Monthly Archives: July 2022

Calming Tools for a Jittery Time

Tim Elmore in his book Generation Z Unfiltered, says Generation Z is the most anxious population in American history.

Does anything that Apostle Paul wrote and talked about feel more important to discipleship and successful life than Romans 12:1-3? Verse two in that paragraph keeps nudging at me:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world,

but be transformed

by the renewing of your mind.”

As I recall my young-adult spiritual formation time, I don’t remember thinking the words “mental health,” or “self-care” when reading Romans 12:2b. I assumed “renewing your mind” was about Bible interpretation, spirit discernment, and “godly” behavior. Given the prognosis of the current earth population and my own self-questioning, I am wondering if Apostle Paul knew the concept of toxic thoughts.

What does “renewing of your mind” mean? Pastor Bill Johnson in his book, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind, (Destiny Image (©2014) says, “view reality from God’s perspective.” That’s the short version. Johnson adds,

“The renewed mind, then, reflects the reality of another world…. It’s not just that our thoughts are different, but that our way of thinking is transformed because we think from a different reality—from heaven to earth” (Page 35).

How are we to renew our minds? That’s not a rhetorical question. I sense Holy Spirit saying to me He wants me to renew my mind. I’m in! Cleansing my mind of toxic thoughts and patterns of thinking that lead to negative evaluation, self-doubt and rumination over every mistake, bad choice and immature mindset, personal inadequacy, and ignorance—just not knowing—since I was sucking my thumb, has to be part of the renewal.

I have two favorite brain specialists who I’m reading in pursuit of mind-renewal strategies. Dr. Daniel Amen and Dr. Caroline Leaf. I have added to their stack of books in recent days.

I listed three of Amen’s books in my last blog that are currently helpful to me. We have read Dr. Leaf’s material and used them in small group studies and conversations. Her book, Think, Learn, Succeed, (Baker Books, ©2018) is stimulating and resourceful as I “renew my mind.”

Dr. Leaf recommends we spend 16 minutes per day thinking about what we are thinking about. She says those minutes can be broken into 2-3 segments or one 16-minute span. (I don’t know how she came up with 16 minutes rather than 15 or 12.) John Maxwell and several U.S. Presidents have or had a specific chair in which they sat only to think. That chair was not to be used for anything else.

An average human looks with seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odor or fragrance, and talks without thinking.” Leonardo da Vinci

We have instructions to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”… (2 Corinthians 10:5). What do you think—can you do it in 16 minutes? Romans

It would be to my benefit to do this conversation in a face-to-face group. I do not have a firm grip on everything Dr. Leaf is saying which means I’m not teaching; I am sharing what I’m reading that is useful in mind renewing. These are some of the things I’m grasping so far. I’ll quote from the book:

“It is so important to understand the creative power of our ability to choose. Mind-body research points to the fact that consciously controlling your thoughts is one of the best ways, if not the best way of detoxing your brain and body.” (Page 55)

That could make me nervous. Mind-control is not something a creative person wants. I found this process depends upon monitoring each thought and classifying it. I wrote on the top of my journal page: THOUGHT—-FEELING—-ACTION. I ask myself what thoughts are invading my mind that are making me feel guilt, shame, anger, wounded, hopeless? If the thought wasn’t causing me discomfort, anxiety, paralyzed, doomed, depressed or powerless, it would not be on this list. I call your attention to the four questions Bryon Katie suggests we apply to each nagging thought:

  1. Is your thought true? (Will you really throw up? Pass out? Make a fool of yourself? Go crazy in front of everyone? Have an unprovoked attack?)

  2. Can you absolutely know whether it is true?

  3. How do you react, what happens when you believe it to be true?

  4. Who would you be without that thought? (How does believing this thought change you and your activity?)

“…our thoughts can heal or harm the body….”

“The process of self-reflection is not only possible it is essential.” (Page 55)

“To control your thought life, you have to activate and continually make use of the quantum principle of superimposition, which is the ability to focus on incoming information and on upcoming memories from your unconscious mind. As you think about these thoughts, your need to analyze them in an objective way…before you choose which to believe and which to reject.”

“It is almost as if you are watching yourself, becoming aware of what you are thinking, feeling, and focusing on in as much detail as you can in this now moment.”

As “the thinker” is contemplating thoughts from an objective distance, it seems to me discernment is a good idea. To bring Holy Spirit in on this mental reconnaissance to help us sort out the source of the thought(s) is what paraclete implies. (Holy Spirit actively walks beside us. Let us not forget that we also have an enemy who is an accuser and deceiver. Well-placed suggestions is how he does that. Our own mental distortion can misinterpret incoming thoughts as can be unresolved angers or hurts. To allow any of those to remain unchallenged and not reframed does not lead to a renewed mind. Thoughts may come through the filter of our misinterpretations or unhealed wounds or expressions of self-dislike. Maybe a curse intended to disrupt, confuse or harm.

Ask yourelf, Why is this thought in your mind at this moment? Will it benefit you? Talk to the non-acceptable thought aloud—it is not quite enough to tell it to get lost, that assaulting thought needs to be reconceptualized or reframed.

