The outcome of your life is determined by what is in your heart, not your circumstances. You can choose peace. You can choose joy.
Your thoughts and words have consequences. Here are 5 ways to be proactive in keeping your heart and mind pure:
- Clear the bitterness away. When you sow seeds of criticism, condemnation, and unforgiveness, bitterness will take root in your life. The Bible says, “Look diligently and make sure that no root of bitterness shoots forth and causes trouble and many become contaminated by it” (Hebrews 12:15). If the root of bitterness is watered, fed, and given your attention, it will increase in strength. Instead of peace being produced in your life, you will see a harvest of anger, resentment, and jealousy. Bitterness will eventually contaminate you and everyone around you.Medical professionals agree that many of our long-term illnesses come as a result of bitterness, unforgiveness, and emotional stress. Nearly 20 years of research on the Forgiveness Project at the University of Wisconsin showed that people who forgave had better psychological health.1 The studies revealed significant improvements in depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress among those who were able to forgive.
- Count your blessings. Recent research shows that gratitude is a strong factor in your overall well-being, so several psychological interventions have been developed to increase gratitude. Clinicians now suggest that their clients keep a daily “gratitude journal.” The task is simple enough. At the end of your day, you think of at least three things that you are most happy about. The outcome of this exercise is astonishing. It has been shown to have a powerful effect on reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, while simultaneously increasing a sense of joy and well-being. In a recent study, participants completing this task for one week experienced those positive outcomes for six months!2
- Renew your mind. A grateful heart is closely linked to a renewed mind. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…” When times are tough, it is easy to become negative. In Lamentations 3:19, you see the result of that: “I remember my affliction and my wandering…I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” Thinking about your painful circumstances can start a depressing spiral of negativity. Excessive focus on bad memories from your past and difficulties in your present will bring destruction to your body and soul. Nothing good can be accomplished in a discouraged frame of mind. When Romans 12:2 says, “renew your mind” it means you must break your negative thinking patterns.Dr. Caroline Leaf is a cognitive neuroscientist who has studied the mind-body relationship for decades. In her book, Switch on Your Brain, she demonstrates how important is to be careful what you think about. What you choose to dwell on in your mind influences your body. You can create life or death within your own mind. The actual structure and “landscape” of your brain follows your thought patterns. You are capable of controlling your thoughts, rewiring your brain, and renewing your mind.Your negative patterns of thinking have been learned over time. What has been learned can be unlearned. Renewing your mind might not happen instantly. You have to deliberately shift your focus moment-by-moment. You have to make a decision in your mind not to let adversity rule your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Stop dwelling on and talking about your problems. Choose to concentrate on the goodness and faithfulness of God, even when you can’t see the big picture.
- Tame your tongue. Renewing your mind is important, but controlling your tongue is even more critical. Your spoken words carry an authority even more powerful than your thoughts. In fact, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). That is no small power to disregard! I’m sure you can agree that your tongue has the power to destroy relationships, dreams, and even your own self-confidence. You can either tear down or build up. You can encourage or discourage. How many times have you said “I don’t think I’m ever going to make it…” or “My life is a mess…” The way we speak can be a huge challenge for most of us. Make sure that everything you speak over yourself and others is in alignment with the truth of God’s Word.
- Worship. First Chronicles 16:27 says, “Splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and joy are found in His dwelling place.” If there is anything we need today, it is more strength and joy! Not what the world offers, but the real joy and incredible strength that is found only in God’s presence. While the joys on earth are many, none compare to drawing near to God. The atmosphere of heaven is entirely one of praise, gratitude, and adoration. If it is the joyful work of heaven, it should be your continual joy here on earth.