Mental Health Awareness: Mindfulness

This past month the Healing and Wholeness Committee observed Mental Health Awareness month with a mile walk honoring those who experience mental illness. While we do not all have mental illness, we all have mental health and varying degrees of wellness.

Mindfulness is a helpful way to bring attention to areas of your overall health that you may have otherwise neglected or overlooked. A simple way to check in with ourselves on a daily basis is by remembering (and perhaps even writing down in a visible location) the 3 B’s. Our Brain, our Body and our Breath. Practicing mindful awareness of all 3 of these parts of self on a regular basis can help reduce stress and increase feelings of peace and overall satisfaction. All 3 elements are also crucial in understanding our Creator on an even deeper level. Yes, even mindfulness (or Holy Noticing as described in Charles Stone’s book about Christ-centered mindful awareness) can be an act of worship!

If God created our mind he cares about our mental health. If God created our body he not only cares about our physical health but also the connection between our bodies and our minds. One way that we can notice and mindfully engage the mind-body connection is by engaging in breath work.

Science shows us that when we have a big emotional response to a stressful experience or thought we feel flooded with stress chemicals (cortisol, adrenaline) for 90 seconds. After 90 seconds, it’s our own brains and thought rumination that can keep us either feeling horribly or instead release us from our own distress by choosing not to dwell on the details of the upsetting event.

In the breath practice below, you will practice 10 deep breaths. This breath practice will give you the 90 seconds you need to pause before responding to the stressful triggers that may arise this week.

Breathe- “For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Job 33:4

Find a comfortable spot to relax either sitting or lying down. Begin to breathe in and out and notice the quality of your breath. Is it shallow or deep? Rapid or slow?

Take 10 deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Send breath to any areas of tension you may feel in your body. You may also enjoy saying a breath prayer. For example, “Holy Spirit (on the inhale), breathe on me (on the exhale).” You can also use an anchor verse of your choosing to bring you back to present awareness when your thoughts have wandered.

Brain- “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

Observe and submit your thoughts.

“Lord I submit these thoughts to you. I praise you that I am not my thoughts. You are my rock, my fortress, my strength, my truth. I have never been hidden from you.”

Body- “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1

Take a moment to listen to your body. What sensations do you notice? Are you holding stress or tension in a certain spot in your body? What signals is your body sending you? You may feel low on energy, hungry for your next meal or maybe just thirsty for alone time with your Creator.

Our body and our brain are giving us information about our experience every waking moment of every day but we rarely slow down to listen. We challenge you to pause this week to notice your brain, your breath and your body and in so doing deepen your connection with your Creator.

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