During the lockdowns of the last nearly 12 months, the BMJ reported that 64% of people were experiencing some of the symptoms of depression.
Depression is described by Selwyn Hughes as a mood swing in which a person is cast into varying degrees of sadness, melancholy and hopelessness. It can be utter hopelessness, despondency, self-disgust, loss of perspective, overall gloom, sadness, apathy, dejection and despair.
There are three main causes of depression
- Physical causes – a chemical imbalance or hormone imbalance can cause depression during the menopause, postpartum (the baby blues) or even after viral infections.
- Psychological causes – like a loss of self worth, rejection, low self image, anger, or false guilt.
- Spiritual causes – like unrepented sin, a loss of perspective like Asaph experiences (Ps 73:1-3 which changes by v16-17) or spiritual attack (1 Peter 5:7-8)
The common denominator is loss – a loss of physical efficiency, a loss of personal identity or a loss of contact with God.
In the helpful, but well out of print Seven Steps to Overcoming Depression, Selwyn Hughes outlines the 7 steps to… overcoming depression.
Firstly, go see a doctor.
There are lots of physical causes of depression like an underactive thyroid, hyperglycemia and so on. A course of anti-depressants can also help restore chemical balance in our brains. Dr Quentin Hyder said “As a Christian physician I use two weapons to help my patients conquer depression. Physically, I prescribe a brief course of antidepressants. They are to be taken only for a short time, and they work by reducing the mood-lowering effect of certain temporary chemical imbalances in the blood. They make the patient feel better, but are only an expedient in mood elevation until the second weapon – Christian counselling can produce a more permanent cure.”
Secondly, get rid of all grudges and forgive those who have hurt or offended you.
Carrying unforgiveness or grudges is a pretty common factor in depression.
Unforgiveness is like taking poison hoping the other person will die. Joyce Meyer who experience much abuse in here childhood says “Many people ruin their health and their lives by taking the poison of bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness.”
Listen to the sermon on how Jesus takes away unforgiveness
Thirdly, start changing your thought patterns.
There are so many ways our thoughts can be unhealthy. Jumping to conclusions, always thinking the worst, dwelling on a single negative, disqualifying the positive.
You could put an elastic band on your wrist and ping it every time you become aware of a negative thought. 2Cor 10:5 exhorts us to “take every thought captive.” So this step is about becoming aware of destructive thought patterns and exchanging them for positive thoughts. In Phil 4 Paul tells us “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
You can do this step by
- Identifying when those negative thoughts are coming
- Work out what’s wrong with it and tell yourself why it is not true or inaccurate
- Replace it with positive Scriptural promises,
Fourthly, physical exercise
I found going for a run was a great reset when I was finding the first lockdown stressful. It always lifted my mood!
Exercise begins to break the cycle of exhaustion that is part of depression.
Do check with your doctor before starting and I recommend the Couch to 5k programme as a safe way to building up from nowhere.
Fifthly, start changing your behaviour.
During the first lockdown I heard the phrase “Don’t let your dressing gown become your depressing gown” a lot. As routines abruptly stopped, bad routines quickly took over. This step is about making those changes of behaviour that add to your malaise.
Some of the earlier steps dealt with what are you thinking that is making you depressed. This one is about what are you doing that is making you depressed?
Look for small wins – activities that are an accomplishment. Perhaps keep a diary of what you do each day that gave some pleasure or was even a small victory. It will help you get rid of the erroneous belief that you are incapable of functioning effectively.
Sixthly, do something nice for others at least once a week
This step takes us out of ourselves and focuses on others. And that always lifts us up. Find ways you can do acts of random kindness and help for others.
Lastly, seventhly – give five minutes a day to thinking about how much God loves you.
We love Him because He first loves u s1 John 4:19. Pascal wrote “If everyone could see how much God loved them there would be no such thing as a sinner on the ace of the earth”
Why not look up Scriptures about how God loves you and chew over them – there’s some great ones here.
If you want to know more – you would do well to buy a 2nd hand copy of Selwyn Hughes’ 7 steps to overcoming depression.