Tag Archives: healthy habits

Physically Healthy Habits: Crying

health diagram by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

It’s been a wild couple of weeks. I went out of the country for a brief vacation, went to my favorite rappers’ concert (Andy Mineo and Lecrae), and got sick while having very little time to recover. Emotionally during that time, I saw someone that had recently hurt me very badly, and hospice was called in for my father who is expected to live only a few more weeks. A couple of days ago, I found myself sitting at my dining room table bawling my eyes out. I knew that most of my tears were me releasing (physically) the emotional trauma of seeing that person again, and some of it was about my father’s impending death. But what I didn’t expect was that I would feel so much better and lighter after crying. Physically, crying had been incredibly beneficial to me.

You might think it’s weird that I’m blogging about crying as a physically healthy habit. But I’ve found that the body needs to shed tears to be healthy. Crying helps us to be physically healthy in the following ways:

  • Tears release us. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt once I cried a couple of days ago. It had actually been a few months since I had really cried that hard, and I knew that my body was needing to release a lot of stress. In addition, I knew that I needed to release what I was feeling from seeing that “someone,” so I had actually TRIED to cry for days afterward. So this cry was a few days in coming. And when it did, I actually felt the tension leave my body: my shoulders relaxed and my breathing deepened and slowed. Psalm 56:8 says that the Lord collects our tears in a bottle. And when we cry, we release our tears and fears to Him, which in turn releases us physically from being bound by those things here on earth. Need a good release? Try crying!
  • Tears purify us. Many times, our tears come from being a part of the refiner’s fire. Isaiah 48:10 says, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction” and to me, that means that every situation in my life has been filtered through the hands of God. He knows what He’s doing by placing me in these situations. But let’s be honest: refining usually brings tears: tears of frustration, anger, sorrow, hurt. Growing and becoming refined as silver or gold comes at a costly price that often hurts as we are stretched and shaped into more Christlikeness. Shedding tears as a part of that journey is not weakness, it’s an expected part of the affliction. As a bonus, that purification happens both inside and out: you are shedding toxic chemicals from body as you cry and bringing clarity to your mind.
  • Tears make way for joy. “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Once I cried this week, I was ready to move forward. Many times I’ve found that crying is the last step before I can proceed after some sort of affliction. It’s harder for me to find true joy when I haven’t gotten past something else. Even more, it’s impossible for me to grasp onto God when I’m holding on to past afflictions. I need to cry—to release and purify myself so that I can step up to the plate and hold onto God. And usually, there is something else God wants to place in my now empty hands! This time, it was some business blessings that He could not release to me until I had released my tears to Him. So if you want joy, know that tears come first!

Crying may not seem like a physically healthy habit, but it is! Even the Bible notes that Jesus wept (John 11:35)—and if Jesus did it, then we should, too! Tears can help us become stronger, better people by releasing us and purifying us so that we are free to accept the joy that only God gives. Are you ready to cry your way into physical health?  🙂

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Physically Healthy Habits: Touch

health diagram by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Believe it or not, I’m not a real touchy feely person. I tend to hug my close friends, but I’m pretty good with a handshake or slight nod to others. As someone who is not very touchy feely, there is one place where I allow more physical touch than others. I have noticed that when I visit my family, I am unusually touchy with my mother. I like to sit on her lap (yes, I am 37 and love sitting on my 70-year-old mother’s lap) and hug her a lot, and many times she will come into my room to hug me and tuck me into bed. It’s not just because I’m a momma’s girl—it’s because I physically crave that touch from my mother. And I realize that I crave it so much because of the long droughts of physical touch I experience normally.

