The Balanced Life

Rebecca Tucker, LCSW

The Balanced Life

Forgiveness

Science:  Studies done by multiple researchers on forgiveness have yielded ample evidence that Forgiveness improves our health. In fact, there have been about 1200 studies on this subject.  Each have found some evidence that forgiveness helps us live more healthfully.  It has been shown to decrease blood pressure and heart rate and improve sleep and the immune system while decreasing the likelihood of depression, anxiety and bad cholesterol build-up. In contrast, bitterness can result in the reverse of these and can increase likelihood of heart disease, hypertension and a need for medication to manage all of these maladies.  Clearly, forgiveness is a key part of the balanced life!

Scripture:  There are many scripture verses or stories that depict forgiveness.  Here are just a few: The story of Joseph–particular Genesis 50; Psalm 32; Proverbs 17:9; Matthew 9:1-7; Matthew 18:21-22; 1 John 1:9.

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SO WHAT’S BACKWARDS?

Have you ever dug into a new project with gusto eager to achieve the goal at hand? It was easy to focus on the project because it was something you really wanted and enjoyed doing. This is how it is for me and my garden–I can hardly wait to put together the flower arrangement or hanging baskets or put in a new plant. In fact, as I write about it I can think of a number of projects I’d like to dig into now.

This is how it was for Jesus once committed to our salvation. He plummeted to this planet taking on human flesh with eager anticipation of the restoration and reconciliation that would be the end result between him and His lost children. This is Ty Gibson’s poetic expression of this event:

The butterfly entered the cocoon and
Emerged a lowly caterpillar
Never to fly again!
So backwards
So radically, beautifully backwards!*

In my last blog I spoke of research that tells how what we believe about God can heal or harm our brains. This is true of what we believe about: 1) who He is; 2) how He sees us, and 3) how He wants us to see ourselves and others.

So what about it? Do you see Him as love itself, or do some of your beliefs about who He is challenge that? Do you see him as eager to reconcile with you? Do you see yourself as someone with whom He is delighted? What beliefs, or ideas challenge you most? If the God you serve is not assisting you in becoming whole and balanced your beliefs may not be serving you well.

“History is crowded with men who would be God, but only one God who would be man.”
John MacArthur

An Endless Falling In Love, Ty Gibson*

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FOGGY MORNINGS

If you live in the central California valley like I do, you know what it means to have a foggy morning. The fog hangs in misty shrouds that can be depressing and a bit hazardous to drive in.

This can also be true of our thoughts.  Proverbs 12:25 says that anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.  Forgive the folksy expression, but are you a worry wart?  I remember my parents using this term on many occasions, usually when one was worrying about something they could not control.   Worry can be like fog–shrouding us in a depressing mist that is hazardous for our mental, physical and spiritual health.Proverbs 12

It may cloud our minds for many reasons, but it never solves problems and often makes them worse.  However, we get to decide what we think about.  We may be more accustomed to letting worry take over, but we can choose to be mindful of where we are in the present.

Choosing deliberately what we think about lifts the fog and clears the way for us to see the best solution for our problems.  In fact,  recent research on how God effects our brain shows that if we dwell on a God of love, and act in love our brains experience healing.  The opposite is true if we dwell on an angry, vengeful God– our brains are actually damaged.  Love heals. Fear steals–health, time, relationships, . . . In light of this research, we want to choose to redirect our thoughts from those things that produce anxiety and think instead on those truths that bring healing.

If you are unable to control your worry and it is daily and seems to control you, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.  Anxiety disorders occur for many reasons, but can be treated successfully with counseling and sometimes medication.

References:

Newberg, Andrew: How God Changes Your Brain, Ballentine Books, 2009

Jennings, M.D., Timothy: The God Shaped Brain, IVP Books, 2013

 

 

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OBSTACLES

My Pastor read us the top 10 New Years resolutions yesterday.  Then he read the top 10 broken resolutions. They were the same, of course.  We just don’t keep resolutions, just like we don’t stick to diets or break bad habits.  Usually our resolutions have a bit of wishful thinking in them  you know what I mean?  They don’t really consider the reality of our daily lives over time, or the thoughts that keep us stuck or the unresolved hurts that result in behaviors we’d rather change.  And unfortunately we are often perfectionistic in our attempts to follow through, which results in our giving up altogether.

As I have thought about goals for the new year it is as always, with balance in mind.  However sometimes in order to achieve balance we need to think about and attend to those things that get in the way–things like grudges, past hurts, unforgiveness, anger, and loss–that we may need to work through or release.  This kind of soul cleansing can be a great place to begin as we seek greater balance in our lives.  Yet these are the very things we’d rather avoid.  It is much easier to make a list of goals that don’t involve these challenges.

For example it is more common for us to think of physical goals such as weight loss or exercise at this time of year, than emotional clutter.  Yet our minds and bodies are bound up together, impacting each other.  These obstacles often relate to relationship–with ourselves, others or God–and really what’s more important?  Sorting through and  attending to the obstacles that impact our soul and our relationships, can free us to focus on other goals.  Emotional clutter that has not been attended to, often results in anxiety, or depression.  Both of these hinder motivation and productivity.

What are the obstacles that are getting in your way?  How might you attend to them?   Do you need some time with your journal, with a good friend, a coun- selor, or God?  Is there someone with whom you need to have a difficult conver-station?  Or do you need to adjust your priorities?  Whatever the case is for you,  remember that obstacles are merely opportunities for growth and determine to give yourself the resources needed for success.

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Holidays and Balance

This morning I sat reflecting on the past and on the little card I printed and laminated many years ago. It has been in a prominent place in my home ever since. It says, “As a woman thinks in her heart so is she.” Proverbs 23:7. Under this verse in large print is the word “Balance!” That began my journey towards balance and I realized even then that it began in my thoughts.

As we close out this year and begin afresh ask yourself, how do my thoughts promote balance in my life? Or do they promote a lack of balance? What do you believe about how much you get to decide in your life, thoughts, etc.? Does life just happen to you? Or are you choosing deliberately how to live your life?

The holidays can be a wonderful time. They can also be a painful time. For many they bring additional stress or memories that hurt. Are you making decisions at this time that add to balance of body, mind and soul—or that detract from any of these? One way to determine this is to ask ones self—am I living out my personal convictions during this holiday season? We cannot be balanced and serene and at the same time incongruent with ourselves.

For example is there someone it is particularly difficult for you to spend time with over the holidays—maybe because they do not respect your boundaries? How can you limit your time with them—graciously, but firmly.

Have you overscheduled yourself? What can you release? I have learned over time that I am not wonder woman and trying to be so does nothing to enhance balance in my life.

Is there music that reminds of significant loss? How do you respond when you hear it? Is it possible to choose to respond differently? For example, I still miss my parents at the holidays, and was delighted when I found a CD duplicate of an old childhood record. When I listen, instead of lamenting the loss, I recall Christmas’ past with fondness, accepting the emotions that come with the memories in appreciation.

If your loss is particularly recent, how can you be gentle with yourself this Christmas? Guarding our hearts can be particularly important after loss. Proverbs 4:23.

Intentionality in thinking and planning this Christmas can help bring balance to life even during the holidays.

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