How do you maintain your mental health? One helpful approach, promoted by the UK government, is ‘The Five Ways to Wellbeing’. I usually remember these by the acronym CLANG – UK readers may remember the Clangers on TV (see the picture).
The five ways to wellbeing are great, and there is a wonderful exposition of them on the MIND website. All the evidence says that the five ways enhance people’s lives and when you look at them, it’s obvious why.
But Christians can go one better. ‘Wellbeing’ in the Bible is the real meaning of the Hebrew word, ‘Shalom’ – which is usually translated ‘peace’. But that word does not go far enough; it means wholeness or wellbeing. In the New Testament, shalom becomes ’irene’ – again translated as peace.
The Bible’s writers were talking about wellbeing long before anyone else. They knew that a rounded Christian spiritual life enhances our mental health and resilience. So have a look at the MIND website, then read this; the Five Ways to Wellbeing with a Christian spin.
C is for ‘connect’– at the heart of Christian spiritual life is a vital connection with God, so that is where we start. Connecting with people, making friends and maintaining friendships is so helpful. Yet it is a connection with God that opens the door to ‘shalom’. St Paul put it like this (Romans 5:1-2):
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace [shalom] with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
Being ‘justified’ means being in a right relationship with God – with all our faults, we are forgiven and placed within the circle where God’s love can reach and bless us. That is where shalom begins.
L is for ‘keep learning’– every Christian community is a place of learning. Every week we listen to gifted people talking about the spiritual life, we meet to discuss it and share our thoughts, we encourage reading and exploration. Here’s Proverbs 2:10:
Wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
The stuff you learn within the family of God will nourish our nephesh– that’s the Hebrew word for your soul, your very self – and you will love it!
I sometimes think that 90% of most people’s problems would be sorted if they just started going to a church! We talk about interesting stuff, we make good friends and we get free food. What’s not to like?
A is for ‘keep active’– read a gospel. How many miles do you think Jesus and his friends walked in those three years? Jesus was a walker. I can’t think of a more biblical reason to, forget the car, travel on foot, get out and get moving. You will save on petrol too.
Personally, walking is my lifeline. The rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other promotes prayer and reflection. The time it takes slows me down. When I need to have a serious chat with someone, I usually take them for a walk. I think Jesus did the same!
N is for ‘take notice’– taking a minute to look at a sunset slows us down and promotes calm. Noticing things, the beautiful, the awe-inspiring or the ordinary, enhances wellbeing.
Let’s take that a step further. Worship begins when we notice God. Worship is expressing our appreciation of him, whether at the top of our voices, in a whisper, or in complete silence. Worship is enjoying God for who he is and what he has done. Worship is therapy for the soul, and for everything else, come to think of it.
Train yourself to notice God, not just in church, but in everything, and worship.
G is for ‘give’– so get out of the house and give time and energy to others. Churches have wonderful avenues for service. It gets you out of your own head, makes friends (see ‘C’ above) and it feels good. You can certainly give money, but you get less joy when you sub-contract the work!
It is more blessed to give than to receive
Shalom comes to those who give themselves freely.