Wednesday, December 26, 2012

5. Mental Health

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I am more and more convinced that this is the key issue in over-all health.

Let’s look at a well known fact: 40% of the time, a placebo will cure disease, (whether depression, headaches, hair loss, or even cancer.)

A PLACEBO is a medication made of totally inert, non-medicinal material (“sugar pill”).

In order to see if new medications work, researchers will divide a group of people into two groups; the control group and the test group. The control group is given a placebo and the test group is given the new medicine (well done studies are careful to make the two groups as identical as possible and total as many people as possible).

Neither the patients nor those dispensing the “medicines” know who is in which group. The new medicine is considered effective only if the test group has more “cures” than the control group. It is only safe if it has fewer side effects.

(More recent studies suggest this format of study may even be unreliable. It seems they have discovered that those in the “medicine” group can figure out they are getting the medicine instead of the placebo by the side-affects. Thus their brains kick into high gear since they “know” they should be getting well. This totally nullifies the results!)

This is how powerful the human brain is; it can cure itself of even cancer if it just thinks the body is supposed to get better.

If the brain can do this, then it can also make the body sick. So, I have put together a list of things you can do to make sure your brain is healthy, and thus your body.

1) Believe in God. Those who believe in a Divine Authority are healthier and recover from illness faster than those who don’t. Having a belief in God means that you know Someone is in charge and there is ultimate justice. This lowers your stress levels and lets you believe there is a purpose in all things.

It is a big weight off of our shoulders when we realize we are not personally responsible to run the world, nor do we have to depend on those, ummm, “less than noble” people running this country and planet. We can trust that it will all work out in the end.

2) Accept that you are a sinner. You are not perfect. You will make mistakes and bad decisions. Knowing this allows you to relax and not take life so seriously.

Other people are sinners and will make mistakes, too. Sometimes they will even hurt us. Forgive them for being imperfect, too. We are really no different than they are. We are all fallible.

As one person put it “Take life seriously, but not too seriously.” Or as my hubby says “Don’t take life so seriously. You’ll never get out of it alive.”

3) Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Since there is a God, and we are sinners, and sin separates us from God, we know that we need the price of our sins paid for us. We can never pay that price ourselves. Jesus paid that debt on Calvary for us. Accepting this puts us in His service and lets Him control our lives. It makes many of our decisions for us, reducing stress.

4) Obey Christ’s two commandments- “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Doing this gives structure and guidance to your life. It makes most of your decisions for you, lowering your stress levels.

It also causes you to be surrounded by friends and family which leads to a longer, healthier, happier life.

5) Choose to be thankful. Thankful people don’t wear themselves out pursuing what they don’t need. They are content.

6) Read your Bible Daily. The Bible tells us about God. It is His love letter to us. The more we focus on His Word, the more peace we will have in our hearts and the more we will understand what His will is in our lives.

7) Set goals for your life. This gives you a reason to get up everyday and to feel good.

8) Speak positively. The Bible says;

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7

When you hear negative thoughts coming out of your own mouth it reinforces them and makes you a negative person. Positive thoughts and words make you a positive person. Illness is negative; health is positive.

9) Imagine yourself happy and healthy. When you picture yourself, do you see a grumpy person or a smiling happy person? A sicky or a strong and healthy person? This is going back to the placebo effect. Thinking of yourself as healthy will keep you healthier.

10) Keeping a journal will help you to picture yourself happy and healthy and will help you work through those things that crop up to interfere with this thought pattern. People who begin to keep journals have reduced cases of asthma and other chronic disorders.

11) Smile, hug, dance, laugh, play. Choosing to do these things every day, even when you don’t feel like it, will make you healthier inside and out.

Smile all the time (it reduces stress).

Hug at least three people everyday (also a stress reducer)

Dance at least once per day (good exercise and stress reducer)

Laugh for a minimum of ten minutes (produces endorphins; natures painkillers), and

Play often (for married couples this includes frequent sex. Orgasm produces hormones that physically and emotionally strengthen the heart.)

12) Get plenty of exercise and sunshine. I will cover exercise in its own section later.

God made us to spend time in the sunshine. Skin cancer is only caused by sunshine if you are deficient in vitamin A. It really doesn’t make sense that an all knowing, all loving God would create something as all pervasive as sunshine that would harm us. I cover how to get plenty of vitamin A in the appendix.

Sunshine causes our skin to manufacture vitamin D; a necessary vitamin to bone formation. It also causes our skin to make serotonin, the anti-depression chemical, and is increasingly being shown to boost the immune system. We need plenty of God’s sunshine (at least an hour per day) in order to be mentally healthy and strong.

Don’t start off with an hour though. Start with fifteen minutes in the gentle light of the morning and work your way up. Expose as much of your body to the light as you can.

13) Be quiet. We are inundated with noise in our society. Right now sitting at my computer I hear its buzz, the dryer running, the fish tank’s air pump, the answer machine (a “commercial” calling), cars on the road, and on and on (and I live in the country!)

