Monday, February 03, 2020

Christians and Depression - Scientifically Proven Activities to Elevate Your Mood

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.
Plagued with 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.
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.
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.
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.  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.
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.
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.
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.

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