The Anglican Liturgy, and other things that can improve your mental health

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Opinion: Sooth your mind by soothing your soul.

Here are five things that I have found are good for my mental health. Maybe they will be a help to you.

Number one, kayaking. The other day I paddled out on Aylesford Lake in Nova Scotia where I currently live. Forty-five minutes against a stiff breeze and steady waves. Water came over the front of the boat. Sunny, with clouds overhead. Rock faced shoreline and forests turning colour.

I thought, “It doesn’t get any better.” An hour or two on Dodge Island and then the return journey.

Whether it’s in a kayak or on a bicycle, whether it involves motion or standing still, whether it’s a sunny day or snowing, being outside can give you a new perspective. Wind, water, sky, tall trees, a loon’s call, the crunch of snow shoes on snow, a beach, big rocks, or the sight of a murmuration — these can clear your mind of the endless streams of words and images that clutter our consciousness.

Number two, the Anglican liturgy. You will see Anglican Church buildings around London and in most parts of the country. The liturgy is the collection of sentences and readings that make up an Anglican Church service. I am not a member of the Anglican Church, but a few times a year I like to attend one. A 20-something and I agreed the other day that, “an Anglican church service is like a reset for the soul.”

Near the beginning of the worship service this prayer is voiced:

Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from your ways...

We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against your holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done. And we have done those things which we ought not to have done. And there is no health in us. But you, O Lord, have mercy upon us.

That lays it out nicely. I have sinned. This fractures my mental life with guilt and disorder. I need the mercy of God. As it turns out, he will not withhold his forgiveness and healing when I sincerely ask for them. This is a tangible comfort for the mind.

Number three, getting up at 6:30 (a.m.). As I sometimes like to say, I do not like getting up. But I do like being up.

There is a lot to be said for getting an early start to the day. “Early” is a relative term. In teen years we tend to stay up later and rise later. My sister-in-law is what is known as a “night owl.” She comes alive at 10 p.m. when many others are planning to call it a day. For her, an early start to the day will be later than mine.

Being up early means that you feel better by the middle of your day. You probably did something useful those first four to six hours. And that is always good. It de-stresses your mind to know that you’ve taken care of some meaningful things already.

Number four, physical work. When I was very young, I would notice that my father relished hard outdoor work such as landscaping and working on construction jobs. I didn’t understand that. I thought that everyone, if given the choice, would want a career in an office or in an institution like a school. Later on, I realized that my dad loved physical work and would never have enjoyed working in a bureaucracy or institution.

These days I notice that construction crews, farm workers, and neighbours who spend time improving their yards seem to be, overall, fairly good natured when they are at work. I find that it is therapeutic to work with your hands. There is a focus there, and at the end of the hour, shift, or day, you can see the results of your efforts. So, if you are good with tools, building things, or yard improvements, I would say, go to work!

Fifth, a personal daily liturgy. Sometimes I like to read a novel by the author Ellis Peters. She has written a series called the Brother Cadfael Chronicles. They are set in Medieval England during a time of civil war. Brother Cadfael is a monk, an herbalist, whose other pastime is solving murders. There is plenty of scheming, death and mayhem.

But it is done against a background of the occasional church bell, daily scheduled prayers, and the sanctuary presence of the church in violent times. There is the knowledge that God is in charge of his world and we all have our part to play in it. The local butcher may be strangled to death in his own home. But in the end what prevails are prayers, truth, beauty, trust in God, and the task of creating a neighbourly, virtuous life in Cadfael’s Shrewsbury — or wherever God has placed you and me.

My days are busy at times. But I find that beginning with a short prayer asking for God’s blessing, pausing at least once in the day to recognize that all the good I am experiencing ultimately comes from the hand of God, and ending the day with a brief prayer for forgiveness for my sins and for blessing on all I’ve tried to do is a great help. It is like a liturgy. Not necessarily Anglican, but a personal one, a liturgy that helps keep my mind ordered and my perspective clear.

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.