Science has shown that physical touch is incredibly important to our health. And while some people (like me) are not as comfortable with physical touch, here are a few things to remember about this physically healthy habit:

  • Physical touch is a necessity, not a convenience. Studies show we need at least four hugs per day to survive! I don’t know how I’m surviving, because it is difficult for me to warm up to someone enough to allow them to touch me. Perhaps that is you as well. But I eventually realized the importance of allowing others to touch me in appropriate physical ways. Jesus was always touching people, and my favorite story is of Him healing the leper in Matthew 8. This man had not been touched by ANYONE in years, and Jesus could have healed him with words alone, but He chose to touch him. I believe Jesus touched this man to show how important physical touch is to us as humans. He healed him physically, but He healed him emotionally as well through touch, thus showing us the necessity of physical touch. Are you meeting the hug minimum?
  • Physical touch helps us to grow. A human infant that is born must have loving, physical touch in order to survive and grow physically. But it is not just infants who need that loving touch—it is an important part of being a physically healthy adult as well. Remember those four hugs we need to survive? Apparently, we need 12 hugs a day to grow! Neurologists claim that the more we touch others, the happier we are. This is due to a lot of physiological occurrences that I don’t understand (because I’m not a scientist). But the other day, I ran into a friend in Dunkin Donuts, and I hugged him, even though we’re not that close. That hug made me realize my own lack in this area and gave me the boost I needed to smile during traffic, be nicer to my coworkers, and work harder at my job the rest of the day. That’s growth!
  • Physical touch releases us. We are “falling” into healthy habits not to separate ourselves in these three areas but to see how intricately connected our emotional, spiritual, and physical wellness are. Touching others in appropriate, non-creepy ways can lead to more vulnerability and openness in our relationships with others. I have often been emotionally released by the touch of a loved one—like my mother or a close friend. I have seen people’s demeanors change when I’ve reached out and touched them instead of put up a distancing emotional wall. I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit when praying while holding hands with friends. The Bible speaks of God holding our hand as we go through fearful times (Isaiah 41:13; Psalm 73:23), and Jesus was constantly touching others to create connection. So how can you break down barriers and weave tighter bonds with others using appropriate physical touch?

It may not seem like much, but the appropriate, caring touch of another person can breathe life into us, sustain us, and help us to grow as adults. If you want to be physically healthy, you must allow yourself to touch and be touched by others—and break down the barriers we have built around ourselves.

Spiritually Healthy Habits: Simplicity

spirit health by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

My space was shrinking. I moved from a two-bedroom house into an apartment in someone’s house, and I had about half the space I had in my previous place of residence. So I got a storage unit and put everything I couldn’t fit into the apartment into the storage unit. One year after living in the apartment, I realized something: I had not been to that storage unit even once during that year to get anything out. I had everything I needed in my apartment and then some. So I did what any convicted person would do: I opened up the storage unit to my friends. Anything they saw in there that they wanted or needed, they could take free of charge. Then I took what was left—about ten boxes—and headed to the dump. I threw the boxes into the trash compactor without even opening them to see their contents.

Spiritually healthy people practice simplicity in their lives. Why should we seek simplicity? Because simplicity will clarify your life in the following ways:

  • Simplicity refines our spirituality. The spiritual discipline of simplicity may not seem like a “spiritual” health issue at all, but the Bible says to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). “These things” refers to what we shall eat, drink, or wear (Matthew 6:31). Our simplicity is often centered on these earthly things—having a nice house, eating at nice restaurants, wearing designer clothes. And if we are worried about these earthly things, then we have little time to be concerned with heavenly things. The remedy is to simplify: to focus less on these things gives us more time to engage in our relationship with Christ and His people. Because if we simplify and seek God’s kingdom first, “these things” will take care of themselves. If you want to clarify your spiritual life, seek simplicity.
  • Simplicity refines our physical space. When I moved into the apartment from the house, though I had a smaller place, I had more space—because I had less junk. This meant I felt less anxious when it was time to clean, because I not only had less space to clean, but I had fewer trinkets to dust and furniture to vacuum around. I felt renewed—I had more than enough space to live! I was reminded that Jesus lived a simple life. In fact, He encouraged us to “not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). The less “earthly treasures” I have, the less I worry about thieves, and the more room I have to store up treasures in heaven. Want to de-clutter your physical space? Seek to simplify.
  • Simplicity refines us emotionally. I did not open up the boxes before I threw them away because I knew that if I did, I would find some reason to keep most of the stuff. “Oh, he gave that to me in middle school…” The more stuff we have, the more emotional ties we have to that stuff! It is the reason we keep so much “stuff”—both physical and emotional—in our lives. In Matthew 6, Jesus continues, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:20). I realized when I let go of those boxes, I was letting go of many emotional ties—some good, some bad—that were holding on to me. I was emotionally purified in the process and freed to hold onto what God wanted me to hold onto. So where is your treasure—and your heart?

