Christian and Depressed? Learn How to Change Your Negative Self Talk
by Rhonda Jones 2/24/2010 / Self Help
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.
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 counselor who 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.
Rhonda Jones is the creator of over 25 Christian meditation and affirmation Cds and the author of the Christian makeover program, Help Me God Change My Life and The Christian Power Hour Devotional Set. Learn more at http://www.thechristianmeditator.com.