Theology Thursday: Habits for Healthy Emotional Wellbeing

By Shelly Hogan, Faculty, College of Theology

friends undergoing the practice of forgiveness

The Greatest Commandment calls us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind …and… you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Matthew 22:37, 39 ESV). To do this we must pay attention to the health and wellbeing of the whole person. This intentionality needs to include our mind, body and emotions. In fact, self-care is the prioritizing of one’s physical and mental health.

Paul reminds us, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body,” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, ESV). In this passage, the directive from Paul is for humankind to worship God with their complete person. With that in mind, there are three areas of focus for optimal mental wellbeing.

Foster Your Faith

Our beliefs about God and ourselves are pivotal to developing healthy habits and growing in Christlikeness. In fact, it is this very thing – God’s goodness and our identity – that has been attacked from the Fall until now. It is essential for us to develop a biblical view of God and of ourselves. Throughout scripture we are taught that God is good (1 Chronicles 16:34) and His love for us is great (1 John 3:1). We are created in His image (Genesis 1: 27) and loved beyond measure (Psalm 139:7-10). God is for us and not against us (Romans 8:31) and so much more.

To mature in this, it is important to read and memorize scripture, to rehearse the goodness of God through prayer and meditation, and to practice daily gratitude. One verse that can facilitate this is 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 which reminds us to take all thoughts captive to Christ. Our thoughts build our beliefs and because of this It is vital to refuse to entertain any negative and harmful thoughts that disagree with what God says about us.

Perfect the Practice of Forgiveness

This may seem cliché, but soul healing and emotional wellbeing really do begin with forgiveness. Forgiveness is the unconditional release of someone from an owed debt. It is a gift to one who has injured us and something we do in our own hearts as we make an emotional exchange of our feelings of hurt and hate for God’s grace and mercy. Forgiveness may not restore relationships, but it will restore personal peace. Ephesians 4:31-32 tells us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” We forgive because we are forgiven and in that we have freedom.

Forgiveness is the powerful dynamic of faith and mentioned over 100 times in the Bible. The choice to forgive is a crisis of will, and something we will most likely not feel like doing. However, as believers in Christ, we bring our will into obedience to God’s Word and trust our emotions will follow; and they will as we walk in our choice to forgive.

It is vital to note that forgiveness is a process and is often released in layers. Be patient and kind with yourself as you lean into the journey of forgiveness and healing. It may be beneficial to have a friend or counselor walk with you as you submit your hurts to the Lord, release the offenders and forgive. While forgiveness may be hard, be assured, it will be worth it.

Find a Fitness Rhythm

Much of theology, psychology and biology recognize the mind, emotion and body connection when it comes to emotional wellbeing. When we exercise, we release endorphins. These endorphins have been shown to help alleviate symptoms of depression, stress and physical pain, which will benefit emotional health significantly. Even Paul recognized that “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come,” (1 Timothy 4:8). Often, we take this as an excuse to avoid healthy movement. Yet, Paul is reminding us that physical exercise is valuable while we live on the Earth in our mortal bodies and will enable us to serve well for the long haul.

The adage, you are what you eat, does have validity and it is helpful to be aware of the impact of food on one’s overall wellbeing. In fact, many physicians are studying the impact of gut health on emotional health and find an interesting connection. The bottom line: It is essential to take care of the whole person for true vitality to ensue.

To love God and others well it will require healthy self-love and intentional self-care of our minds, bodies and emotions. You matter to God and others and are well worth the investment of health. Take care of you!

Read more Theology Thursday blogs and learn about theology and ministry degree programs offered by GCU's College of Theology today. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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