Many people are struggling with depression and anxiety around the world. However, with the proper tools such as Christian meditation, anyone can overcome their depression. Thus, helping prevent future cycles of negative thinking.
Many years ago I suffered from four long years of depression that was extremely debilitating. Although Christians are supposed to have the joy of the Lord, many are overcome by depression because they often get stuck in their feelings and minds, depression affects everyone. The big question is, how to prevent yourself from becoming depressed regardless of your mental and emotional bent.
Depression is a construct of the mind that 90% of the time is in direct relationship to the thoughts that we are thinking. Negative and destructive thoughts, fears, old programming left unchecked can all lead to depression. It wasn’t until I began to monitor the thoughts in my head that I realized they were full of self-hated and regret; however this awareness did not come until I became still and quiet and began to listen. We often don’t notice the rapid correlation between what we think and how we feel because we’re just to distracted or busy to notice; however, look deep enough and you can usually find the source of your depression, the very thought that triggered it.
Depression is simply these thoughts and emotions recycling themselves over and over until we create neuropathways in our brain that keep us in the depressed cycle. The longer we are depressed, the harder it is to restore our joy because we’ve actually hardwired our brain for it.
One of the best ways to prevent depression is to monitor your thinking and then squash those negative thoughts before they have a chance to get into your heart. I have found (Christian) meditation to be my godsend when it comes to learning how to quiet my mind and detach from all the internal noise within me. I have a daily Spirit Care Morning Routine that I do that includes many healing tools like EFT and the Welcoming Prayer as well as journaling that helps me to keep my mind and heart pure when I feel mentally and emotionally off balance.
Christian Depression Help for the Weary
Christian depression is becoming more and more commonplace. Each year more than 21 million Americans, many of them Christians, are diagnosed with depression. If depression runs in your family tree, you have a greater tendency to experience depression at some time in your life. Depression is generally triggered by a crisis or loss in our lives. Everyone gets down sometimes, but prolonged sadden begins to alter the functioning of our minds and may also create a chemical unbalance in our brains.
When we experience depression, healthy thoughts are replaced by negative and debilitating thoughts which start to affect our moods. These destructive thoughts become so embedded in our thinking that they cripple us. The longer depression goes untreated the more debilitating our lives become. One key to overcoming depression is reprogramming your thinking (renewing your mind), but that can be difficult to do when you can hardly get yourself out of the bed.How can Biblical meditation help? Christian meditation is like the wheel chair that picks you up off the floor and gets you moving in the direction of recovery. Consistent Christian meditation will help you to control your thoughts and renew your mind with God’s word. Worry is fear and comes from not trusting God to meet your needs.
Most therapists agree that a combination of counseling and medication is needed to treat depression. The medication plays the same role as the wheel chair. It picks you up off the ground and assists you in moving in the direction of recovery. Without the medication, patients often aren’t able to elevate their mood enough to start the healing process. The counseling aspect of treatment helps patients to alter or reprogram their thinking. Christian meditation can assist in the healing process and reinforce your therapist’s treatment plan or it may replace the need for anti-depressants, counseling or both. It’s a natural way to recovery and worth a try.
1) Plagued with Christian Depression?
The activities below, selected from the book The How of Happiness, have been scientifically proven to elevate our moods and create more happiness when practiced consistently. Read the selections and begin incorporating those that interest you.
2) Practice Gratitude and Positive Thinking
Investigations showed that expressions of gratitude are linked to mental and physical well-being. By keeping a gratitude journal and writing down and contemplating 5 things for which you are grateful each day, both large and small, produced higher levels of thankfulness and appreciation. Those who count their blessings on a regular basis, even for things as simple as “hot cocoa” became happier as a result.
3) Cultivate Optimism
Optimism is expecting the best out of every situation. One way to create a positive attitude is to spend twenty minutes writing a narrative about your “best possible future self.” This would be writing down what your life would look like 5 or 10 years from now if all your desires and dreams were realized. For example, you may imagine yourself in your dream job, living in your dream home, and spending time everyday doing what you love. Researchers reported that those who wrote about their visions for 20 minutes over a several day period were more likely to immediately feel happier even several weeks later and to have less physical ailments in the months that followed.
4) Don’t Think Too Much
Overthinking is when we spend too much needless time pondering meanings, causes, feelings, problems or consequences. For example, “Why am I so depressed?”, “What did she mean by that comment?” or “I hate my hair.” Many of us believe that we should evaluate and focus inwardly about why we feel the way we do; however, studies over the past few decades proved that incessant negative thinking tends to lead to greater negativity, pessimism, and unhappiness.
