Often, we like to believe that our mental health is driving our decisions, however the reality is that you and I choose the mental health condition we are in. Our choices determine our destiny.
Our emotions serve one primary purpose and this is to drive us to God. When events happen in our lives that bring a strong emotional response (anger, fear, jealousy, anxiety, depression, etc.), immediately move to prayer. Emotions are driven by a chemical hijacking of the brain and even a response from the body (face turns red, hands start to shake, butterflies in stomach).
Your brain needs time to allow the chemical hijacking to subside and your emotional response to soften. Prayer offers this time and allows your mind to move quietly toward a more normal and settled mode. It also allows you to engage God for guidance and direction. There is a reason that God says in Psalm 4:4, “Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.” The science agrees with God. Strong emotions need time to settle in your brain before acting. Every person needs a plan for dealing with strong, brain-hijacking emotions. The first step in that plan must include prayer and time.
Some body chemicals are designed to give us the strength and energy we need in an emergency. Adrenaline signals the brain to release blood and energy to the body when we need the strength to flee from danger or fight the threat. Adrenaline is intended by God to give us the strength and energy we need for short periods of time, because it causes a tremendous amount of stress on the body. However, a person who lives a life of sin, always on the run, and covering his lies and manipulation, will live much of life on adrenaline. This causes overdue stress on the body for long periods of time, leading to serious health problems and an early grave. A life of addictions, high anxiety, and lack of rest are highly destructive and the consequences are long lasting. Proverbs 3:1-2 reminds us that a life lived for God will have a different result, “My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands;
for length of days and long life and peace they will add to you.” Guard your heart (and life) from strong emotions.
Looking to God during times of strong emotions can save your body and improve your health as you relieve the stress and anxiety caused by your emotions. Again, your thoughts impact you spiritually, emotionally, and physically. By responding to all of life through God’s way, we will experience healing in all areas. I will go so far as to offer this. Many times, chemical imbalances are not the cause of depression, extreme anxieties, and other strong emotions. The cause is our unwillingness to turn over the strong emotions to God in prayer and trusting God’s truths. This refusal then leads to toxic thinking that causes a neuro-chemical release in our brains.
Your thinking causes an electro-chemical reaction in your brain that grows healthy or unhealthy dendrite branches. Your negative, depressed thinking causes those chemicals to grow unhealthy branches that gain more and more strength with each passing day that you refuse to cast down those thoughts. The stronger these unhealthy branches grow, the harder it becomes to cast them down. Chemical imbalances did not cause this problem. Your thinking caused the chemical in your body to stimulate the dendrite process, and not the other way around. Chemical imbalances are not causing the depression. Negative, defeated thinking causes your brain to chemically stimulate toxic dendrite branch growth, and the more you refuse to cast down the toxic thinking, the stronger the “depressed” thinking grows.
The solution is an intense focus on what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and praiseworthy. Again, scientific research reveals that it takes at least 21 days until you can start to see the light of victory (removing toxic and negative thinking) and another 42 days before you actually develop a new way of thinking. You have to give yourself at least two months (if not more) of intense God-therapy, prayer, meditation on God’s Word, godly counsel, church fellowship and no medication (with doctor’s approval). The medication itself can cause you to develop an unhealthy neuro-dependency, therefore it is counter-productive to the intensity you need to overcome strong, negative emotions that have you trapped in a cycle of depression, anxiety, compulsions, etc.
These strong and negative emotions also weaken the immune system, elevates the heart rate, increases the risk of heart attacks, lowers sex drive, causes stomach problems, and the list goes on. Your negative thinking dramatically alters the physical or material characteristics of your body and leads you into very unhealthy conditions that lend to a further downward emotional spiral.
In fact, a 2011 study by the American Journal of Psychiatry found that people of faith and prayer were 76 percent less likely to suffer periods of significant or major depression and that religion and spiritual connections to God should be considered during mental health or psychiatric evaluations, (https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp.2011.11091407).
This cannot be stated enough. As we live life apart from God, the consequences of our decisions start to pile up. One of these consequences is how our brain and mind begin to take shape. Again, the brain is a remarkable part of our body. It is more powerful and more capable than any computer man can devise. The brain is the command center for the actions and reactions of the body. It contains billions and billions of nerve cells that are called neurons which are then connected by trillions of connectors called synapses. At these synapses is where chemicals are released called neurotransmitters. Some examples are dopamine, adrenaline, and serotonin.
These chemical neurotransmitters act as a messenger in the brain that stimulate emotions in the body as cause those dendrites to expand and strengthen and new pathways develop in the brain. These pathways develop into expectations for the body. They are critical in developing daily functions such as sleep patterns, alertness, learning, appetite regulation, pleasure, and a host of other daily living activities.
When we are reading and obeying the Word of God and putting the right information into the hardware or brain, these chemicals in the brain develop healthy and productive pathways as God intended. However, when we live our lives our own way and search for stimulation from things that God warns us to avoid, then those neurotransmitter pathways become corrupt. Our chemical imbalance is caused by us and not the other way around.
Remember, our choices determine our mental health—mental health does not have to determine our choices.