Some of the noises we hear are so quiet we don’t really notice them and others are quite loud.

This constant stream of unnatural sounds distracts us and causes fatigue.

Several times a week you should go somewhere where you can hear nothing man-made (birds and natural running water don’t count as noise).

I also believe we need to take regular media fasts; times when we have no music playing, no TV on, no news, no cell phones, etc.

So many in our world today fill their heads up with these things until they don’t even know how to think for themselves. They are just used to having someone else fill their heads. I am beginning to wonder if most of us aren’t afraid of our own thoughts!

I think you should take at least half an hour every day to just be quiet and let God speak to your brain and listen to your own thoughts.

I also believe it is good to take time at least once per year (once per week would be better) to take a complete fast from all media. Don’t read the paper, watch TV, listen to the radio, surf the net, or turn music on. Let your brain have a break. These fasts should last from a day (once per week) to at least a week (once per year).

News, talk shows, fast or “cheating” music produce stress which encourages disease. We need time off occasionally from these things

14. Listen to positive music. Fast paced music increases adrenaline and causes our bodies to function like they are in danger all the time.

“Classical” (Artistic) music is the best for calming nerves and lowering adrenaline.

Also, the Bible says, “whatsoever a man thinketh, so is he.” If you are listening to music talking about cheating on your spouse or killing people or in any other way behaving in an ungodly manner, you will be desensitized to these behaviors and more tolerant of them. These behaviors (even just the thoughts) move you farther from the first four steps to health listed above.

15. Get a pet and plant a garden. God made us to be connected to His creation.

Pets have been shown to reduce blood pressure and reduce stress. Gardens do the same. Both provide opportunities for exercise.

The more connection we have with God’s creation the more we can come to understand Him and the more naturally our bodies will function.

Remember, when God was done creating humans, He called them “Very Good” not “Very diseased.”

16. Clean Your House. This Study showed that people eat more in a cluttered, messy kitchen. Something about the mess triggers over eating.

Now, think about this. If just having a messy kitchen can trigger this behavior, what is the rest of the mess in our houses doing to our brains and our health? I certainly find it harder to move around and do anything when the house is a mess.

The first, absolutely most important step to cleaning a house is to declutter. Americans have way, way too many belongings. It's as if "Stuff" were our god. If you "need to get organized," you have too many things.

If I were to come to your house and remove everything from your livingroom that your family hasn't actually used in a week, what would be left? How long would it then take to clean that room?

I'm not saying to never have decoration. Not at all. If you walk into a room, see a picture on the wall and smile or feel loved, you are "using" that item.

But if you walk in a room and tune everything out, you are being bombarded with stimulation that exhausts you and affects your health.

Here's another one: If I offered to pay your mortgage off if you could live in a small cabin for a year with nothing but your bare necessities, what would you take with you? How long would it take to clean that cabin every day? How much more time would you have for exercising and spending with friends and family?

Many Americans are being held in slavery by their "things." They work more hours (Often at a job they hate) to pay for a bigger house to store things they never use, often don't even really like but feel too guilty to get rid of. When they do have time away from work, they have to spend hours cleaning, organizing, and storing those things. This robs us of our time to spend with God, family, and friends; the things that improve our health.
So, for maximum health, get rid of the stuff that weighs you down and depresses you. You will be surprised at how much free-er and happier you will be.

16. Eliminate debt. Debt is one of the biggest stress-causers in our country. Did you know that if you just pay the minimum on your credit cards you will NEVER pay them off? The companies make their living by you paying interest. The longer you are a slave to them (“The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7) the more money they make. So they keep your payments low enough to never completely pay the debt off.

By eliminating all debt, you free yourself from this slavery.

The best way I have found to do this is to make a list of all your debts, how much you owe, and at what interest.

Then pick the one you can pay off the fastest (even if it is the $20 you borrowed from Aunt Trudy) and work to pay it off. Make minimum payments to the others until you have the first paid off, putting every spare dime on it.

Then take what you were paying to the first debt and apply it to the remaining one you can pay off the fastest.

When it is done, go to the next one, and so forth.

This employs the snowball effect and really lets you feel like you are making headway quickly giving you the momentum needed to succeed.

Everyone has a budget (spending plan). The problem most people have is that they let the plan control them instead of the other way around. It is less stressful to control your spending plan with ways to meet your goals than to just let spending happen.

Make a list of all your income and all your expenses.

Be sure to include giving to God. He has promised that if we take care of His work, He will take care of us. The general standard is 10% (the word "tithe" means "tenth.")

When you get paid, pay God first and you second.

Pay me?


Put a certain amount (aim for 10% if you possibly can) into savings. It is that money in savings that will keep you from going into further debt. Many try to have enough money in the bank that they could replace a major appliance, make repairs on the house or car, or pay medical bills if they need to with cash.

They also pay their cars off and then keep making car payments to their own savings account, earning interest, with the goal of saving enough to pay cash for their next car.

