By Beth Davis, D.Min. This year, during the season of Lent, I chose to give up something different from the usual decadent desserts and caffeine beverages that I have sacrificed in previous years. I decided to work on some of my hidden addictions–in other words, my thoughts and attitudes, When a critical thought entered my mind, I took notice of it, and replaced it with a positive attitude. I soon discovered that this challenge proved to be far more difficult than giving up chocolate or cappuccino. Scripture invites us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Outward behavior is often easier to change than what is inward and hidden. Negative thoughts generate negative attitudes, Our thought life controls the way in which we live and relate to others, Rumination–the act of negatively thinking about an event or conversation over and over again–will eventually deplete energy. Research confirms this biblical truth and suggests that individuals who ruminate are at a higher risk for depression. So, how do we eliminate negative thoughts that seem to dominate our waking, and sometimes sleeping, hours” Certainly I tried to “give up” thinking in a negative manner. And, I believe it was a good exercise. I realized how many time during the day my thoughts would simply take off in a direction of their own. If you struggle with rumination or any form of worry, anxiety, or negativity, may I suggest a practical approach that has helped me reduce rumination? Mental health researchers suggest that becoming absorbed in a hobby or sport–a flow activity–will greatly reduce rumination. So, when you find yourself in a negative state of mind, find your flow. A flow activity involves creativity and it provides enjoyment. When you engage in this type of outlet, it is impossible to ruminate. The following list suggests tips for discovering or establishing a flow in your lifestyle.
1. Identify activities that give you pleasure, making it impossible to focus on stressful events or circumstances. Flow activities differ for everyone and may include: playing an instrument, jogging, painting, hiking, gardening, singing, antiquing, golfing, fishing, swimming, scrap-booking, quilting, cooking, and writing.
2. Schedule specific times in your week for flow activities. It is important to create space in your schedule for interests which are non-work related.
3. Counteract stress with flow. After a long business meeting or an argument with a friend or family member, take some time to flow.
4. Nature often provides a natural setting for flow. The words of John Muir are so true: “Everyone needs beauty as well as bread…places to play in…where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul.”
5. Recognize the spiritual responsibility of taking time for rest and renewal. Minister who have identified flow activities tend to be well-rounded, healthy individuals. If you haven’t already done so, discover what makes you flow. It will help you to “take captive every thought.”