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Meet Your Mental Health Goals with God’s Kingdom in Mind

Image: Denys Nevozhai

The other day, I was thinking about what I wanted to do for Lent this year. Maybe give up alcohol and sugar? Perhaps give up meat? Fast from social media?

Almost as soon as I had set the intention to change my diet for Lent, I wanted steak and a piece of cake, with a nice glass of cabernet. I began meditating on what the caption of my Instagram post might say about this delightfully indulgent meal.

What on earth is wrong with my brain?!

Jesus talked about this problem in the parable of the impure spirit:

“When a defiling evil spirit is expelled from someone, it drifts along through the desert looking for an oasis, some unsuspecting soul it can bedevil. When it doesn’t find anyone, it says, ‘I’ll go back to my old haunt.’ On return it finds the person spotlessly clean, but vacant. It then runs out and rounds up seven other spirits more evil than itself and they all move in, whooping it up. That person ends up far worse off than if he’d never gotten cleaned up in the first place. That’s what this generation is like: You may think you have cleaned out the junk from your lives and gotten ready for God, but you weren’t hospitable to my kingdom message, and now all the devils are moving back in.”

Matthew 12:43-45 MSG

So often I think it will be enough to just remove the habit that’s bad for me—cut back on TV, stop drinking alcohol, etc.—but Jesus said no, that isn’t going to work. All you’ve done is cleared a space for idleness, temptations, and “seven other spirits more evil” than the one you kicked out.

Something greater has to move in to take the place of all the junk: Kingdom stuff. When Jesus talked about the kingdom of heaven, there seemed to be an expectation from him that his followers should be kingdom-minded people right now, hosts and hostesses of a jubilant party that invites everyone around the table to celebrate God’s goodness, mercy, forgiveness, and love.

And being kingdom-minded is the best way I know to improve my mental health.

Making Space for Kingdom-Oriented Mental Health

One of the most common new year’s resolutions this year is a desire to improve mental health. 

This isn’t surprising, because according to the CDC, 63% of young adults are suffering significant symptoms of anxiety or depression. In a Harvard survey of American adults, 61% of individuals between the ages of 18-25 reported feeling lonely “frequently” or “almost all the time or all the time” during the four weeks prior to the survey, and 51% of mothers with young children said the same.

When I’m feeling low, my tendency is to not tell anyone. I put on a happy face and pretend that everything is fine. Maybe that will work! 


Next, I retreat inward, huddle up under a blanket, and scroll through social media. For some reason, trying to connect with others online only ratchets up my feelings of isolation and loneliness. But if I don’t go online, I will sit on the couch in my loneliness and contemplate that gallon of ice cream in the freezer and the bottle of wine on the counter. Maybe watch a few reruns of The Office? I bet these things will make me feel better.

I need to take Jesus’ advice to improve mental health. Instead of just cutting out the habits that are unhealthy for me, I need to fill the empty places with kingdom-oriented activities, activities that not only fill me up but bless others in the process. Love and joy are multipliers of one another—the more you give, the more you get.

Here are a few kingdom-minded approaches to improve your mental health:

Practice Creation Care

The first job God gave humans was to keep and tend the earth and care for all its inhabitants. I think God hardwired an endorphin boost into any outdoor activity as motivation to care for creation, because it turns out sustainable living practices and actively caring for the environment instills a sense of purpose in us while also contributing to a positive self-identity.

For those of us who experience eco-anxiety, doing something to care for the environment develops in us a sense of efficacy that is necessary for our mental well-being.

Small intentions, like reducing food waste, conserving energy, and making ethical consumption choices are great additions into your routine.

Spend Time Outdoors

Just being outside and participating in outdoor activities like hiking, walking, and gardening foster a connection with nature that helps us to feel more connected to God, our neighbors, and our collective home, the great planet Earth.

And it sure beats doom scrolling and binge watching.

Get Involved with a Cause

Community engagement fosters a sense of belonging and provides social support, both of which are imperative for good mental health. Find a community-wide project, like waterway clean-ups or spring cleaning activities, or connect with other like-minded Christians who care about creation by joining a green club, volunteering with the parks system in your community, or starting a community garden.

All of these efforts not only benefit your mental health, they also improve the environment for other people, which is another way to love your neighbor.

Pick Up a Hands-On Creation Care Hobby

Restoration and conservation activities help the environment and give us a tangible sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, which is a significant boost in self-esteem. Plus, these activities are usually group oriented, which fosters a sense of shared purpose and connection.

Plant trees. Restore a habitat. Cleanup a beach, river, or stream. Participate in a community garden. Help track and monitor wildlife. Volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation center. Support urban greening projects. Restore a wetland. Maintain trails. Organize educational programs in your local community. Help with erosion control projects. Plant a pollinator garden. Advocate for and implement sustainable agricultural practices.

Get out there and make the planet a greener, healthier place. It’ll be good for your brain, too.

Go to Sleep, Eat Your Food, Get Some Exercise

Our mental health is inseparable from our physical health. If you don’t take care of your physical health, your mental health is bound to suffer as well. 

“​​Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”

3 John 1:2 NIV

I don’t know why this is so hard for me to get through my head sometimes. If you’re tired, go to sleep. If you’re hungry, eat a balanced diet. If you’re bored, move your body. It seems simple enough. What competition do I think I’m winning by getting the least amount of sleep possible? Silly.

Holistic health is at the root of the Bible. When an expert in the law challenged Jesus about how one inherits eternal life, Jesus asked the man how he reads the Law. He replied:

He answered,

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly, Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Luke 10:27-28 NIV

Do this and you will live. Love God, love your neighbor, and love yourself with your heart (emotions), soul (spirit), strength (body), and mind (thoughts). 

So, get some rest, kiddo. God knows you need it.

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