7 Essential Mental Activities

Most Christians try to take preventative (and curative) measures to enjoy good physical and spiritual health. However, there is less consciousness of the similar effort required to maintain or recover mental health. There is much less awareness of the biblical strategies and proven techniques that can be used to achieve good mental and emotional health, with beneficial knock-on effects for our bodies and souls. 

I have never been diagnosed with any kind of mental illness. However, like most people, and especially like most pastors, I have had low points in my life, times of mild to moderate depression and anxiety. Sometimes this was brought on by bodily pain and illness, sometimes by my thinking processes going wrong, and sometimes by unbelief. If I had known then what I know now about mental health, I would have maybe avoided these seasons, or at least emerged from them sooner.

As I look around me, and especially as I look around the Church, I can see many people who have not been diagnosed with depression, and who are not disabled with it, but who are experiencing long-term, low-level depression/anxiety, which is also having its own knock-on effect on their bodily health and their spiritual lives. And again, so many of them lack basic knowledge about how to maintain and recover mental health.

In Maintain Your Mental Well-being, Dr David Rock, Executive Director of The Neuroleadership Institute also complains about how “we are short on simple, clear information about good mental habits.” He goes on:

Few people know about what it takes to have optimum mental health, and the implications of being out of balance. It is not taught in schools, or discussed in business. The issue just isn’t on the table. Businesses schedule time as if the brain had unlimited resources, as if we could focus well all day long. Every week I talk to an organization who says that their biggest problem is simply the overwhelm their people are feeling.

But instead of just complaining about this widespread ignorance, Rock and his colleague Dr. Daniel J. Siegel have created the Healthy Mind Platter, a kind of Food Pyramid for the mind.

This platter has seven essential mental activities necessary for optimum mental health in daily life. These seven daily activities make up the full set of ‘mental nutrition’ that your brain needs to function at it’s best. By engaging regularly in each of these servings, you enable your brain to coordinate and balance its activities, which strengthens your brain’s internal connections and your connections with other people.The seven essential mental activities are:

  • Focus Time. When we closely focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way, taking on challenges that make deep connections in the brain.
  • Play Time. When we allow ourselves to be spontaneous or creative, playfully enjoying novel experiences, which helps make new connections in the brain.
  • Connecting Time. When we connect with other people, ideally in person, richly activating the brain’s social circuitry.
  • Physical Time. When we move our bodies, aerobically if possible, which strengthens the brain in many ways.
  • Time In. When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, helping to better integrate the brain.
  • Down Time. When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, which helps our brain recharge.
  • Sleep Time. When we give the brain the rest it needs to consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day.

The only one that puzzles me is “Time in.” It looks like a substitute for communion with God. So maybe rename that “God Time” and push it to number one spot.

Read the rest of Dr Rock’s article here.

Thriving (or just surviving) at College?


Title: Thriving at College

Author: Alex Chediak (Christian college professor)

Publisher: Tyndale House

Price: $10.19 (paperback), $1.99 (Kindle)

Aim: To help students improve their college experience

Topics: Holding on to faith, managing finances, healthy relationships, time-management, godly character, assuming responsibility, choosing a major, guidance and vocation, study habits, etc.

Readership: College students, parents of students, pastors.

Style: Conversational tone without being condescending. Judicious use of illustrations, examples, and anecdotes. Lots of stimulating questions for discussion at the end of every chapter.

Brevity: I read this on a Kindle in a few hours, and expected the page count to be about 200. However, Amazon says it’s 368 pages! That’s a big book, but it’s very readable with hardly a wasted word.

Recommendation: Highly recommended for students, parents, and pastors. Pastors may want to give this book to every graduating High School student. You can get bulk pricing here.

Rating: 5/5 for relevance, usefulness, readability, clarity, wisdom, and comprehensiveness.

Additional Comments: I’d love to see a companion volume (possible title: “Thriving without college”) addressed to young people who don’t go to college. Maybe it would also help reduce the number of young going to college just because “it’s what everyone else does” and then dropping out; or ending up with $100,000 of debt and no better equipped for life. See Paypal founder Peter Thiele’s offer!

