An older women recently told me that she didn’t have any daughters but, if she had, she would’ve shared a few things with them. She said, “Love yourself. Once you love yourself,” she went on to explain, “you are able to love others.” When a family member, friend or coworkers is getting under your skin…ask God to show you how to love them.” Let’s take care of ourselves so that we can truly have something left to give to others when they need a little love. Also, studies show that self-care increases job satisfaction, lowers depression, burn-out and many other positive effects. (ahna.org) (utdallas.edu) I’m using the terms self-care and self-love synonymously for the purposes of relating to the research. Now that we know the benefits, let’s look at what it means to love ourselves and how to carry it out.
As I took my morning walk around the neighborhood, I got great clarity on this topic. It is a topic I have been struggling to write about because there are a million things to say about self-love. My heart was pumping, my mind was focused and spirit was joyful. Then it dawns on me that this is self-love! If I had to say it in one concise statement, self-love is not settling for less than. An overweight, sick body is “less than” I should have. A frazzled and confused mind is “less than” I would have if I would only renew my mind daily. A disconnected spirit is absolutely “less than” what Yahweh has in store for me. Let me summarize what I am saying just to make it plain. Self-love is each of us individuals focusing on taking care of our body, our mind and our spirit. We are triune beings. Made in the image of our Creator. That is a heavy, involved discussion in and of itself so, I will come back to that idea at a later time. For now, let’s look at some ways that we can strive for the best or, at minimum, not settle in each of the areas that makes us alive.
One obvious way to take care of the body is to exercise. This can be a morning walk, a jog, lifting weights, dancing…any aerobic movement of your body. This is a start for those who tend lead a sedentary life style. Let me challenge those of us who do a minimum level of exercise to then up your workout game. I have to be honest, although I walk 40-60 minutes a few days a week quite routinely, this is a bare minimum for me. Lately I have been trying to pick it up a bit by adding isometric exercises like chair lifts, push-ups and sit-ups. I won’t suggest to you what you should add but, simply that we should challenge ourselves to do more progressively over time. When I first started walking about 10 years ago, it was because a friend of mine kept pestering me to get up an hour early and walk before going to work. I was very reluctant to do so because it was cold and I was not a morning person. However, I did it and soon learned to love it. I was more energetic and got more accomplished during the day…not to mention the discipline that came as another pleasant side effect. Who would have thunk that in 2013, I would be able to walk a half marathon, 13.5 miles? You can do this! One step at a time.
Another thing we can do for the body is to prevent damage. This is another area of opportunity for me as well. We can prevent damage by not putting toxins in or on our bodies as much as possible. Now those of us that live in the western hemisphere have some things that we can’t avoid like smoggy air and chemically laden tap water. We come into contact with elements full of chemicals and toxins that enter our bodies by simply breathing and bathing. Many people don’t stop to think about what we touch and put on our skin because it appears to be outside of our body but, we are porous beings. Everything put on the outside seeps in at least a little bit. For this reason we should strive to use non-toxic household and body products whenever possible. Did you know that you can clean almost anything with a vinegar and water solution? We can also prevent damage by eating whole foods as opposed to processed food crap. As a rule of thumb, the less sugar and artificial ingredients in the food the better it is for you. You may think you are depriving yourself but, when everyone around you is sick and you feel great you will change the way you think. I say, “Boo!” on being sick all the time and taking a bag full of medicine, which by the way is adding more toxins! In my humble opinion, medicine generally covers up symptoms and damages your liver unnecessarily. It is only in extreme cases that people benefit from medicine. I avoid it at all cost. I typically try to find a natural whole herb, whole food solution to the things that bother me. In eastern medicine and naturopathy, food is healing. I would of course seek a naturopathic doctor, or expert, whom can make you aware of any things to watch out for or avoid based on your health history. Better safe than sorry. I highly recommend a book called, “The Great Physician’s Rx.” In it the doctor describes many things and lists many resources you can do to detoxify and heal the body.
Mind...some people call this our soul.
