The Deadly Sins & Heavenly Virtues – Their importance for Mental Health

I have never been very religious in my life, and have identified as an atheist these past few years. However, the more I look into religion, the more appealing I find the idea of having some rules to live by. I am currently reading a book about Buddhism, which is teaching me a lot about discipline and productivity. However, for this post little series, I will be focussing on Christianity, and in particular the seven deadly sins and the seven heavenly virtues and their link to the human mind.

Today’s society encourages the partaking of all deadly sins in a modern way.
Image Source: https://hackernoon.com/future-of-all-business-exploit-the-7-deadly-sins-80c2b7b7b6a0

In short, the seven deadly sins are habits one should avoid due to their classified immoral nature, and this includes:

  1. Lust – Excessive sexual appetite
  2. Gluttony – Over-indulgence
  3. Greed – Avarice
  4. Sloth – Laziness
  5. Wrath – Extreme anger
  6. Envy – Desire to have something that belongs to another person
  7. Pride – Hubris & Vanity

Now, I don’t personally condemn these habits as immoral due to my so-far limited religious beliefs, but when looking at the list I think each of these is bad for your mental state. These traits encourage indulgence, disinhibition, and egotism, which is not helpful for anyone’s mindset. So, it might be helpful to keep these in mind when assessing your thinking for certain negative patterns!

To counter-balance these ‘sins’, a set of values that would enhance the human soul, named the heavenly virtues were proposed. In my research, I came across different sets of virtues, so I stuck with those that were most clear to understand for me.

  1. Chastity – Purity
  2. Temperance – Self-restraint
  3. Charity – Giving
  4. Diligence – Conscientiousness
  5. Forgiveness – Composure
  6. Kindness – Admiration
  7. Humility – Humbleness

Aristotle even talked about having 12 virtues, which you can see here:

https://aesthetichealingmindset.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/4706/

Adopting the values of the heavenly virtues can teach you a helpful mindset that will improve your mental well-being
Image Source (and some good reading!): https://www.aconsciousrethink.com/6802/seven-heavenly-virtues/

I always find my mental health improves when I live by certain rules, which are based on creating a more disciplined routine. Within that, positivity and being able to let go, rather than dwell, always help me to move forward from a bad patch. When looking at the sins and the virtues, I think it is safe to say that living life according to those would create more discipline, and a life fuelled by less hate and more love. You would be encouraged to adopt values that help you give, forgive, and be kind, while you neglect habits that bring you down, or make you indulge in your own achievements and materialism.

There is a lot within each sin and virtue, so this is more of an introductory post to a 6-week (not 7, because I will be excluding Lust) blog post series, where each week I will challenge myself to focus on one particular sin and the counter-balancing virtue, and live more according to those. This is part of my own self-growth and increasing interest in religion, but some of these habits and values might be particularly interesting for my own (and your!) mental health!

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_virtues

http://freedomoffaith.tripod.com/id11.html

https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-24/edition-2/deadly-sins

Mental Health is More than just Mental Illness

Our mindset is complicated and takes time to figure out, but with consistent effort you can get there 🙂
Image Source: https://online.alvernia.edu/program-resources/behavioral-health-vs-mental-health/

Being healthy, physically and mentally, is often defined by the absence of any sort of illness. However, to me, being mentally healthy means so much more; When I reached the point of mostly having overcome my phobia, I was excited about being in a ‘healthy’ state of mind again (i.e. my life did not revolve itself around vomit). But I came to the realisation that there was so much more to my mindset than my previous mental illness. I did not suffer from depression nor anxiety, but there were parts of my thinking that were still unhelpful, and I am still continuously working on these belief systems.

