Eat Better, Exercise More, Pray More

And the Peace of God

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

In today’s passage, the Apostle Paul tells us that prayer is one of the blessings that leads to peace. And don’t you want more peace?

Simplicity is our theme for the next few weeks. Last Sunday – and then in Monday’s devotion – I listed a dozen tips to simplify life. One was …

Eat Better, Exercise More, Pray More

Healthy living gives us energy to make

better decisions and tackle life’s challenges.

Well, today let me tell you my story, and it starts with a question …

Do you know what serotonin is?

Some call serotonin “the happy chemical.” 5-hydroxytryptamine (more commonly “serotonin”) is a chemical with a wide variety of functions in the human body. Principally it is used to transmit messages between nerve cells. But serotonin plays a role in sleep, appetite, and cognitive functioning, and it plays a key role in emotions and mood.

And here’s one other fact about serotonin: My own body produces too little of it. I tell people that I often run “a quart low” – meaning, I’m not as naturally happy or buoyant as most people. And it gets worse in the fall. Sunlight boosts serotonin levels, but with less sun as the days get shorter in the fall, many people get SAD (a depressive condition known as Seasonal Effective Disorder).

Most years as autumn approaches I sit for a half hour a day in front of a light box – artificial sun – to stimulate my serotonin and lift my mood. But this year, I haven’t needed it. This year I’m buoyant.

Mary Louise made this observation recently, and we pondered why. And between us, we came up with three things that are different this year …

  1. I’m eating better this year. I’ve lost ten pounds.
  2. I’m exercising more. I don’t exercise a huge amount, but every morning I’m on an elliptical treadmill for a few minutes to get my blood flowing.
  3. There’s more prayer surrounding me. To be honest, my prayer level hasn’t changed much, but our church’s prayer level – especially for our congregation’s staff – keeps rising! (Come try our Wednesday evening prayer group.)

And then suddenly … Wow! I realized that last week I went to lots of websites to come up with last Sunday’s simplification tips like “Eat Better, Exercise More, Pray More,” and it was precisely those three things that have been improving my mental health this fall!

And here’s the thing … indeed, here’s why “doing more” (exercise more and pray more, along with healthy eating) is a simplification tool … When we’re healthier, we have the capacity to deal with more stress. Or to put that another way, health simplifies our lives. In other words, if I don’t have the capacity to do one thing, then I’m routinely overwhelmed. But if I have the health, the mood, and the capacity to do ten things … then … well, I probably still shouldn’t do more than six or seven, but I’m operating within my margin.

Are you within your margin? Maybe it’s time to take up better eating, exercising, and praying!

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who truly needs the light –

it improves my mood

(including my spiritual mood)


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