In our consumer-driven society, simplicity is one of the hardest spiritually healthy habits to practice. But I want to challenge each of you to begin practicing simplicity by changing how you think about things. For the next week, each time you make a non-food purchase, ask yourself, “Am I storing up treasures on earth or treasures in heaven with this purchase?” If you accept this simplicity challenge, then leave me a comment below to let me know how you did. Best of luck!

Spiritually Healthy Habits: Giving

spirit health by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I had just been laid off at my job and I was searching for another one with very little luck. I was getting a small amount of unemployment and living off the little savings I had. I was still attending church and going to my small group, though, and one week, I found myself listening to the prayer requests of a young woman who wanted to attend an internship in another state. She had been accepted into the internship, but did not have the $350 to buy the one-way plane ticket to get there. As I listened and prayed during the group, I heard God say, “Give her the money for her plane ticket.” I opened my eyes wide and muttered, “I know you just didn’t say that, God.” But I heard it again, so I decided to wait a week to see if that was really what God wanted me to do—after all, I was unemployed and needed that money. But the feeling never went away, and the following week, I presented that young woman with the check for her plane ticket—with no strings attached.

Spiritually healthy people practice giving as a way of life. But although giving definitely includes financial resources, giving is not just about money. Here are three ways you can practice giving more in your life:

  • Give your money cheerfully. This is probably the hardest thing for people, because money is such a necessary commodity in our world. Whenever we earn some, we think it is “ours” and that we need to hold onto it, save it, or use it for our own good. It’s hard to write that check to the electric company, or the mortgage company, or (especially) the church—because we need that money for ourselves! But the Word says that God “loves a cheerful giver” and that we should give “not reluctantly or in response to pressure” (2 Corinthians 9:7). God wants us to give, but He also wants us to have the right attitude. When is the last time you gave away your money cheerfully?
  • Give your time abundantly. Time is another commodity we have a hard time giving away because like money, we want to spend time selfishly on ourselves. And while it is healthy to have some time to ourselves, we also have to give our time to the things that God tells us is important. Some people say time is the most precious of all our resources—because you cannot earn it back. But Christians know that our times are in the hands of the Almighty (Psalm 31:15). And if our time belongs to Him, then we should seek what He wants us to devote our time to instead of what we want. And we should give it abundantly to those people and causes! Where do you give your time abundantly?
  • Give your whole self lovingly. Giving yourself is more than just giving your time. I have spent plenty of time doing things for friends. I’ve worked it into my schedule and given it time; I may have even spent money on them. But I have only been there physically. I haven’t invested myself emotionally and spiritually; I haven’t laid down my life for my friends. If we are truly loving and giving people who want to be spiritually healthy, we have to lay down our lives—ourselves—for our friends (1 John 3:16). Jesus said there was no greater love, and that is the love we should strive to achieve. To do this, we have to be authentic and willing to be held accountable. When is the last time you laid down your life for someone else?

The young woman to whom I gave the plane ticket ended up staying in that state, and I love seeing how she continually gives back to the community there. It reminds me that I don’t give so that *I* can receive in return, I give so that others can receive and see the glory of God. So I encourage you to give—because none of it is really yours anyway. 🙂

Spiritually Healthy Habits: Prayer

spirit health by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

“Pray continuously.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

When I was younger, this verse scared me to death. My mother would get up every morning and pray for an hour or so, and she would encourage me to do the same. I just couldn’t sit still that long, even as an adult. Plus, I wasn’t sure I could come up with enough words to say to God for a whole hour! And praying continuously throughout my day…well, I just didn’t think I could do that, either. Then one day recently, I realized that as I was going through my day, I was often stopping to whisper prayers to God, talking to Him while I was in the car or just doing things around the house, and listening for His still, small voice. And then it dawned on me: I had actually learned how to pray continuously.