One strategy to quell overthinking is to distract yourself with engrossing activities: read or watch something entertaining, funny, or suspenseful, listen to music, visit with a friend, or engage in physical activity. Another activity is to say “Stop,” each time you catch your mind wandering off in thought. This is similar to the suggestions in my article, “Stop Worrisome Thoughts by Hiring a Mental Gatekeeper.” Third, set aside 30 minutes a day to get all your worrying or thinking in. When you find yourself beginning to worry or become obsessed with specific thoughts, you can tell yourself, “I can’t stop and worry now, I’ll put it off until my worrying time.” Fourth, talk to a trusted friend about your troubles, get it all out, and cry if you feel like it. A good cry can do wonders for making you feel better. Lastly, write how you are feeling in a journal. Getting your thoughts on paper can help you to make sense of and work through them. Also, consider listening to positive affirmations. See selection of Christian Affirmation Cds and Mp3s.
5) Practice Acts of Kindness
A study was conducted asking two groups to do random acts of kindness. Group one was asked to do 5 acts of kindness all in one day within a week; the other group spread their 5 acts of kindness over the entire week. Participant’s kind acts included behaviors like “washing someone else’s dishes,” “visiting a nursing home,” “giving money to homeless person,” and “buying a friend ice cream.” The results showed that the first group, those who performed all 5 acts of kindness within a day’s period of time experienced a significant boost in happiness. Researchers found that timing was also important and that it was important to pick a strategy for how much, how often, and what you intended to do in order not to feel overburdened or fatigued.
6) Nurture Your Relationships
Friends, relationships, marriage, and social connections make people happy. Research shows that when we’re happy, we attract more and better quality relationships which then tends to make us even happier. The most successful couples spent at least 5 hours per week being with and talking to each other. Therefore, if you are in an intimate relationship find new ways to spend time together and creating activities and rituals that nurture your union. Also be generous with expressing admiration, appreciation, and affection. Also, schedule regular time to spend with friends: weekly outings, monthly dinner club, joint vacations, sending emails back and forth. Communication, support, and loyalty help to build successful relationships and ultimately more happiness.
7) Start Meditating
An avalanche of studies have shown meditation to have “multiple positive effects” on a persons mood, happiness, emotions, physical health, stress, cognitive abilities, moral maturity, and self actualization. In an eight week study, participants who practiced daily meditation had greater left brain activation associated with greater happiness and that regular meditation was consistent with greater happiness and less depression and anxiety. In addition, the same participants had stronger immunity to the influenza (all had been injected). Another six week study proved that a six week meditation workshop made the adults happier by increasing their positive emotions, helping them to live in the present moment, enhancing the quality of their relationships, creating more social support, and reducing illness symptoms. The author stated, “These studies make meditation look like a panacea. If the evidence were only anecdotal, I’d be skeptical, but it’s based on years of empirical work.”
These are just a few activities (there are many more great activities) that researchers have identified to help create happiness, eliminate depression, and elevate positive emotions. To read more about happiness producing activities, get a copy of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirisky.
Please note: If you suffer from chronic depression or suicidal thoughts please contact a mental health professional. Christian meditation can be a great supplement to your therapist’s treatment plan
Stop Negative Self Talk
It was Christian meditation integrated with the scriptures that helped me overcome 4 years of a deep depression. I remember so clearly the day my healing began. I was waiting for my kids to get out of school. I sat there in my green mini-van wrenched with emotional pain so thick you could cut it with a knife. As I waited, I began to take deep breaths and with each exaltation I would mentally affirm, “I release pain.”
Within 10 minutes the pain was gone and I experience a peace that had alluded me for so long. As I dwelled in the quiet, the spirit of God spoke to my heart. In a still, small voice, he said, “Rhonda, the reason you are so depressed is because of the thoughts you are thinking.” Prior to this I wasn’t paying much attention to my thoughts, but now aware of them I listened. They came faster than a parading machine gun and they were destructive, debilitating, and down right mean. Every day, I was beating myself down. I was saying words to myself that I’d never let another person get away with. Yet they were able to sneak into my sub-conscious mind day after day. Over the next few months I learned that by changing your negative self talk you can learn to change your perspective and alleviate your mood.
From that day on I made a conscious effort to stop these negative thoughts and alter my thinking. It wasn’t an easy thing because our thoughts become a part of who we are; but I was determined. After several months of examining and prohibiting negative thoughts from entering my mental garden, my depression lifted. Now some 10 years later, I share my story with my Christian brothers and sisters so they can enjoy deliverance as well.
Depression has many causes. It can be biological or psychological. Biological factors that contribute to depression are side effects from medication, physical illness, hormonal changes, or other neuro-chemical disorders. Psychological factors, which are the most common reasons for depression), include interpersonal losses (loss of a loved one) or external losses (loss of a job), unfortunate life events, physical disease, and prolonged stress.
