Honoring Emotions to Build a Better You
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Dr. Anita’s sister, Valerie, began experiencing symptoms of mental illness when she was only five years old. Later, she was tormented with hallucinations only she could see. By her teens, Valerie became addicted to drugs which helped to keep her hallucinations away. When she was forty, she finally was able to overcome her addictions. She renewed her relationship with Jesus and began taking medication to treat her mental illness. Unfortunately, the years of drug abuse took a toll on her body, and she died in 2016. Many knew of her drug addiction, but most did not know of her mental illness, so Dr. Anita is dedicated to telling her story.
“Our bodies matter to God,” shares Dr. Anita. In fact, she says, “The body was clearly and intentionally fashioned by God, and it’s important that we hold on to that reality.” The Creator did plant a tree of life within you. In other words, the blueprint of God’s Garden is embodied in you. Your body gives direct access to your emotional life. It is important to become aware of your body and embrace your emotional experiences rather than warring against them.
THE GARDEN WITHIN
“My parents taught me to look for God everywhere and, in all things,” shares Dr. Anita. When Dr. Anita was just a teenager, she recalls her mom saying, “I know something is wrong and that Valerie needs more help than we can give her, but I still want to see it in my Bible.” In her heart, Dr. Anita made a silent promise to find the answer. She discovered that the intent of the Creator when He formed humanity has everything to do with our hearts. She says, “Scripture clarifies again and again that it is the heart – not the mind – that God designed to be at the very center of the human experience, and that includes our feelings.
• Heart Spirit Relationship – In 2007, as a PhD student at Regent University, Dr. Anita discovered the answer to her mom’s question. She was taking a science class and felt a need to read the book of Romans. The verse that got her attention: “For since the creation of the world (God’s) invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20 NKJV). She then turned her attention to the book of Genesis. She felt God wanted to reveal something to her in this science class. The next day they studied about neurons which look very similar to a seedling. Dr. Anita began to ponder if the Creator was trying to reveal that He intentionally shaped neurons to look like plants to teach us something about how He made us. In fact, the Bible consistently uses plants and gardens to teach spiritual lessons and principles for living. She says, “The Creator gave us gardens to teach us about Him and about how He designed us in His image. The Creator planted a garden for us, and then the Creator planted a garden within us. A garden’s condition depends on its soil; the condition of the garden within you – spiritually, mentally, and physically – depends on the soil of your heart.”
• Heart Mind Relationship – Dr. Anita says, “Your thoughts don’t exist separately from your feelings. Your heart is the soil of your life. The roots of your mind are anchored there. The relationship between your heart and your mind is the same as the relationship between soil and a plant. Just as the soil is there before the plant, feeling comes before thinking.” There is a garden within each person. Seed, soil, plants and fruit are all
working together in a system. So is our spirit, heart, mind, and body. Your heart nurtures your mind.
• Heart Body Relationship - Emotions begin in the body not the mind. Dr. Anita shares how as a freshman in college she developed a serious drinking habit. In fact, she almost died from alcohol poisoning after drinking a large amount of rum. Five years later, she was having dinner with a friend at Thanksgiving. At that point, she had not had a drink in two years. The sweet potatoes were passed to her, but suddenly she felt nauseous and anxious. She later discovered it was because of the rum flavoring. Her body remembered the impact the rum had on her body years before. The fear she recalled from the alcohol poisoning was engaged by her autonomic nervous system. Below she shares how emotions affect the body:
• Depression - heart health is affected by how your body responds to depression. The stress hormone, cortisol, is produced at higher levels which put you at risk for developing heart diseases.
• Loneliness – increases your risk of an early death. Human contact is a biological need. Touch calms our sympathetic nervous system and lowers stress.
• Anger – frequent anger leads to problems in the body. Although it is not a sin to have the emotion of anger, it can produce problems in the body. Prolonged anger can lower immune function.
• Fear – can manifest as chronic pain in the body and can cause difficulty breathing or even produce headaches and anxiety. Ignoring this emotion can lead to problems like people pleasing, anxious thoughts, or panic attacks.
JESUS HAD EMOTIONS
Many associate emotions with weakness, but emotions are not a sin. Jesus had emotions. In fact, He experienced emotional and physical pain just like we do. “Jesus knew the secret of the connection between our hearts and a powerful life,” shares Dr. Anita. Some of the times Jesus showed emotion publicly include:
• When Jesus stood in front of Lazarus’s tomb and wept (John 11:35).
• In the temple of Jerusalem, Jesus unleashed a whip and flipped tables (Matt. 21:12).
• On the cross, Jesus expressed his feelings of abandonment (Psalm 22:1).
After Jesus experienced these emotions, a supernatural display followed:
• He wept, then He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44).
• Jesus demanded order in the temple, then He performed healing miracles. (Matt. 21:14)
• After He endured the emotional pain at Gethsemane, hundreds of soldiers were knocked to the ground by His words (John 18:6).
CULTIVATE YOUR GARDEN
God designed our bodies with the ability to be restored. Some steps you can take to nurture your embodied garden and your emotional well-being include: (1) Go to bed – the body will not and cannot thrive on lack of sleep; (2) Hydrate – give your body enough water to support emotional well-being. Your body weight determines how much you need each day (drink a half ounce to an ounce per pound); (3) Eat - develop healthy eating habits to prevent unstable blood sugar levels; (4) Use your spiritual tools. Read the word, pray, and worship the Lord. (5) Nurture your nervous system through deep breathing, spending time in nature, and connections with friends and loved ones. (6) Therapy is also a strategy for more deeply rooted issues. *There will be a six-week Bible study series based on the book available on March 24th.
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