Blog, Change, Christian Living, Emotions, Thought Life

Meal Planning for the Mind

(If you’d like to listen to the podcast version of this episode, please click here.)

Meal-planning can be so overwhelming, don’t you agree? Choices, choices, too many choices! If you’re prone to over-analyzing (like me) and easily get overwhelmed by a multitude of choices, then you understand. Affluence and progress has brought the unintended consequence of an overabundance of choices, and thereby decision-fatigue and brain fog. Years ago, when your only choices were to “eat what we have today” or to go without, the decision was quite easy! But I digress.

When I think of what I want from a wonderful meal, it goes something like this:

  • I want it to taste good;
  • I want it to fill me;
  • I want it to make me feel good;
  • I want it to support the health of my body.

To take it a step further, a near-perfect meal would also include:

  • I want it to be easy to prepare;
  • I want it to be easy to clean up;
  • I want it to be shared with invigorating conversation OR a great book!

If I look at it this way, this certainly brings clarity to my decisions about meal-planning. Yes, I still have many options, but thinking about the meal with these parameters becomes almost a guiding light; it puts meals that will support my aforementioned desires in the spotlight while allowing meals that don’t will naturally stay in the shadows.

If this all seems a little too metaphysical and deep way to discuss food, then I have good news! I’m not actually talking about food in the post today!

What I really want to talk about is how we feed our mind. Meals of the mind.

setting table
Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

Input, Output

We all know that what we feed our bodies has a very direct and nearly immediate effect on how our bodies function and feel. It’s also true for our mind and the thoughts we think. If our thoughts are the food of our minds, then we can be sure that the thoughts we feed our minds throughout the day really do have a direct and immediate effect on how we feel and our mental well-being.

If we feed our minds thoughts of past mistakes, we will feel remorseful.

If we feed our minds thoughts of past or present injustices, we will feel angry.

If we feed our minds with sensuality, we will feel lustful.

If we feed our minds with the imperfections of our spouse or friend, we will feel frustrated.

If we feed our minds with hopeless thoughts, we will feel depressed.

It really is that simple: what goes into our minds comes out in our emotions and actions. Input-Output. If we can acknowledge this fact, why then do we not spend more time with “intentional meal-planning” for our minds?

Thinking Boundaries

When I was talking about physical food, looking at it from the perspective of what I want the meal to do for me really brings clarity to the task of meal-planning. With the boundaries or guidelines for the desired outcome for my meals, I can much more easily skip over things that don’t meet the requirements.

Philippians 4:8 is a well-known and well-loved passage regarding our thought-life. It provides the needed boundaries for thoughts that come into our minds. We can probably all come close to quoting it accurately. If this is so, why isn’t it applied more? I could be wrong, but if my own life is any indication, there is still a deep struggle to keep our thoughts within the boundaries of Philippians 4:8.

Could it be that we don’t really consider the outcome of following these thought-life-boundaries? As in the meal-planning, are we having trouble focusing our thoughts because we have failed to determine what we want our thoughts to do for us? Interesting to consider, isn’t it?

philippians 4:8

The Desired Result of Our Thoughts

If you back up in Philippians 4 to verses 4-7, joy and peace are mentioned. If you could name two things that you don’t have enough of but desperately want more of in your life, wouldn’t it be these elusive companions?

If “you are what you eat,” physically, then “you are what you think,” mentally! The Bible’s wisdom is letting us know that when we choose to partake of these types of thoughts, the true, praiseworthy, and pure, we are also choosing to have joy and peace! This is what we want our thoughts to do for us: to keep us in a place of abiding joy in the Lord.

How can I be so sure? Take a look at Philippians 4:9b:

“THEN the God of peace will be with you…”

Do you see? It’s an “if-then” statement: “IF you fix your mind on these types of thoughts, THEN the God of peace will be with you.” Simple? It’s easy to understand, certainly, but perhaps a little harder to do.

That’s why I love the analogy of meal-planning and eating. It really does have the sense of “feeding our thoughts to our minds” and then we “consume” the thoughts. I mean, the application really is endless. Just as the health of our physical bodies is directly related to the types of food that we regularly eat, our mental and emotional health is also directly related to the types of thoughts that we are consuming on a regular basis.

eating cereal
Image by Aline Ponce from Pixabay

Mental Meal-Planning

Let’s go back to how we began: I want my physical meals to taste good, to fill me, to nourish me, to make me feel good and energized, etc. I want my “mental meals” to do exactly the same. Look at what I listed… Wouldn’t it be amazing if our thoughts tasted good, filled and nourished us, and made us feel energized? Yes!

Maybe this is a little nuts, but I think you’ll appreciate the idea, but what if I planned to meditate on things I’m grateful for at breakfast? What if my morning “snack” was to cycle through my mind the truths that I have founded my life on from God’s word? Lunch could be a time to center by thinking on all the praiseworthy things I’ve heard or realized so far on a given day; maybe it’s progress made on goals, or an achievement of a friend or even a stranger that I read about! You get the idea…

While I don’t think we should add stress to our lives by having one more thing to “plan,” I do think our lives will would incalculably more joyful and peaceful if we determined within our hearts to feed our minds from the list in Philippians 4. It might take putting reminders on sticky notes around our house, or in our phones, and it will undoubtedly take practice, but I’m hard-pressed to think of something that will benefit you more than learning to fix your thoughts in a godly and biblical way.

God wants us to live lives of tremendous joy and peace, and He has given us many tools in His word and by inspiration of His Spirit. He will help us, but it’s up to us to decide to go for it and make his a part of our lives. It’s taking God at His word, trusting in His promises. And I can assure you, we will not be disappointed.

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