We can all use some reminding from time to time of the hope that God, Jesus and the Bible can bring to us in our daily lives. We are well aware there are troubles here on earth (John 16:33) and as the blows come and go, we need encouragement to help see us through to the other side of our struggles.
There are many ways and suggestions to go about staying encouraged when we are feeling low on hope. It is important to recognize healthy and appropriate methods to regain hope vs. unhealthy ways to solicit encouragement. Here are four helpful ways I use to stay or regain hope and encouragement:
- Read the Word
- Move your body
- Use essential oils
- Writing / Journal
READ THE WORD
Getting in and reading the word is the first recommended go-to when reaching for hope and trying to stay encouraged in the Lord. I say this because we are directed not to put anything else before him (Exodus 20:3 You shall have no other gods before me). I understand that when life happens, stopping to think of an inspirational story from the bible isn’t always feasible. Maybe your bible isn’t convenient to break open or you are not familiar with a story that helps fill you with hope or encouragement. If you have an aversion to jumping into your bible every time you get discouraged there are alternatives.
Sometimes all we need is a gentle reminder to set us back on track. To help break the mental cycle from replaying what is going wrong to set the track to perfect peace in his promises ( Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you ).
Cute little reminders come in handy when on-the-go. They can look like setting the wallpaper on your cell phone to an inspirational bible verse, a stack of small business size cards that are printed with scripture, wall decals and plaques, even Post-it notes with handwritten words of hope. Stick these reminders in conspicuous places, such as your bathroom mirror or the dash of your car, so you can see them regularly.
When we become discouraged, we tend to go to other things, perhaps participating in unhealthy habits. Our ultimate craving and desire should be to seek comfort from the Lord first. Many times, we seek outside of him. This can lend us over to unhealthy habits of food or drinks, material items, people, and so on.
MOVE YOUR BODY
When you intentionally move your body, as in exercising it, you can hijack your brain -your mind rather- into a better mood. Our nervous system controls the body’s organs, psychological functions, and physical functions. Various neurotransmitters are released when we exercise our body, giving a boost of “feel-good” transmitters through the body and to the brain.
I know, I know, I said exercise. Trust me, this does not have to look anything like cross-fit or like training for a triathlon. If you are at a physical level where you are capable of walking, then start there. A brisk walk can improve oxygen flow to the brain, increases our heart rate which puts a demand to take a deeper breath. I find it so fascinating how God has created our bodies to almost be self-igniting, providing we supply its needs. For example, an article by Neurocore states that research was conducted on how the impact from hitting our feet on the ground while walking sends a hydraulic wave upward through our bodies. This wave is actually strong enough to send blood back up through our arteries, increasing blood flow to the brain. Going for an intentional walk is not only a tick on the healthy-meter but also serves as a purpose to increase oxygen to the brain. This helps ease any mental fogginess and disrupts negative mental focus.
We are all on different levels when it comes to our health journey. If you cannot walk then start by pumping your legs and arms while you are lying in bed or in a sitting position. You can then graduate to a standing position and begin marching in place so your feet hit the ground. It’s a matter of starting where you are at now and with determination and consistency you can graduate to the next level of endurance.
WRITING / JOURNAL
Writing and journaling are a soothing way to help suspend time to the present moment. It can help improve our mood, give us a sense of well-being -like confidence or peace- and provides a method where we can hash out thoughts. In the fast-paced world when was the last time you stopped to write a letter, fill out a greeting card or journal your thoughts and feelings?
Too often we are reflecting on the past or flashing forward in doubt and fear of the unknown instead of actively participating in the present moment. Journaling helps you focus mentally on the immediate task at hand and engages the brain in creative ways, encouraging new networks of neurons to be formed as we are in deep thought.
The Holy Spirit can access communication by way of your writing as well. I know this because when I have participated in Dr. Caroline Leaf’s 21-day brain detoxing process, her third step is to journal. After the active journaling step, you go back to read what you wrote. Many times, I find that what I wrote was God given. This reminds me of Exodus 34:4 where God instructed Moses to chisel the commandments on to stone. Of course we are using pen and paper but I think you get the idea. This is one activity he can use to communicate not just instructions, but encouragement and reminders of his promises as well.
If you are new to journaling, there are two immediate things I recommend:
- Use the same journal for all your entries. I typically like to buy a new lined journal each year and use it for the duration of one annual year.
- Each entry, document the date and time, and maybe location, depending on the situation.
The joy of journaling is you get to go back and look at what you came through. Sometimes that alone is encouraging enough to read what God brought you through. You get to see his hand, love, and mercy for you when you were too thick in the muck to recognize any of it.
USE ESSENTIAL OILS
The use of essential oils can help disrupt the mental loop of hopeless emotions. Because of the complexity of our brain, the aroma of essential oils can help trigger the memories and their corresponding emotional response. As we inhale an oil it sparks a system in our brain called the limbic system where memories and emotions are stored. Once this area is triggered by a particular scent the associated memory creates a unique feeling. By integrating oils into our mental health routine, we are intentionally hijacking the brain’s attention for a more pleasurable feeling.
Remember that I mentioned how amazing God created our bodies to work? I also want to remind you how we are individually unique as well. The uniqueness and diversity of an oil’s chemical profile is similar, depending on the plant’s environment and its genetic code. We each have personal preferences, a variety of past experiences, live in diverse environments which signal particular indicators, plus made up of genetic material as well. It is for this reason, when smelling an essential oil, that a distinct trigger and memory will be personalized to you. Not every user will have the same psychological reaction to the same oil.
For example, as I write this blog post I am actively using essential oils to help with mental clarity, motivation, and to promote creativity. If you are curious which two oils those are, I have been sniffing on Frankincense and a blend called Elevation (Joyful blend). The method I used for this purpose is called aromatic.
Simply put, I opened the bottle and inhaled through my nostrils directly from the bottle’s opening. I alternated from one bottle to the other about every 15 minutes. For me, this combination of oils helped brighten my senses. What I mean is it helped direct my attention to writing because I was more alert mentally and physically. I felt motivated, kept an optimistic outlook during the process, and overall felt in a good mood.
As previously mentioned, there are many ways that can help support or encourage our hope in the Lord. These are just 4 methods I have used and appreciated their effectiveness. We may not have the convenience of a sister to call on for immediate prayer, but we always have access to a 24-hour hotline straight to God himself. Call on him first in all that you do, and the other three suggestions can follow. Give all 4 a try, you can do them in various order or try different combinations to see what works best for you.
Before we end I’d like to leave you with this last verse from Jeremiah 17:7 But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.
Be reminded sister to stay encouraged in the Lord, stay steadfast, trust and be confident in him. Until next time, be blessed!
If this post resonated with you please let me know. I’d love to connect with you.