Over all, financial experts say the best plan is to have six months worth of expenses in the bank. That will cover most, if not all, potential emergencies without relying on credit cards.

Many Americans get themselves into financial trouble (financial illness) by overspending on housing and transportation (the two most common soft spots in people’s hearts and heads). When you go to a bank to see how big of a loan you can get, they will try to give you as much money as possible because they make their living off the interest from your loan; the bigger the loan, the more interest. You must take responsibility for your own financial health as much as for your physical health, and not rely on others to tell you what you can handle.

Christian financial advisor Larry Burkett advised couples to figure how much housing they could afford as 40% of the HUSBAND’S income. What many young couples do is buy a house based on both their incomes and then get pregnant. This presents problems because now they have to choose between losing their home or giving baby the best care possible (mommy care).

Basing your house price on the husband’s income gives you the leeway to handle illness or children without too much stress. In the meantime, the wife’s income can go to pay debts down (including the mortgage), and adding to the savings account.

“Housing” includes 
  • rent/mortgage, 
  • utilities, 
  • insurance, 
  • repairs, 
  • maintenance, and 
  • improvements. 
All this should, in most families, be about 40% of the hubby’s income.
“Transportation” includes
  • car payments, 
  • gas, 
  • insurance
  • DMV fees, 
  • tires, 
  • tune-ups, and 
  • bus fees. 
Transportation should come to around 10-15% of your income.
Food should be 10-20% (these numbers will be different for each family. For example, my hubby and I bought a house in foreclosure and spend way less than 40% on housing. However, with nine children, we spend way more than 20% on food. In fact, we spend more on food than housing. This is normal for our size family.)

Food includes what you buy at the grocery store plus convenience foods (fast food, pizza) you buy because you are too tired or too busy to cook.

It does not include the cost of dinner on mom and dad’s date night, or the cost of lunch when the whole family goes to the fair. Those are entertainment expenses.

Here is a break down of the percentages for each category from the book “Financially Challenged” (after taxes, tithes, and saving 10%:
  • Housing- 35%
  • Transportation- 12%
  • Food- 11%
  • Insurance- 5%
  • Debt- 5%
  • Entertainment- 6%
  • Clothes- 5%
  • Medical- 12%
  • School/childcare- 6%
  • Miscellaneous (including Christmas and birthdays)- 2%
  • Surplus- 1%

Remember, if you spend more in one category than is listed, you have to spend less in another (as my family spends more on food but less on housing and transportation). Your total must add up to 100% or less or you have “Cancer Of The Budget.”

(You figure percentage by dividing your income into the amount you spend in a category. For example, if your net income is $40,000 and you spend $5000 a year on daycare [$100/week], daycare is 12.5% of your income.)

One successful way to keep yourself on budget is called “The Envelope Method.” You get one envelope for each category and divide your money into the appropriate place every payday. If you spend all that there is in one envelope, you are done with that category for the month. If you need to, you can borrow from another envelope, but then it shorts that category.

Of course, most of us spend plastic and don’t actually use cash, making this a little more difficult.

There are two ways to use this method when you don’t use cash.
  •  Have a record page for each category, add the amount to spend in each category at each payday and subtract every time you spend. 
  • Open debit or pre-loaded Visa or Mastercard accounts for each category. Akimbo Card, for example, lets you open an account with 5 sub-cards underneath it (total of 6 pre-loaded MasterCards per account). It was designed for allowances, but they don't really care what you use it for. So, you could have 1 card for housing, 1 for transportation, 1 for food, etc. If you have two adults in the house, that's 12 potintial categories.

Finances are a major source of stress and thus physical illness. If you get yourself healthy in the pocketbook, you will be healthier everywhere.

17. Rest. This is essential to your health and I will give it its own chapter later.

18. Don’t Fear. The Bible says;

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7.

Unsound minds and fear come from Satan. I know we all face "down" times sometimes. I have had my share. But depression has a cause. Fix the cause and you fix the depression.

If you are depressed because you have lousy relationships, fix them.

If you are depressed because you don’t like what God has done or wants you to do, practice submitting.

I know that it is a lot harder than it sounds (trust me, I do), but with prayer, God can help you.

Determine to show love and do to others what you wish they would do to you, not what they DO do to you.

Quit focusing on how bad you feel and how others treat you and your relationships will change.

Read your Bible and spend time praying so God can guide you into the place He wants you.

Remember step one to mental health? There is a God. If there is a God, He is in control. If God is in control and you are in the right place with Him, there is nothing to be afraid of. You are in God’s hand.

19. Don’t Naval Gaze. A good deal of depression in our nation is caused by simple self-centeredness. The more you think about your problems the worse they get. Do something to make someone else feel better and you will feel better too. This is why the Bible tells us:

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” Philippians 2:5

God was giving us the path to mental health. Take care of others and your depression and mental illness will leave.

There is a good chance that if you do these things I have listed here, most if not all of your health problems will disappear. You need to care for your mental health first and foremost.

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