Prayer is not meant to scare us, prayer is meant to invite us into deeper relationship with our God. If you want to be spiritually healthy, you must talk to the Giver of spiritual health! And here are three thoughts about prayer that have helped me to learn to pray continuously:

  • Prayer is talking to your Papa. Sometimes, my prayers are different, but mostly, I come to God as a little girl wanting to talk to her Papa. I think of when I want to have my mom’s undivided attention and I climb into her lap—yes, still, as a 37-year-old woman, I do that! I also do that in my head when I’m praying. I imagine that I’m climbing up into God’s lap and talking to Him about everything—my hopes, my fears, my failures, my successes. I confess, and I receive forgiveness there. I express my gratitude and I humble myself like a child. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Praying to my Papa in this way is how I live out this verse.
  • Prayer is talking to your Friend. Sometimes we think of God as a taskmaster waiting to punish us when we do something wrong. But Jesus tells us something different in God’s Word. In John 15:15, Jesus said, “I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” A taskmaster has slaves, but we are not slaves—we are friends of God. Jesus confided in us what the Lord told Him, so we can be confident in talking to Him as a friend would. And just like our earthly friends, God can handle our anger and our doubt, He can share in our hurts, and He can laugh with us and enjoy our sense of humor. Even better, God is the greatest Friend who will never let us down!
  • Prayer is talking to your Creator. We have to remember that God is not only our Papa and our Friend, but He is also our Creator—and the Creator of the entire universe. I don’t call Him my “homie” but I bow before Him. I talk to Him as my Abba Papa and Friend, but I don’t disrespect Him or treat Him as a human being—because He is not! In Psalm 50:15, the Lord says, “And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” God can deliver me from evil, defeat darkness, help me be an overcomer, and speak things into existence. He can bless me beyond my wildest dreams and answer every one of my prayers, if it is in His will. As such, I will regard Him with awe and respect, because He deserves it.

Knowing these three things about prayer has made it easier for me to pray continually throughout my days. Every situation I encounter can be filtered to my Papa, my Friend, and/or my Creator, so I can go to the Throne before I go to the phone (Joyce Meyer). If you want to be spiritually healthy, try increasing your prayer life and communicating continuously with the God who will be there for you in every possible way!

Spiritually Healthy Habits: Worship

spirit health by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

“I really didn’t enjoy worship today.” I used to say this all the time about the church services I attended, especially when I was younger. I believed that the only time I was to worship the Lord was on Sunday mornings, and the rest of the time was Michelle time. Even though I was a leader in my church, I lived my life as if I worshipped my friends, my job and money, and even my health more than I worshipped God. As I grew in my faith, I realized that worshipping God was more than just “enjoying” the service on Sunday mornings, more than just attending church for a few hours each week, and more than just singing songs to the Lord. Worship is meant to be more because it is not meant to be about me. Worship was meant to be about the Lord!

Worship is an important habit to develop if we want to be spiritually healthy. But it’s essential that we remember these three things about worship:

