By Debi Russell
Many people struggle with seasons of being down or being anxious and wonder what they can do to feel better. And while there are wonderful tools such as counseling and medication that can be a huge relief for those who need them, there are also some basic but biblical steps anyone can take to fight back when you sense you do not feel quite "normal."
1. Cultivate gratitude in your daily life.
First Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to "Be joyful always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances—for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." We all can choose to be grateful for our restored relationship with God, the life He gave us and His word to guide us—no matter what the circumstances are today. But beyond that, learning to see the abundant gifts God gives each of us every day, is a skill to develop.
Keeping a gratitude journal to write down blessings is a practice that will shape your heart to focus more on what is good, than what is not. Whatever we focus on expands, and gratitude enters both pain and comfort redirecting our focus upward on what God is doing instead of outward on what life looks like today.
2. Connect in meaningful ways with others.
We were created in God's image and a huge part of who we are as people then is relational beings. God, within the Trinity, models living in connection to others. We cannot live isolated and independent lives without it harming our spirits and our health. We need to connect in ways that allow us to know and be known, love and be loved—not simply socializing around people.
Community groups are a great way to begin making deeper connections, as is serving together. Praying for others needs during the week, then following up with them to ask how they are doing is another step to feel closeness. Asking someone to come over for a meal in your home is yet another way to become more vulnerable and known which invites friends into closer relationships.
3. Challenge unhealthy and untruthful thinking.
We all need to "take our thoughts captive" on a regular basis as the lies our culture teaches and even how our life experiences have enforced them, can derail us. Filling our mind with truth from God's word is critical. Psalm 1 discusses meditating on God's word day and night leading to a thriving life. We all have distortions—ways we think that are not accurate.
All-or-nothing thinking, jumping to conclusions, assuming the worst, fear of man, mind reading others, minimizing our sin—all these are thinking problems. You can challenge thoughts (which then lead to feelings) by asking—does this line up with God's word? Is this the only way of looking at this situation? Could I be missing something here? What would I say to a friend in this situation? Also, talking with a friend, mentor or counselor can be so helpful in untwisting patterns of thinking learned in childhood and in times of great pain (both vulnerable states).
Certainly there are times when these three steps will not be all that is needed or best for someone struggling with depression or anxiety, as those issues are complicated and have a physical component that may require medical evaluation, and there is no shame in seeking help!
But these three steps do push us all toward greater spiritual and emotional health, and for many of us, will be helpful in redirecting our minds and hearts toward balance and joy.