When faced with traumatic or painful events, there are many ways we can respond. If we acknowledge our pain and losses and allow the healing process to take place, we eventually move past the pain into acceptance and well-being. However, depression often results when we deny or suppress our painful feelings, instead of working through and releasing them. As Christians, we may believe being strong or not showing true emotions is a sign of strength or faith. Yet, research shows that it takes anywhere from 2 to 10 years to recover from the loss or death of a loved one. Therefore, we must give ourselves permission to grieve. What we repress or resist persist and begins to affect us on a subconscious level, often resulting in depression or other toxic emotions.
People who live through difficult situations or losses successfully tend to do the following actions: 1) they accept their painful feelings as normal, 2) they give themselves permission to feel their painful emotions, 3) they allow themselves to express their feelings, 4) they stay in contact with supportive family and friends, 5) they engage in problem solving, and lastly, 6) they maintain a clear view of reality.
It is number 6, not “maintaining a clear view of reality” that catapults many people into a spiraling depression. Instead of perceiving negative events as they truly are and working through them in a healthy process, those most susceptible to depression begin to interpret events in the most negative light. Their thoughts become distorted; they make erroneous predictions, jump to conclusions, engage in all-or-none thinking, have tunnel vision, personalize situations, and insist that things should be a certain way.
According to John Preston, Psy.D. and author of You Can Beat Depression: A Guide to Recovery, “Distortions or errors in thinking and perceiving are seen in almost all types of depression. As a person begins to feel depressed, thoughts and perceptions become extremely negative and pessimistic. Such distortions not only are a symptom of depression but also are a major cause of depression, and in fact are probably the most potent factor that prolongs and intensifies depression,” stated Preston.
Although those who are depressed engage in all these types of destruction thinking, much of it is unconscious to them. “Many times people are not aware of the inner thinking that occurs during times of emotional pain,” said Preston. “An important and effective method of becoming aware of cognitions (our thoughts) involves using feelings as signals or cues.” For example, “As soon as you notice such a feeling- sadness or frustration- use this emotion to let you know, ‘Ok, something is going on in my mind.’ Then ask yourself one or more of the following questions:”
“What is going through my mind right now?”
“What am I thinking?”
“What am I telling myself?”
“What am I perceiving about the situation that triggered this feeling?”
It is difficult to change your emotions without first recognizing the thoughts behind them. Once you are paying attention to your thinking, you can alter your thoughts and bring them into reality or under the authority of Christ.
If you are depressed or suffering from other toxic emotions, I encourage you to keep a journal for several days recording each of your thoughts. For reoccurring thoughts, just put a tally next to the phrase every time you think it.
The next step is to begin to challenge every thought that is contrary to God’s word or that is distorted or unrealistic. Thoughts like, “I’ll never find another job, no one will ever love me again, everybody hates me, I’m the loneliest person on earth, I can’t do anything right, I’m never going to feel happy again, or he shouldn’t have left me” are examples of distorted thoughts not based in reality.
Now that you have your thoughts listed on paper, it’s time to alter or modify these erogenous thoughts and make them more healthy and realistic. On a sheet of paper, list your distorted thoughts on the left side and draw a line down the middle. On the right side you will challenge each negative thought with a realistic response. For example:
“I’ll never find another job” may be responded with, “I can’t see into the future, but God said he will meet all my needs. I am going to do a better job trusting him.”
“No one will ever love me again” may be responded with, “I know that I feel disappointed with this loss, but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have someone else special just for me.”
“Everybody hates me” may be responded with, “Maybe this person doesn’t like me, but I know I am a good person, and I do have many friends and family members who do love me.”
Continue to do this with each negative thought you listed and then continue to challenge each negative thought with rational ones or scriptures. If you can’t do it alone, ask a friend to help you come up with rational responses. As you continue to do this, just like me, your depression will begin to subside.
In addition to challenging my thoughts, faith-based meditation helped me to continually observe my thinking and learn to control thoughts by letting them go. Christian meditation along with thought therapy can help you gain back your peace and joy.
If you have a difficult time implementing these techniques, don’t hesitate to contact a Christian counselorwho believes in meditation and cognitive therapy. Sometimes you need the extra support and accountability that a professional or group provides. Even if you are prescribed medication, it’s still a good idea to work on your thought processes. Whatever the case, you can be healed from depression. I am a living proof.
Are You Under Spiritual Attack?
