My dad was a very smart man. His childhood was not that great and he married young before he could go to college. But he did not let that stop him from pursuing a better life for himself and his family by trying to improve himself and learn new things.
One of the things I remember about my dad was that he loved to read. He was a strong Christian, but he read a lot of self-help books and took business courses in order to improve his sales skills and people skills.
When I was a kid in the 1970s, I remember him reading Dale Carnegie and Zig Ziglar and other motivational books such as Born to Win, How To Win Friends and Influence People, and See You At The Top. He also had books on his shelf such as I’m Okay, You’re Okay and Games People Play. It was the 70s, after all, and cognitive behavior therapy was all the rage. My dad was a bit of a philosopher and also trying to overcome the wounds from his childhood.
I read some of his books, picked up the self-help habit and ended up becoming a psychology major in college. I had my own problems that I was trying to fix.
Nowadays, I really don’t have any interest in reading self-help books. I’ve pretty much figured out that the answers I need are not in secular books. Most of them have similar messages, “You can do it!”, and some of them can lead you away from God and lead you to believe that you are the center of your own universe. Here’s a great expose on Think and Grow Rich’s Napoleon Hill that may be the basis for the Law of Attraction scam.
If a book tells you that you can manifest your destiny by positive thinking or that you are actually divine, run! Look for one that is based on a Biblical worldview. I still read up on various therapies occasionally, but I no longer have much faith in psychology.
Thankfully my dad knew the difference between sales training, motivational books and spiritual truth. He was very big on having a positive mental attitude, ‘PMA’, and he was good at giving ‘strokes’, which simply meant saying positive things to build up other people. But he also knew Jesus and took us to church. He loved to sit and talk with us kids and our friends about life.
One thing he often threw into a conversation was that we are made up of three parts, mind, body, and spirit, and that all of them need to be taken care of. Today I would like give you some ways that you can invest in each of these parts of yourself.
Your mind is where your thoughts come from, not just your brain, but your emotions and fears and beliefs. The best way to improve your mind is by giving your life to Jesus. The Holy Spirit will begin to change you as you submit your will to God. You should also study the Bible because that is where you will find essential truths that will change your thoughts, relieve your fears, and help you take control of your emotions. You can also read books and articles about these things, but make sure they are in agreement with the truth of the Bible.
One thing that most of need to do for our minds is to identify false or irrational beliefs that may be holding us back or causing anxiety or relationship difficulties. We may have beliefs or habits that we think are normal that are actually defense mechanisms that we acquired at one point that no longer serve us. For example, we may think all people want to hurt us. Or we may have been explicitly taught lies or false beliefs by adults that we need to let go of in order to have free and truthful thoughts, such as racist or victim thinking.
Another way to improve your mind is by using it! In other words, don’t just accept what other people tell you, find out information for yourself. You can also work puzzles and read and study higher level subjects that require a little bit of hard work to understand. Using your brain to solve problems literally helps your brain grow new neurons.
We all know that we should take care of our bodies, but for some reason only a small portion of society seems to really enjoy exercising and eating healthy foods. The rest of us have to use self-discipline, motivational tricks, group accountability, rewards, and sometimes a coach, to stay on track with healthy goals. If we stick with it long enough, often the benefits will be self-reinforcing and we won’t feel like we are forcing ourselves.
Starting with a few simple changes are the best way for most people. For example, instead of eating cereal or ice cream every night before going to bed, try switching to yogurt. You’ll save a lot of calories and won’t feel totally deprived. If you just gotta have cereal, try eating it mid-day instead. Eating late at night is really not a good idea.
As far as exercising, don’t overwhelm yourself with a huge goal. Instead of committing to run a 5k in 12 weeks, set a goal to take a 20 minute walk at least 4 times a week for the next month, and then build on that. Joining a group can really help, but if you prefer to go solo, at least make yourself a chart or use an app to help you see your progress.
A healthy diet and exercise will not be enough if you are damaging your body with drugs, alcohol, or smoking. Be honest with yourself and get help if you need it. Investing in your health always pays off!
Many people neglect their spiritual health. But without it, the mind and body will never be as good as they can be because humans are spiritual creatures. We were created by God and meant to be connected to Him. If this is new to you, please consider reading some of my other blogs about Christianity. But for those who are already believers, you can invest in your spiritual health by purposefully spending daily time with God in prayer and also by reading the Bible and devotionals, listening to praise and worship music, and spending time with other believers. Encouraging each other in the faith, praying together, and sharing meals together is time well spent.
When you read the Bible, do it with intention, prayerfully, and trusting God to give you understanding through the Holy Spirit. Using an app may help you as you develop a habit and keep you organized in your Bible study.
Don’t limit your reading to the Bible, however. There is so much more you can learn! Ancient history, archaeology, doctrine, eschatology, church history, current events in Israel and geography are just some of the subjects that will enhance your knowledge about God. You can find all kinds of information for free on the internet, but be sure the source is based on a Christian worldview that believes the Bible is the inspired and infallible word of God. Beware false teachers.
So get started on investing in the health and development of your mind, body, and spirit. You won’t regret it!