WE HAVE stated that mental health results from thinking and acting in harmony with God's will and have quoted statements from the pen of inspiration that have led us to conclude that this harmony is dependent upon the human mind's reception of the Holy Spirit's controlling influence. Factors that decrease the mind's receptivity of the Holy Spirit are therefore hindrances to mental health.
According to the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy, anything that weakens the vital powers of the human organism decreases the sensibility of the mind to the Holy Spirit. Ellen G. White wrote:
The brain nerves which communicate with the entire system are the only medium through which Heaven can communicate to man and affect his inmost life. Whatever disturbs the circulation of the electric currents in the nervous system lessens the strength of the vital powers, and the result is a deadening of the sensibilities of the mind.1
In this connection it is interesting to note that the idea set forth by this writer regarding the reduction of vitality through severe or repeated stressful experiences has since been confirmed by medical science. Hans Selye, a research physiologist, has profoundly influenced medical scientific thought by his work on vitality, which he calls "adaptation energy," and stress.
In his book The Stress of Life, Dr. Selye writes:
I have described . . . animal experiments which showed that every living being has a certain innate amount of adaptation energy or vitality. This can be used slowly for a long and uneventful life, or rapidly during a shorter and more stressful . . existence.
Life is essentially a process which gradually spends the given amount of adaptation energy that we inherited from our parents. Vitality is like a special kind of bank account which you can use up by withdrawals but cannot increase by deposits. Your only control over this most precious fortune is the rate at which you make your withdrawals. . . .
Many people believe that, after they have exposed themselves to very stressful activities, a rest can restore them to where they were before. This is false. Experiments on animals have clearly shown that each exposure leaves an indelible scar, in that it uses up reserves of adaptability which cannot be replaced.2
Years before Dr. Selye conducted his experiments on stress Ellen G. White wrote:
God has endowed us with a certain amount of vital force. He has also formed us with organs suited to maintain the various functions of life, and He designs that these organs shall work together in harmony. If we carefully preserve the life force, and keep the delicate mechanism of the body in order, the result is health; but if the vital force is too rapidly exhausted, the nervous system borrows power for present use from its resources of strength, and when one organ is injured, all are affected.
She also stated:
Those who make great exertions to accomplish just so much work in a given time, and continue to labor when their judgment tells them they should rest, are never gainers. They are living on borrowed capital. They are expending the vital force which they will need at a future time... . God has provided us with constitutional force, which will be needed at different periods of our lives. If we recklessly exhaust this force by continual overtaxation, we shall sometime be losers.
Dr. Selye found similar responses when the stress factors were mechanical, psychological, chemical, bacterial, or other. Ellen White under inspiration was more explicit in relating the problem to specific practices that violate laws of health and to conditions which tend to destroy the "vital force." Witness the following statements:
The brain nerve energy is benumbed and almost paralyzed by overeating.'
On irregular eating
Children are permitted to indulge their tastes freely, to eat at all hours. . . . The digestive organs, like a mill which is continually kept running, become enfeebled, vital force is called from the brain to aid the stomach in its overwork, and thus the mental powers are weakened.°
Those who acquire and indulge the unnatural appetite for tobacco, do this at the expense of health. They are destroying nervous energy, lessening vital force, and sacrificing mental strength.7
Tea draws upon the strength of the nerves and leaves them greatly weakened. . . . When the system is already overtaxed and needs rest, the use of tea spurs up nature by stimulation to perform unwonted, unnatural action, and thereby lessens her power to perform and her ability to endure; and her powers give out long before Heaven designed they should.'
It temporarily excites the mind . . . , but the after-effect is exhaustion, prostration, paralysis of the mental, moral, and physical powers. The mind becomes enervated, and unless through determined effort the habit is overcome, the activity of the brain is permanently lessened.°
The use of liquor or tobacco destroys the sensitive nerves of the brain, and benumbs the sensibilities."
Drugs always have a tendency to break down and destroy vital forces?'
On sexual excess
Sexual excess will effectually destroy a love for devotional exercises, will take from the brain the substance needed to nourish the system, and will most effectively exhaust the vitality?'
Do not try to crowd into one day the work of two. At the end, those who work carefully and wisely will be found to have accomplished as much as those who so expend their physical and mental strength that they have no deposit from which to draw in time of need.'3
On ill-chosen reading
The memory is greatly injured by ill-chosen reading, which has a tendency to unbalance the reasoning powers and to create nervousness, weariness of the brain, and prostration of the entire system?'
Intemperate indulgences are reducing the vital energies of both body and mind. They place the one that is overcome upon the enemy's ground, where Satan can tempt, annoy, and finally control the will at pleasure."
Nine-tenths of the wickedness among the children of today is caused by intemperance in eating and drinking."
The feeling of guiltiness must be laid at the foot of the cross, or it will poison the springs of life?'
Guilt and sorrow . . . crush the life forces?'
There are today thousands suffering from physical disease, who, like the paralytic, are longing for the message, "Thy sins are forgiven." The burden of sin, with its unrest and unsatisfied desires, is the foundation of their maladies."9
On doubt and grief
The assurance of God's approval will promote physical health. It fortifies the soul against doubt, perplexity, and excessive grief, that so often sap the vital forces and induce nervous diseases of a most debilitating and distressing character."
The continual worry is wearing out the life forces."
1 Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 347.
2 Selye, Hans, The Stress of Life, The McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York. 1956, pp. 269, 274. Used by permission of McGraw-Hill Book Company.
3 The Ministry of Healing, pp. 234, 235.
4 Fundamentals of Christian Education, pp. 153, 154. '
5 Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 414.
6 Healthful Living. p. 49.
7 Temperance, p. 64.
8 Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 64.
9 Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, p. 34.
10 Temperance, p. 59.
11 Medical Ministry, p. 223.
12 In Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 477.
13 Gospel Workers, p. 244.
14 Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 497.
15 Ibid., vol. 3, p. 561.
16 Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, Oct. 21, 1884, p. 670.
17Testimonies to Ministers, p. 518.
18 The Ministry of Healing, p. 115.
19 The Desire of Ages, p. 270.
20 Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, Oct. 16, 1883, p. 641.
21 The Ministry of Healing, p. 481.