The Resilience Project is a book based on a popular wellbeing program used in schools and workplaces in Australia. The book says it is about “finding happiness through gratitude, empathy and mindfulness”, and does this through story and by outlining some very practical strategies that can be implemented into our daily lives to create meaningful change.
On one level I thought the book presented a very reasonable approach to improving wellbeing and mental health for the average young Australian. But I also wondered why Christians don’t contribute in this area? And, what would the principles of gratitude, empathy and mindfulness look like in light of our faith? Perhaps the equivalent might be thankfulness, love and contemplation.
The Psalms are a great example of what thankfulness might look like. By regularly reading the Psalms, or telling God some things we are thankful for each day, we can transform our perspective. We can expect that if we practise this as a spiritual discipline it is going to have the same positive mental health benefits as practising gratitude. Perhaps you could start by reading and reflecting on Psalm 100:
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Love is the essence of the Christian gospel and the way of Jesus Christ. Jesus said the two most important things in life were to love God and love our neighbour with everything we have (Mark 12:30-31). It’s not an ideal so much as something we choose to do. It is about putting into practise the aspects of love so we are living them out with the people around us. This would look like replacing the “love is” statements in 1 Corinthians 13 with “I am”:
“I am patient and kind. I do not envy or boast. I am not proud. I do not dishonour others. I am not self-seeking or easily angered. I do not keep a record of wrongs. I do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth. I always protect, trust, hope and persevere” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, adapted).
Contemplation is about spending time with God, meditating on creation or Scripture, or sitting in silence. It is focussing on God and ourselves through prayer, with a view to becoming more like Christ. It is accepting Christ’s peace as he offers to give it to us. Jesus said:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Build your resilience
Why not ask yourself …
What three things can I thank God for today?
What is one act of love I can do for another person right now?
How can I take 10 minutes to sit quietly in nature and contemplate God?
Dr Katherine Thompson is a clinical social worker and psychotherapist, and author of The Discipline of Suffering and Christ Centred Mindfulness. In 2024 Katherine Thompson is teaching new postgraduate courses in Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing at Eastern College, designed to upskill students to work with young people in a faith-integrated way. You can find more information about the courses here.