  • Where we spend the most time shows what or who we worship. This doesn’t meant that if you don’t live at the church, you don’t worship God or that those who work in the church worship God more. It simply means your priorities in life will point to what you truly worship. Is your priority working 100-hour weeks to give your family the best of everything, while neglecting them and your health? Then maybe you worship money. Do you spend a lot of time at the gym because you want to look good for everyone? Then perhaps you worship yourself. Spend all day on social media? You may worship others’ opinions. The Bible warns us constantly against idolatry (Luke 4:8), and it’s easier than ever to become entangled in it. So take an inventory of where you spend your time—what or who do you worship?
  • Worship is more than just singing. Sometimes, we think of worship as music and nothing more—especially if you are in any way musically inclined. But worship is far more than just music! Worship can be prayer, listening to a sermon, praising God in nature, serving others less fortunate than ourselves, and/or giving thanks. Everything we do can be seen as an act of worship if we live as if we are serving God instead of man (Ephesians 6:7, Colossians 3:23). Worship is defined as showing reverence and adoration towards God, and we can do that simply by loving others. “I’ll bring you more than a song/ for a song in itself is not what you have required/ You search much deeper within/ through the way things appear/ You’re looking into my heart!” (Matt Redman, The Heart of Worship) So ask yourself: besides music, how do you worship God?
  • Worship should happen both corporately and privately. “Worship isn’t just for Sunday mornings!” I have seen that on church signs and heard it from the pulpit. But it’s true—worship consists of more than just attending a one-hour service on Sunday mornings. True worship of God extends beyond the church walls and into our private lives. We worship with others because we do not want to give up meeting together; we worship privately because we are to continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to the Lord (Hebrews 13:15). Psalm 71:8 says, “My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.” The Psalmist isn’t just sitting around all day praising God; he is declaring the Lord’s splendor to others and by himself as he goes about his day. In the same way, we should challenge ourselves by asking: how can I worship God privately as well as publicly?

John 4:23 says, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” Being spiritually healthy involves worshiping the Lord as true worshipers—those who will worship Him with their time, with more than music, and in private and public.

Emotionally Healthy Habits: Conflict

health pyramid by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I had just gotten back to the east coast from coordinating my uncle’s post-rehab care in Phoenix. I was tired and emotionally drained as I read an e-mail from my supervisor asking me to stay late the following day to interview candidates for our admin job. I responded to my supervisor with a very direct and factual e-mail about what my office hours were and what my life was like after hours (owning a business). He was angry for hours before finally calling me in to his office. At that point, he began to tell me that my e-mail had rubbed him the wrong way, that they had been very “accommodating” of my schedule this past year, and that he didn’t appreciate the tone of my e-mail. I responded only to what was appropriate: I apologized for any “tone” that might have come across and reiterated my inability to stay late. What could have been a larger argument was toned down because I chose to practice emotionally healthy habits in conflict.

Conflict is one of the hardest things for people to handle. In fact, I’m still looking for ways to improve my conflict resolution skills. But here are three ways I am always trying to improve my handling of one-on-one conflict:

  • Listen actively. This means not just hearing what the other person says, but listening with your heart. I didn’t speak much in the meeting with my supervisor because I wanted to listen to what he was saying, and because I didn’t want to say something I would regret. When I listened with my heart, I realized that I had hurt him with my directness. How did I know? Because when I apologized and assured him that I was not upset with him, he was fine! James 1:19 says that everyone should “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” You can’t talk and listen at the same time, so make listening your priority. And once you’ve listened, when you do speak, don’t be afraid to ask questions to clarify what the other person means. Listen to understand, not to respond.
  • Fight fair. Stay focused on the topic at hand. “You always do this” is not a fair statement about what is happening now. Make sure that you only address the present, not the past. When my boss noted that they had been so “accommodating” of my schedule over the year, I wanted to respond with some snarky comment. But I quickly realized that was not the issue, so I let it go. Part of fighting fair is also remaining as calm as possible. Do you like dealing with angry people? Few people do. No one likes to be attacked, physically or verbally. So treat people the way you want to be treated, especially in conflict. As Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Fight fair by staying focused on the present and remaining calm.
  • Consider your part. It takes two to tango, and two to engage in conflict. Is this the third or fourth person that has mentioned that you’ve hurt them in one specific way? Then perhaps what they are saying is truth. How are you feeling? This also affects how we treat others, so be aware of yourself! With my supervisor, I realized that being emotionally drained, I should not have responded via e-mail but instead I should’ve just spoken with him. I also realized that I was too direct and lacked positive emotion in my response. I even thought about ways I could have worded my e-mail that wouldn’t have come across so strong. I noted the latter to my boss as we were talking. Matthew 7:5 reminds us that we all have faults and issues; so before we start in on someone else’s, we need to check our own.

Conflict is uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be unhealthy! In fact, conflict is one of the healthiest things we can experience—if we practice emotionally healthy habits. So fight fair, listen actively, and consider your part the next time you have a conflict—and watch yourself grow exponentially!