly tied to our faith and, therefore, are critical.
God has so creatively designed our bodies, minds and souls to work in tandem with each other. The activities of our bodies influence the way chemicals in our brains are released and flow, which influence our emotions and state-of-being, which then influence the thoughts we have. Our faith dictates the purpose we set behind all we do which then influences our actions…and so on, and so on.
Understanding the science behind how we were created, while having a clear understanding of what we believe and why we believe it, should motivate us to push against cultural tendencies and expectations.
Since people are all wired differently, it can be difficult to apply practical solutions to the oversaturated, overextended and overstimulated mind. But in effort to not only pose problems, here are three practical applications that we can all benefit from:
- Take notice and enjoy the little things: In his book Thrilled to Death, Dr. Archibald Hart says an overwhelming amount of people report that most of their lasting and meaningful pleasures come from relatively minor, ordinary things in their life. Hart goes on to say, "Making the most of every moment of every day is the key to enduring happiness." Whether it is relishing unexpected alone-time, readily taking to heart a kind word from a coworker or easily dismissing a discouraging word from a neighbor, taking advantage of a sunny day by walking around the block, closing your eyes and focusing only on your breathing, reading a few chapters of a good book, cooking a good meal and then taking time to enjoy it or merely allowing a spirit of gratitude to overtake the hurriedness of life, we have the opportunity to squeeze joy out of seemingly minor things.
- Exercise: Studies show that exercise helps alleviate depression, improves memory, helps you de-stress, allows you to focus, and many other positive side effects. In 2013, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center developed clinical guidelines for the necessary prescription of exercise doctors should recommend to patients needing certain antidepressant effects. Another study done by the University of Colorado at Boulder found that even forced exercise helps prevent anxiety and stress. Exercise allows more blood to flow to your brain helping not only with memory, but overall brain function. The University of Iowa did research in more than 100 studies concluding that strength training enhances the ability to focus on tasks. Those same studies showed that doing a lot of regular cardio workouts help people follow through with the goals they set.
- "Take your thoughts captive": In 2 Corinthians 10 Paul talks about waging war in a more lofty means than that of our flesh in order to walk in obedience. At the beginning of this chapter in verse five he mentions, in a simple manner, to take our thoughts captive. However, this is trickier than his simple mention implies. And that is because it's not a 1, 2, 3 process. It is a long, steady process of deciding over and over again throughout the day everyday to recognize unhealthy thoughts and replace them with healthy thoughts, unhealthy decisions leading to overstimulation and healthy decisions leading to gratitude and peace. Much like having a healthy body, this is not something that can be done and accomplished by a magical six-week diet. It is a lifestyle choice made up of little decisions made consistently and regularly on a daily basis.
Living life in a healthy manner is not easy work. It takes diligence, dedication and extra doses of motivation. However, as we live in the tension of this world not being our home and yet the place where we are called to currently, we have the opportunity to thrive here by making every effort to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. May the pervasive truth of Scripture resound with clarity as we seek to live out this love in the holistic way the Bible calls us to.