But what do I mean by unhelpful thoughts that were not really part of a mental illness? For me, I found myself to be very reliant on other people – I constantly wondered what others thought of me, if they thought I looked good, and even let their personal outlook on life get to me. Everything in my life revolved around others, by either helping them, giving parts of my life up for them, or letting their opinions take over mine. Whenever I got home alone, I felt lost, confused and frustrated. This is not mentally healthy. I realised I could not let myself be so dependent on everyone but me – At the end of the day, I am the only person that is a constant throughout my life, so I need to learn how to be there for myself, be able to happily keep myself company, and create the person I aspire to be!

Mental illness is a huge issue that many people face in life, but is there more ways our thinking can be affected negatively?
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_disorder

If you don’t suffer from a diagnosed mental illness, it is important to still check how mentally healthy you are. An easy way to do this is to ask yourself questions concerning how you go through life: Are you happy being alone or do you immediately feel lonely or abandoned? What do you think when you look in the mirror? Is going to the cinema alone an option for you, or are you scared of external judgement? Are you able to find something positive in every situation? Can you laugh at yourself or are you easily embarrassed?

Mental health is something we need to talk about more, and mental illness is certainly a huge part of that. But there is more to being healthy, and small things, such as complaining or putting on make-up every time you step outside the door, might be signs you are not living with a healthy mentality. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed, or don’t suspect you suffer from a mental illness, being mentally healthy is still something you should check for.

Being able to see something positive in every situation is crucial for being mentally healthy.
Image Source: http://omswami.com/2016/12/the-secret-of-being-positive.html

You are the only consistent support throughout your life, so make sure to be create the support system you need and want! Nobody else but you will be there to look out for you, sense your emotions, and realise whether you are doing okay. For me, this is a huge part of mental health that I don’t see talked about very much, so I would love to hear your opinions on this :)!

Gratefulness – A Key Pillar of Happiness

Being grateful was never anything I consciously forced myself to be. People tend to naturally feel grateful when, for example, a friend does something nice for them, or when you escaped a dangerous situation safely. But my whole life, until recently, I have never sat down and purposefully listed every single thing I am grateful for – And doing this was a game changer!

I have recently discovered all these small things to be grateful for, and focussing my mind on those really boosted my positive outlook in life. Whether it is being grateful for your parents’ support, being in good health, or living in a safe society, simply reminding yourself of and appreciating the good aspects of your life is really important. Being grateful of any life event can shed some positive light on it, which can help you grow so much as a person.

Appreciate the simple things in life, such as seeing a beautiful sky that could really be a Bob Ross painting

In terms of my past phobia, it is easy for me to think of all the issues it has caused in my life; Being scared of every day experiences, being embarrassed, and keeping myself away from other people. But thinking about those self-inflicted negative consequences is not helpful at all, so I prefer to be grateful that I experienced living with emetophobia. It raised my awareness of ‘unusual’ mental illnesses, which is very important for my future career in Psychology. I also learned about the different forms and shapes anxiety can take on, which makes it easier for me to relate to and emphasise with others. I am also quite sensitive as a person, which I have recently learned to appreciate about myself – This trait has helped me be kinder, take care of others and myself better, and be very aware of my emotions.

I believe that any negative life experience, whether it be mental health issues, death of a loved one, or a break up, can be in some way turned into something that you are grateful for. Be grateful for having had someone in your life, the mental growth it induced, or simply for the good experiences and new pathways it led to. Research has shown that mental well-being is closely tied to how grateful you are (e.g. Rusk, Vella-Brodrick, & Waters, 2016), and it is so so SO easy to start being grateful right now.

It does not matter when (morning, evening, when you’re upset – you choose!), just consciously try to think of a few things every day that you are grateful for. I promise it will help you in one way or another, as a positive outlook never hurts anyone 🙂

“Comparison is the thief of joy”

Appreciate yourself for who you are and what you have – nobody matters when looking at yourself, as you are all you need to reflect and learn.

References Rusk, R. D., Vella-Brodrick, D. A., & Waters, L. (2016). Gratitude or gratefulness? A conceptual review and proposal of the system of appreciative functioning. Journal of Happiness Studies17(5), 2191-2212.