How to Use Your Body Well in the New Year
As we toss out our old planners and refocus our priorities for 2022, it's important to remind ourselves that God’s plan for personal flourishing involves the whole person—the body, as well as the soul. In a culture that idolizes productivity, information-based solutions, and convenience, it’s natural to look to digital technology or cultural trends when it comes to reforming our habits and streamlining our workflows. While there’s nothing wrong with using all the tools at our disposal, we would do well to consider the ways in which our habits, whether old or new, involve or neglect our bodies. Here are a few ideas for ways to pursue whole-person living in the new year.
1. Are you committing to spend more time communing with God? Consider how to incorporate more embodied forms of worship this year.
If you’re like other American Christians hoping to deepen personal worship in 2022, then you’ve probably recommitted yourself to regular quiet time, perhaps with the help of the latest Bible app, Christian podcast, or online Bible reading calendar. While the latest these tools are a great place to start, renewed devotion to God should also incorporate the body.
Spiritual worship that neglects the body contradicts the Christian life as held up by scripture. The Bible makes this clear by using bodily terms to speak of honoring or dishonoring God (Proverbs 6:16-19; cf. Rom. 3:9-20). Indeed, Paul says that presenting “your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” is “your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1).
Therefore, as we turn our hearts in renewed devotion to the Lord this year, let us strive to engage our bodies in worship—resting above all in the work of the One whose body was obediently offered as a sacrifice for us, Jesus Christ.
In personal devotion, consider reading or praying aloud, fasting, kneeling during prayer, and even writing out Scripture.
Corporately, do not neglect to meet together with other believers (Heb 10:25), but instead find ways to worship God together, in-person. Together, join your voices in song, confess your sins to one another, commit your hands to hospitality and serving the poor, the widow, and the orphan, and go out to share the Gospel.
In daily life, be mindful of ways that you use your body and focus on presenting it in righteousness to God. What are your eyes looking at? How are your hands honoring or dishonoring God? Your feet? Your tongue? The rest of your body?
2. Struggling with mental health or bad habits? Consider incorporating physical activities in your pursuit of personal growth.
Just as the body is essential for personal devotion, it is critical for personal growth.
If you’re leaning into digital tools and media (such as virtual talk therapy, mental health podcasts, or self-help feeds) to improve your mental health this year, don't forget that your body is an ally, not an obstacle, in the healing process.
This year, as you pursue personal growth and healing, consider ways you can engage your body—individually and with others:
Hooked on pornography, addicted to alcohol, or enslaved to some other substance? Find activities that help you destress and redirect the emotions that drive you to these unwanted behaviors. Consider a regular and challenging exercise routine. Community is also essential in breaking addictions, so you might want to consider group sports or workout communities like CrossFit.
Anxious, afraid, or insecure? Find activities you enjoy that help you gain peace as well as confidence. Consider taking a yoga class to find regular calm. You might consider rock climbing, fencing, or kickboxing to learn how to confidently take risks and confront fears or threats.
Depressed or lonely? Find things that bring you joy with others. Experiment with cooking and host friends for meals. Join a community gardening club. Organize a weekly pick-up game of ultimate frisbee.
Whatever your malaise, be intentional about limiting screen time, which has been shown to exacerbate mental health issues.
3. Are you contemplating fitness goals? A gym membership might not be what you need.
At the beginning of each year, there is often pressure to purchase gym memberships and make fitness goals. Many of us make renewed commitments to exercise because we want to be “leaner” and “more confident” about our appearances. While these may be reason enough to pursue fitness, for many of us, fitness goals are motivated by insecurity — often as a result of idealizing unrealistic and oversexualized body types.
Rather than pursuing fitness to force our bodies to match impossible and unhealthy ideals, we should pursue fitness in ways that help us love our bodies for the gifts that they are. (Doing so might even help us to enjoy exercise rather than dread it.) This year, if you’re thinking about fitness goals, find activities that help cultivate gratitude for and delight in your body. Try pursuing forms of exercise that encourage play, community, and getting outdoors. Consider:
Taking your exercise routine outdoors
Taking more walks, runs, or bike rides on local trails
Learning a martial art
Training for a triathlon
Kayaking or paddle boarding
4. Seeking to spend more time with your family? Organize some hands-on activities or projects to do together without technological distraction.
It’s easy to let screens fill the time we spend with our families. As kids get older, it’s common to see families splinter off into their own digital corners at the end of the day. Even if we’re taking steps to reduce screen time at home, so many of us have made a habit of turning to our phones in every moment of downtime. These kinds of habits may seem small, but when added up, they make up the patterns that shape your family culture.
Consider the role that digital technology is playing in your family culture. Is it bringing your family together and orienting you towards your work in the Kingdom, or is it fragmenting and distracting you? In his book The Tech-Wise Family, Andy Crouch suggests adhering to the following family guideline: Use screens for a purpose, and together as a family, rather than using them aimlessly and alone.
This doesn’t mean you should ditch your family movie nights—these can be great ways to strengthen your family’s moral imagination. But there are also many other ways you might consider spending time together:
Playing board games
Working on decorating or craft projects
Making music or singing together
Cooking as a family
Walks, hikes, and bike rides
These kinds of activities provide opportunities for children to learn from their parents what it means to live in bodies and act in the world as male and female.
Finally, remember that our living spaces shape our habits. In many homes, the TV serves as the focal point of the living or family room, signaling to everyone living there that this is the main purpose of the space. If Netflix, YouTube, and PlayStation are continually pulling your family in different directions, consider reorganizing your home so that screens aren’t as visible or easily accessible. Fill living spaces with the things you do want to do together: books, musical instruments, hymnals, board games, or craft supplies.