There is really a fine line between the two as I believe depression can be a form of spiritually attack. Some ways that I would differentiate the two is that spiritual attacks generally just seem to happen out of nowhere. For example, on Monday you feel great and full of joy, then you wake up in the morning and you feel like the world is ending and you’d be grateful if it did. Seemingly out of nowhere, a fiery dart hits your life and doom and gloom seem to be the aftermath. Generally spiritual attacks are also associated with some type of thought or trigger. When Satan throws his fiery darts, he hits us where it hurts. He knows our struggles and weakness as well as our disappointments and he uses them against us.
For example, you might be single and desire a companion. You are sitting at the coffee shop working on your computer and feeling just fine. Then a cute couple comes and sits across from you and bang, Satan uses this as a opportunity to attack you. Negative thoughts like, “Why isn’t God blessing me with a relationship,” or “What’s wrong with me; why can’t I find anyone?” might pop into your mind. If you don’t immediately reject these thoughts, they can spiral down in your heart and leave you feeling down and depressed until you decide to trust God again and stop listening to these vain and destructive imaginations.
Chronic depression is more of an ongoing cycle, meaning, most people don’t frequently cycle between depression and well-being. Once you enter into a state of depression, that dark cloud continues to rain on your parade for some time. Generally, I would say that depression is a spiritual attack that you have not been able to free yourself from, so it’s like the 2nd stage of a spiritual attack. We tend to become depressed when we allow these destructive thoughts to go from our head into our heart. There they continue to grow until they become a stronghold and now begin to affect many aspects of our life, our health, sleep, joy, and peace.
Whatever we meditate on grows. So if we meditate on negative thoughts, it won’t be long before we have an orchard of negativity in our mind and emotions. One way to combat spiritual attacks as well as depression, is to keep a tight rein on your thoughts. Meditation is a great way to begin to notice what you think and see the correlation between your thoughts and how you feel. There generally is a direct correlation between the two.
Whether you feel a spiritual attack or depression, do a mental inventory. Identify the triggers and then change the stories using positive affirmations or the scriptures. For example, my favorite scripture affirmation to say under a variety of circumstances is, “I trust God beyond what I can see.” Most of the discontentment we encounter is rooted in not trusting God. When we trust God fully we can rest in knowing that everything is working for our highest good even if we can’t see or feel it right now.
How to Help a Depressed Friend
Although I suffered from 4 years of deep depression, I tried to keep my pain from my family and friends. Only those closest to me knew of my extreme pain and despair. I even kept it from my children and it wasn’t until they were all grown up that I shared this dark time in my life.
I have also had friends that suffered from ongoing depression. But it wasn’t until I suffered from depression myself that I truly understood what they were going through.
First I would like to encourage you to read my article titled,Christians and Depression: Changing Your Negative Self Talk, to get a greater understanding of depression and what your friend and/or family member is dealing with.
Often times friends will try and talk their friends out of being depressed telling them things like, “It’s not that bad,”, “Everything will work out okay,” or “You shouldn’t be depressed.” Though they may sound supportive, statements like these don’t help your depressed friend or family member acknowledge and process their pain in a healthy way. It’s normal to have intense sadden for two or more years after the loss of a loved one. Therefore friends must give their depressed loved ones permission to grieve. I remember a well-meaning friend telling me, “You should be over it by now.” I replied by saying, “Well I’m not.”
It is not uncommon for friends and family members to pull away from someone who is depressed. Not knowing what to say, how to help, or fearing they’re going to make their friend feel worse are reasons many people stay away. It can be frustrating and later irritating being around someone who has been depressed for a long time and not knowing how to help.
According to John Preston, Psy.D. and author of You Can Beat Depression: A Guide to Recovery, below are steps you can take to help your depressed Christian friend or family member.
1.Learn as much as you can about depression. There are many good books for Christians that deal with depression.
2.Accept your depressed friend‘s feelings and don’t try and talk them out of it. Let them know you understand they are hurting and that you care. Know that you can provide support but you are not responsible for curing them.
3.Pray for your friend. Prayer can take many forms, from praying in silence to interceding on their behalf. There is power in prayer.
4.Don’t feel like it’s your job to try and cheer them up. Instead, acknowledge their pain and let them know you are there if they need you.
5.Share with them the article Christians Depression: Change Negative Self-Talk. There are tools that Christians can use to help relieve their depressed thoughts and mood.
6.Encourage them to make an appointment with a Christian counselor or mental health professional if their depression is not improving.
Many Christians have found relieve from depression through Christ-centered meditation and learning how to control their negative thinking. Encourage your Christian friend to learn more about Biblical meditation and how it can contribute to their healing or purchase a Christian Guided Meditation for them. The Christian Meditator provides many resources and information on how to deal with negative emotions like depression.