I think an explanation here is in order because the difference between soul and spirit can be slightly confusing. According to biblestudyinteractive.com, sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. This is why I am very specific to describe the soul as our “minds.” It’s just an easier concept to wrap the mind around. No pun intended. The body is shaped by our genetics and our effort to nurture the body, similar to the development of our minds. The mind or, our thoughts, are intangible but, works in tandem with the body. The body is always telling the mind what it needs and wants. The body always wants to have it’s needs met and the mind seeks the most pleasurable way possible. For example, when I am hungry my stomach growls and sends signals to my brain that it wants to be fed. The mind then determines the best choice to appease the body. What will make the body feel better? The mind comes up with a plan of action and sets the body in motion to achieve the desired outcome. The mind tells the body to get up and make a hamburger as the best solution for this level of hunger. If the body is sleeping the mind often remains active. This is when we dream, which I believe is our minds showing us things that we tend not to pay attention to when we are awake. In our wake state the body and mind tends to be over-stimulated and distracted. One thing we can do is intentionally quiet our minds. I don’t mean that we should be sleeping all the time but, we can go to a quiet place to meditate and pray. We can stop watching television before bed or even take the TV out of the bedroom. This gives our minds a chance to get settled and not to be filled with garbage. The less garbage filling our minds the more clarity we get. Truthfully, we should guard what we allow our eyes to look at, our ears to listen and our hands to do because all these things leave lasting impressions on our minds. Lastly, we can purposefully put the good things into our minds through reading holy scriptures, engaging in conversations with wise people, taking academic classes and things such as this. The mind doesn’t figure this out on it’s own but, is regulated by the spirit that lives within us.
Our spirit is the core of our being. This is the part of us that continues living when our body and our minds are inactive. Our spirit is the part of you and I that desires to know and connect with God on an intimate level. Our spirit can connect with God and is not limited to our genetic make-up. When our spirit is at it’s best, our mind and our body are able to function at a higher level. One barrier that I had to overcome in training for the marathon was the “roadblock” in my own mind. I thought I couldn’t do it even though my body gave me no indication that I could not. Once I decided to listen to my spirit, it became possible. As much as the marathon triumph was a physical and mental victory, it was even more so a spiritual journey. I enjoyed bonding with my teammates during our training. The spirit within us desires to connect with the spirit in other people on an intimate level as well. That is why it can be so perplexing to connect with someone in a physical sense but, not have a deep and true connection in a spiritual sense. Your body gets affiliated with that other person but, you have no idea who their spirit is. You find yourself “sleeping with the enemy.” The spirit of a man houses their character and true identity. The proverbial sage once said, “Guard your heart for it is the well-spring of life.” (Proverbs 4) I believe he was telling us to guard our spirit, for it is the well-spring of life! Real life happens here, in your spirit. If we are careful to pay attention to and strengthen our spirit within us, we very well are caring for our physical man as well. Our spirit regulates the behavior of the mind, and the mind controls the behavior of the body. My spirit communicates with the Spirit of God and then is able to explain things to my mind. That’s why you can’t worship God in your mind. Your mind will never understand the things of God. It is in your spirit that you recognized the sovereignty of God and are able to worship. Some people try to worship in their minds…doesn’t work. They take their body to a place of worship each week hoping that something will “rub off” but, it’s not until our spirit is humbly submitted to the Spirit of God that we can receive what the Lord has to give. We grow in the spiritual realm through humility, prayer and faith. Through prayer, we tell the Lord we will submit our all, our body, our mind and our spirit to Him (Spirit) and ask Him to lead us and guide us in His will and His ways. There may be a definitive point in your life where you begin to do this however, it is a continuous thing that we should do. When we keep our spiritual “ears” open to the directions we are given, we are exercising our faith.
In the resource section below is a chart you can print out to make a strategic plan about what you will do to strengthen each area; mind, body and spirit. Until next time…
Love yourself and each other.
American Holistic Nurses Association
UT Dallas Counseling
Bible Study Interactive; “The Difference Between Soul & Spirit”
Romans 12 (NASB)
Proverbs 4 (NASB)