“In this objective state, you are capturing and reconceptualizing toxic and chaotic thoughts and building healthy, organized thoughts.” (Page 57)

“…if you do not capture thoughts and monitor incoming information, it is hard to change toxic and chaotic thoughts, which will steal your mental peace and your ability to build useful memory and learning. As humans, we are designed to engage with information; we are designed to build our brains.” (Page 57)

Assuming that Romans 12:2 is talking as much about mental health as it is doctrinal correctness, what do you look like with a renewed mind? “The pattern of this world” is anything that is different than the plan, character and will of God in any sphere of life and any dimension of your life that contradicts biblical evidence of how The Father sees and loves His children.

There is no gauge that says, “Fully charged,” or “Totally renewed,” so you may not know except if your stomach no longer hurts, or anxiety/depression is not bending your face to the ground or if what you’ve been called to accomplish is starting to move forward and you can think clearly about strategies. Those could be clues as to a renewing mind. Add another clue: if your anticipations and expectations are more positive.

What do you think?

©2022 D. Dean Benton

One in a series about renewing minds for healing of anxiety, depression, burnout.

Cut The Chaos

I may be as normal as I’ll ever be.

A friend in the health-care industry responded to my comment that I needed to see my physician about my anxiety with: “If so, you are normal. Everyone is overwhelmed and needing help.” She reminded me that anxiety and depression have experienced an increase for the first time in 80 years. It has become serious!

Me? Normal? If that is true, the general population is in big trouble. I’m not surprised that the population of the Western Hemisphere is needing help with depression, burnout and anxiety. What is surprising is that I’m in that group.

This week I ran across a series of booklets I wrote to provide at our seminars in the 80s:

  • Please Pass the Valium—Stress
  • View From the Fetal Position—Depression & Anxiety
  • Learning to Hate Natives—Burnout
  • But the Cubs Still Need Me!—Mid-life Crisis

My research for those subjects was extensive and personal. But what is torching our culture in 2022 surpasses what I thought would guard and fortify me and my readers. We are confronted with dimensions of mental health (and lack of) and spiritual battle not generally experienced in our lifetimes. Panic and anxiety attacks are rife with demonic attacks. If I were to update those booklets, they would have a section on The Armor of God—Ephesians 6:10-18 in 2022 words and modes of attacks. Evil has been unleashed and in some places invited, welcomed and enthroned.

One thing that seems different in this season is that The “Armor” used to seem static. You put it on with Velcro and it stayed there. It felt like a flannel graph truth. Now it is not a defensive agent. It has become lke Ukraine-level combat. We must learn how the Armor can be active and learn how to use it aggressively.

One of my favorite brain specialists is Dr. Daniel Amen. You may have seen one of his events on PBS television. He is a man of faith and teaches and practices from that base while being widely respected in the psychiatric community. We watched one of his YouTube interviews you might find helpful:

I am reading three of Dr. Amen’s books:

The Daniel Plan with Pastor Rick Warren

The End of Mental Illness, Dr. Daniel Amen, MD, (Tyndale 2020)

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, Dr. Daniel Amen, MD (Harmony Books, 1998 2015)

“Change Your Brain…” has been Revised and Expanded. I read the first edition (1998) and have returned to this edition and finding it very helpful—practical. Guided directions to Cut The Chaos.

John Eldredge has a new book: Resilient—Restoring Your Weary Soul in These Turbulent Times. (Nelson Books, 2022)

How to:  From Relevant Magazine, January 12, 2022

  • Remember where your roots are—connections, interaction, support.
  • Work out—exercise till you sweat.
  • Journal
  • Practice self-care
  • Pray

Dealing with Automatic Negative Thoughts. (ANTs)  When you are having a panic or anxiety attack, your mind will lie to you. It will tell you all the possibilities of what could happen if you don’t run, hide, or excuse yourself. None of which will ordinarily happen.

The Four Questions from Byron Katie to deal with  the “lies.”

  1. Is your thought true? (Will you really throw up? Pass out? Make a fool of yourself? Go crazy in front of everyone? Have an unprovoked attack?)
  2. Can you absolutely know whether it is true?
  3. How do you react, what happens when you believe it to be true?
  4. Who would you be without that thought?

My current journey

  1. What uniquely triggers my reaction that becomes anxiety, stress and/or depression?
  2. What am I still doing that increases the chaos?
  3. What drains my emotional/spiritual resources?
  4. What are my ANTs? (Automatic Negative Thoughts)
  5. What replenishes my soul? Mind? Brain? Mental health Reservoir?

Psychology Today says:

“The most mentally healthy people you know remain steady and calm no matter what’s going on around them because they’ve developed some key habits and traits….”

Rick Warren’s book The Daniel Plan (Zondervan 2013) promises, 40 Days to a Healthier Life.

Pastor Warren pulled together the team—Dr. Daniel Amen, M.D and Dr. Mark Hyman, MD. Their program wraps around five dedicated practices—key habits and traits—which give tools and containers that can fill our reservoir from which mental and soul health and resilience comes:

  • Faith
  • Food
  • Fitness
  • Focus
  • Friends

(If you don’t want to buy the book, go to Amazon to check on the Table of Contents and see how the spiritual leader and medical doctors define each of the five.)

When Jesse Watters was selected to anchor and host “Prime Time,” he talked to colleagues and mentors for wisdom. Brit Hume said, “Listen when your guests talk.” Tucker Carlson recommended Jesse to routinely plot time to declutter his mind—choose self-care. Whatever works for you to cut the chaos. I think it will include the Daniel Plan listed above.

Thank you

I’m changing habits and working on some different traits.

©2022 D. Dean Benton