Millions of people mark the new year by setting goals for the coming 12 months, and Jim Denison – co-founder of Denison Forum, pastor, author and digital-ministry leader – has teamed with nutrition and mental health experts to explore how the Bible’s model for mental, physical and spiritual health can help.
“Over a third of Americans will make New Year’s resolutions, but only 8 percent are likely to keep them,” Denison said. “What the Bible says about mental, physical and spiritual health can help you beat the odds and end 2021 in a better place.”
Denison points to “vertical,” “horizontal” and “sacrificial” disciplines that Jesus modeled for spiritual vitality. Vertical disciplines are those that deepen a person’s relationship with God – meditation, solitude and fasting. Horizontal disciplines help us maintain healthy relationships with others and include Bible study, accountability and confession. And, finally, the sacrificial disciplines are to deny self, take up your cross (2 Corinthians 4:10-11) and follow Jesus.
Erin Kerry is a certified integrated nutrition health coach and founder of the SparkingWholeness.com website and podcast. She identified five concepts from the Bible about health in general and eating in particular to maintain a proper balance toward taking care of the body. “When you look to the Bible for examples of how to eat and enjoy your food, it is clear that food is a gift that brings pleasure,” she said, “but the mindset you have about your food is also important.” The Bible refers to a believer’s body as the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” Kerry said, to have that right mindset about your “temple,” always remember you are God’s creation and that maintaining physical health is an act of stewardship of that gift. Her five suggestions for living healthier include:
- Unprocess – Eat foods as close to their natural state as you can, particularly vegetables, and avoid processed foods.
- Listen – Your body was designed to let you know when it has had enough to eat and is digesting well. Don’t ignore it. Chronic overeating or emotional eating can eventually silence your body’s voice.
- Eat Gratefully – If food is a gift, take the time to see it as such, be grateful for it, slow down and enjoy it.
- Movement as Worship – Take a “prayer walk.” When ready mentally and emotionally – not from outside pressure – start an exercise routine (talk to your doctor first!).
- Ask – Ask God to take appropriate care of your body.
There is a pandemic within the COVID pandemic . . . a mental health crisis. “As late as June 2020, as many as 40 percent of us were struggling with symptoms of anxiety and/or depression,” said Lane Ogden, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist in Dallas with more than 35 years of experience.
Ogden described the interplay of thoughts and emotions that often lead to negative impacts on mental health. A thought can pop into mind, dredged up from how a person is feeling at that moment, and lead the person mentally and emotionally somewhere false, possibly harmful.
A key to healthy thinking, he said, is to consciously intervene on that thought, examine it, consider it in light of faith and put it in proper perspective. He points to the biblical call in the book of Romans.
“Renewing the mind is an ongoing, dynamic ever-changing task,” he said. “It requires listening for lies, catching them and replacing them with truth. Renewing your mind can be done, but it requires understanding, work, vigilance and commitment. But mental health is the reward.”
Denison and the Denison Forum reach 1.9 million people around the globe with The Daily Article, delivered by email and social media; The Daily Article podcast; and numerous books. He speaks and writes on cultural and contemporary issues where faith and current events intersect.