Favorite quotes

Work when it’s time to work. Play when it’s time to play. Whatever you’re doing, be fully present in it.

Worldview & Character -> Attitudes & Behaviors -> Habits & Destiny.

Whether you thrive or merely survive at college will depend to a large degree on the extent to which you assume responsibility.

If you want these kinds of friends, then be this kind of friend. Don’t wait for others to initiate. Get the ball rolling. Those who share your values and priorities will be drawn to you like a magnet. In addition, periodically take stock of your relationships. Which ones are promoting godliness and excellence in your life.

On the cellphone as an umbilical cord: Whereas one generation grew up leaving for the afternoon with a plan for doing X, Y, and Z, and having to adjust on the fly for unexpected mishaps or delays, another generation has grown up only needing to remember one thought: If something happens, call. And the very fact that you can immediately call may prevent you from developing critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. It’s easier to make a phone call than to engage in deep reflection and critical thinking for yourself. Yet these are absolutely necessary steps for making hard decisions with incomplete information—a crucial real-world skill.

Here’s an important principle to remember: Every public failure is preceded by private failure.

If you’re living as an adult with Mom and Dad, enjoying the blessings of food and shelter that they make possible, you should be working at least as much as they are.

CK2:13 Be encouraged!

Download here.

Tim Keesee has a pretty amazing ministry. He travels around the world with Frontline Missions in order to encourage missionaries, to meet indigenous Christians and to find new ways to partner in spreading the gospel. Some of his journeys have been documented in the Dispatches from the Front DVDs that Tim Challies wrote about last week. Tim C says: “As soon as I saw those videos I knew that I wanted to talk to Tim, and that is just what I did in this week’s podcast.”

I’d encourage you to listen so you can be encouraged as you hear how and where the Lord is working. Tim K shares some amazing stories and tells what he has seen of the church in faraway lands.

If you want to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. You will always be able to find the most recent episode here on the blog. If you would like to subscribe via iTunes, you can do that here or if you want to subscribe with another audio player, you can try this RSS link.

Pastoral Picks (6/2)

The Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein on the inevitable “revolution” coming to a school or Seminary near you.

And while on the subject of Seminaries, William Evans has a helpful article on how to choose the right one for you. Using his categories, I would describe Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary as (1) A school for pastors, (2) Catechetical, and cheating a bit on (3) I would tick both Confessional & Ecumenical. We adhere to the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards. But we also have students from all kinds of backgrounds – Continental Reformed, Scottish and American Presbyterian, Baptist, etc.

Kevin DeYoung his usual balanced self on Obedience is possible, prescribed, and precious.

Tyndale House’s Bible Study Toolbar looks well worth a try.

And Logos’s new e-book store, Vyrso (should have focus-grouped the name!) looks like a great shortcut to Christian e-books. Good prices too.

“To create something great, you have to cut it in half… keep shortening it… and really figure out what really needs to be there.” Jason Fried of 37 Signals on sermon preparation (well, not really, but it could be).

John Cleese, yes that John Cleese, on creativity and productivity.


Book recommendation: Al Martin’s Preaching in the Holy Spirit ($6).


Excerpt: “It is better to preach a ragged and less than neat sermon in the power of the Holy Spirit, than to preach a neat and polished sermon without His unction” (p. 60).

CrossReference 10: He’s Coming!

Well, here’s the last of ten films on the Old Testament appearances of Christ in the Old Testament. This week we wrap up the series by looking at one of the last prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament: He’s Coming! Hope you enjoyed the journey. Hope it took you to Christ.

The first two videos will be permanently available online. (Episode 1, Episode 2). The remaining episodes will be released once a week for the next seven  weeks. Each of them will be available for online viewing for seven days.

DVD, HD download, and Study Guide available now from HeadHeartHand Media. DVD and Study Guide also available from Ligonier, and RHB.