How Regular Sabbath Improves Your Mental and Physical Health
Many Christians have heard about the Sabbath and know it should be part of their life, but it can be hard to make it happen. Between the busyness of daily life, work, family, and even church activities, fitting in regular times for rest can feelimpossible. Additionally, it can be hard to understand why it’s so important to begin with.
People are often taught that getting things done is better than rest. After all, your family needs you, you must work, and there are so many things on the calendar. Plus, the laundry is piling up and someone needs to get to the grocery store. How will taking a rest help you feel better when there is so much to get done?
What is the Sabbath?
Let’s start by growing a deeper understanding of the Sabbath. The concept of the Sabbath is woven into the creation of the world. When God created the world, he spent time making day and night, land, sea, air, plants, animals, and even people. When he was done creating those things, He did something different.
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day, he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. – Genesis 2:1-3, NIV
This is the first reference to rest. But this is more than taking a break. Genesis 2:3 describes this rest as something special, something God blessed and made holy. It is this key element that defines Sabbath in our lives.
As you continue to explore the Word, you see God talk about the Sabbath as a holy time of rest. This is more than just stopping work, although that is part of it. It is that blessed time that is holy and set apart. It is about intentionally making time to rest from work to worship God. Later in the Word, the idea of the Sabbath is explored in many ways.
In the Old Testament, the Sabbath is part of the law that people must follow. Later, when Jesus comes and is resurrected, we learn that we are free from the law outlined in the Old Testament. Jesus fulfills the law for us. That can leave us wondering about the Sabbath and its role in our lives.
Should the Sabbath be part of my life?
Practicing Sabbath is good for you. It isn’t about following an archaic rule to please God. Instead, you can incorporate Sabbath into your life to benefit you spiritually, physically, and mentally.
While there are different opinions on what Sabbath looks like, how people should practice it, and when it should be observed, you can discover the benefits of the Sabbath in your life no matter how you do it. It is less about following strict guidelines and more about developing a rhythm of rest and worship that feeds your soul.
It is often easy to understand the spiritual benefits of taking time to rest and worship God. However, there are additional benefits to consider.
Sabbath rest improves your mental health.
Taking time to rest and connect with God goes beyond feeling like you had a break. There are deeper mental health benefits that people can experience from routinely making time for Sabbath in their lives.
A study of a small group of people at Liberty University investigated how an eight-week Sabbath routine impacted anxiety, worry, and stress. Most participants, upon completion of the study, showed a decrease in anxiety, worry, and stress in their lives. When you consider the benefits specifically connected to rest, there are a variety of things that help improve mental health.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness describes benefits such as increased energy, which allows you to do more of the things you enjoy. Similarly, people who take time to rest can experience more energy to devote to the people they love and the work that is important to them. These things all work together to improve mental well-being.
As you look at the spiritual aspects of the Sabbath, such as prayer and corporate worship, the mental health benefits are also evident.
Kristen Rogers of CNN reported, “A 2011 study found prayer can help reduce anger and aggression. In a series of experiments in which participants either prayed for or thought about a stranger, a person who angered them, or a friend in need, members of the prayer group were more likely to feel less anger and aggression after a provocation.”
When you look further at the mental health benefits of taking spiritual rest, you discover that things like prayer can reduce feelings of anxiety, isolation, and fear while increasing feelings of gratitude and connection. Combining the benefits of rest and spiritual dwelling that occurs during a regular time of Sabbath rest, promotes mental health benefits that go beyond the Sabbath.
Looking at Sabbath as the marriage of physical rest and worship of God allows us to see how both aspects benefit us in more spiritual and mental health. Each of these aspects has physical benefits as well.
Taking time to rest has obvious benefits for your body. According to Integris Health, “Rest is vital for better mental health, increased concentration and memory, a healthier immune system, reduced stress, improved mood, and even a better metabolism.”
Regular rest has concrete physical benefits such as:
- Decreased blood pressure.
- Chronic pain relief.
- Improved immune health.
- Stronger cardiovascular system.
If you consider the spiritual element of the Sabbath, you can also see amazing physical benefits. Corporate worship, private time with God, and regular prayer as suggested by the concept of the Sabbath can improve everything from hormone levels to breathing.
Some examples of how prayer can benefit your physical health are:
- Faster recovery following medical procedures.
- Helps your body heal more efficiently.
- Inhibits the release of cortisol and other hormones that can negatively affect the body.
- Regulates heart rate and breathing.
- Relieves stress and offers hope which promotes physical wellness.
These things all work together to offer better physical health when you routinely practice Sabbath in your life.
As you consider the challenges associated with incorporating the Sabbath into your life, it is important to also consider the vast benefits. Naturally, the physical benefits are noteworthy. As you combine physical rest and spiritual dwelling with God regularly, Sabbath rest offers you an opportunity for better health and wellness mentally and physically as well.
It is interesting, however, to see that these benefits go even deeper. Whenever you follow God’s commands you will experience spiritual benefits. Sabbath does not need to be looked at as a spiritual law. Instead, you can consider Sabbath to be a helpful directive God offers for your life.
The Bible Project says, “As followers of Jesus, God does not expect us to live by Israel’s laws. However, the wisdom of these laws remains, and the law of the Sabbath is rich with significance for us today. The Sabbath is not a commandment we are bound to; it’s a promise we’re invited to enjoy.”
As you think about how Sabbath may look in your life, consider all the benefits it brings. Sabbath offers you spiritual, mental, and physical benefits that will directly impact your life and well-being.
Does the idea of taking time for a regular Sabbath feel impossible? One of the counselors in our office can help you find ways to implement Sabbath in your life so you can have better mental and physical health. Call our office to set up an appointment and get started.
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