Let’s face it, times are tough, and the future looks bleak.
We’ve lost jobs, income, social interaction, church attendance, sport, and recreation – all the things that bring pleasure, relieve stress, and provide our most basic needs.
We have so many unanswered questions:
The subconscious anxiety and hopelessness is debilitating and paralysing.
And the natural result of this is depression.
Let’s face it, depression is real. If you’re human, you’ve experienced it to some degree (and if you haven’t yet, you most likely will).
The Bible tells of spiritual heroes who experienced times of depression: Elijah wanted to die when Jezebel threatened to kill him. Job regretted the day he was born. The Psalmist lamented, “Why art thou cast down, O, my soul?”
But, just because depression is real doesn’t mean we have to give in to it.
How can we fight the depression and hopelessness that’s dragging us down?
(NOTE: I’m talking about depression related to negative circumstances such as the loss of a job or loved one, not clinical depression.)
Here are 5 ways to ditch depression and feel better fast:
Singing has the amazing ability to change your feelings even if your circumstances don’t change.
You may not feel like singing. Sing anyway. Your feelings will soon follow. I’ve found the most helpful songs are hymns because the words are meaningful and powerful, and they produce a relief that lasts even once the song is over.
Again, this is a choice. You don’t have to feel like praising God to praise Him. Just do it.
Even if your circumstances appear hopeless and you don’t know what to praise God for, you can always praise Him for who He is.
Say, “Lord, I praise you that you are still in control. That you will provide for me. That you can lift my spirits and push back the forces of evil that want to darken my mind.”
Don’t wait to feel the praise. Choose to praise.
I’ve learned that when I felt depressed, to just get on with doing something physical like gardening or housecleaning. (If you’re a man, please replace those with manly activities. :))
Work distracts the mind from current circumstances and always makes me feel better.
On top of that, exercise is known to produce endorphins in the body – the happy hormones. Get out there and walk, do pushups or jumping jacks – whatever. Just move! And if you can do it outside, so much the better.
Related: 11 Ways to Overcome Fear and Anxiety
If you look at your circumstances you will lose heart. Look beyond your circumstances at God and His love and care for you. Soon, this battle to survive will be over and Jesus will come and fetch us.
It doesn’t matter how dark you are feeling, God is with you. Darkness and light are both the same to Him.
“Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.” (Psalm 139:12, KJV)
And when we are surrounded by darkness – hopelessness and despair – God will meet us there and bring light.
“…when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” (Micah 7:8, KJV)
In fact, God invites us to walk in His light:
“O house of Jacob (insert your own name here), come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Isaiah 2:5, KJV)
Choose to walk in God’s light even though everything around you is dark.
We often see negative feelings as bad. We should not feel depressed or sad or anxious because the Bible says we shouldn’t, right?
But negative feelings serve an important purpose: to tell you something is wrong.
Denying that we feel depressed, sad, worried, or anxious will not make those feelings go away. They’ll remain below the surface and fester.
You can’t fix something you refuse to acknowledge, but acknowledging negative feelings doesn’t mean you should dwell on them.
The only way to get rid of negative feelings is to acknowledge them, feel them, then give them to God – as many times as we need to.
Give God your reality, and your feelings about your reality. Ask Him to replace your thoughts and feelings with His thoughts and feelings about your situation.
If you do, you’ll definitely be depressed. I love how John Eldredge describes how he deals with feelings of fear, failure, worry, discouragement, and heavy heartedness:
Don’t give your feelings any “say” over your interpretation of reality. If you allow your feelings to dictate you will be miserable a lot of the time.
If you’ve lost your job and are sitting around doing nothing, depression will take hold of your mind. I’ve read so many stories of people in prison and how they coped with living in a cell – all their freedoms taken away. The ones who survived well always found a way to have a daily routine – tidy their cell, do a few exercises, pray, and whatever else they could find to do.
Instead of fighting the unfairness or hopelessness of your situation, do what you can, right where you are.
Related: The importance of small daily habits
Depression can strip away the structure of your life. You don’t feel like getting out of bed and getting dressed and one day melts into the next.
Setting a gentle daily schedule can help you get back on track.
Studies show that gut health impacts your brain. Harvard Medical School says,
“A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected.”
What you eat impacts your gut and your gut impacts your brain. Focus on a diet as close to nature as possible – whole foods, free of additives and preservatives are best. Focus on the kinds of things your great-grandma would’ve eaten.
Being depressed can lead you to staying awake late into the night scrolling on your phone, watching movies, or playing video games just to escape how you feel.
But the lack of sleep only makes depression worse.
Set a bedtime for yourself and stick to it. Take any distractions out of your room and make it a place to sleep only.
A lot of the work in fighting depression is mental – changing how you think. You may feel that your life is hopeless – is it really? You may feel worthless, but what does God say about you?
Don’t allow negative thinking to rule you. Challenge the thoughts and replace them with the truth of God’s word.
Go to a museum, read a book outside, take a class, teach yourself a new hobby. Ian Cook, MD. a psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA, says,
“When we challenge ourselves to do something different, there are chemical changes in the brain. Trying something new alters the levels of dopamine, which is associated with pleasure, enjoyment, and learning.”
Did you notice that all 12 of these things require choice? None of them are dependent on feelings.
As you do these things, depression will lose its hold on you and God’s light will fill your heart and mind.
It is God’s purpose that every Christian be surrounded by an atmosphere of light and peace. As you look to God, He will shed His light on you and bring peace to your heart.
Related: 29 Ways to practice self-care
What do you do to counteract depression?
[i] John Eldredge, Get Your Life Back, 156