1. Accept Christ, who is the Source of strength.
2. Read the Bible, letting it reprogram your mind.
3. Pray; call upon the power of God.
4. Avoid sin.
5. Stop playing God; depression can be an attempt to punish self.
6. Recognize underlying anger and deal with it by verbalizing the anger and forgiving others.
7. Focus on actions; actions may determine feelings.
8. Change mental self-statements.
9. Fellowship with other Christians and build close relationships.
10. Stop getting even.
11. Learn to be properly assertive and deal with dependency needs.
12. Recognize an unhealthy fear of rejection.
13. Respond rationally; do no react aggressively.
14. Change your environment to reduce stress.
15. Develop new interests and activities.
16. Do not be overly introspective.
17. Accept responsibility for depression.
18. Realize no one is perfect.
19. Learn to laugh; laughter relaxes.
20. Get help; counseling can instill hope.
Minirth and Meier (1978, 135-95)
How does it happen that there are so many depressed individuals among the most fervent believers? Abraham Lincoln said, "Most people are about as happy as they choose to be." At one period of time in his life he was so depressed he considered suicide. But Lincoln chose to overcome his depression. He chose to be happy and obtained inner joy and peace in those last years before he was assassinated. A majority of human beings do not seem to have this inner peace and joy, although all human beings are capable of having this peace and joy if only they would choose it and follow the right path to obtain it.
Many people choose unhappiness and depression over peace and happiness for a variety of reasons of which they may be unaware. Some choose unhappiness to punish themselves for guilt feelings. Adults who were abused as children, for example, erroneously learned that they must be "trash"- that they deserved to be abused somehow. Their false guilt and bitterness result in a life-long depression until they learn the truth about their own value and release their unconscious areas of bitterness. Others choose unhappiness to manipulate their mates and friends by enlisting their sympathies. And their are many people that do choose happiness but still do not obtain it, for they seek inner peace and joy in the wrong places. They seek for happiness in materialism and do not find it. They seek for joy in sexual prowess but end up with fleeting pleasures and bitter long-term disappointments. They seek inner fulfillment by obtaining positions of power in corporations, government, or even in their own families (by exercising excessive control), but they remain unfulfilled.
People must commit their lives to the correct course for obtaining inner love, happiness, and peace. People get very set in their ways. Even when they have tried their ways for twenty or thirty years with no lasting results, they still cling to their childhood behavior patterns. Most people choose to continue in the behavior patterns their parents correctly or incorrectly programmed into their computer-brains in early childhood. Approximately 85 % of our behavior patterns and attitudes are firmly entrenched by age six. We are not permanently locked into these childhood behavior patterns, it is just that most humans ignorantly choose to stay locked into those early childhood behavior patterns and world-views. Thank God that He created within us a human will. When He created us in His image, He gave us a will- an ability to choose.
Depression is a devastating illness that affects the total being - physically, emotionally and spiritually. The symptoms of clinical depression fall into five major categories. One major symptom is a sad affect (or moodiness). This individual has a sad facial expression. He either cries often or feels like it. His eyes are cast down and sad. The corners of his mouth droop. He looks tired, discouraged, and dejected. Sometimes men stop shaving and women stop putting on their make-up.
A second major symptom of depression is painful thinking. This depressed individual is very introspective in a self-derogatory way. He ruminates a great deal over past mistakes. He often feels guilty even when innocent. He may feel responsible even when not. He feels at fault when blameless. He worries excessively over all kinds of wrongs in the past, both real and imagined. He has a negative self-concept. He frequently blames himself for all of his problems. He tends to view himself as being deficient in qualities that he considers important, such as popularity, intelligence or spiritual maturity. He often feels deprived of emotional support and thus feels empty and lonely. He craves affection and reassurance from others, but often his deep-seated hostility frustrates his purposes. He is unhappy and pessimistic. He is preoccupied with himself. He anticipates nonacceptance from others and feels rejected and unloved, usually out of proportion to reality. To him the future is gloomy. He experiences a low energy level and a sense of futility. This depressed individual has an overwhelming sense of inadequacy and has feelings of worthlessness. He feels as though he is a nobody- a zero. However, he refuses to be a nobody. He surely cannot be a zero if he is responsible for a great many events and acts- if so much depends on him. Thus in a warped sort of way, his feelings of overwhelming responsibility protect him unconsciously form his feelings of worthlessness. They give him a great sense of power.
The third category of symptoms of clinical depression includes the physical symptoms, which are known by medical doctors as "physiological concomitants of depression." Actual biochemical changes involving the brain amines, take place in the human nervous system. The body movements of the depressed individual usually decrease. The quality of sleep is affected. He may have difficulty falling asleep at night, but more often he suffers from waking up too early in the morning, and having difficulty getting back to sleep. His appetite is also often affected. He either eats too much or too little (usually too little).Thus there may be significant weight loss or weight gain. He may suffer from diarrhea, but more frequently from constipation. In women the menstrual cycle may stop entirely for months, or may be irregular. There is often a loss of sexual interest. The depressed individual may suffer fom tension headaches or complain of tightness in the head. Along with slow body movements, he may have a stooped posture and seem to be in a stupor. He may suffer from a dry mouth. A rapid heartbeat and heart palpitations are fairly common.
A fourth major symptom of depression is anxiety or agitation. Anxiety and depression usually occur together. As depression increases, so does agitation. The depressed individual feels tense and has difficulty sitting still.
The fifth major symptom that can occur in very severe depressions is delusional thinking. His delusions involve either notions of persecution ( he thinks people are out to get him) or grandiose assumptions ( he thinks God has given him some special gift or insight). He may hear voices that are often condemning and accusing in nature. He may have visual hallucinations- he see things that no one else sees. He may misinterpret these as visions from God. If he is treated soon after his break with reality, he is usually restored to normality, once again thinking clearly and happy with life. If a depressed individual has delusional thinking or hallucinations, he has a psychotic depression. Psychotic depressions are usually curable but much more difficult to treat.
Depression is the leading cause of suicide. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Suicide is a uniquely human problem. Animals may kill other animals, but they do not kill themselves. Only man kills himself. Suicide is more frequent among the divorced, the widowed, and the higher socio-economic groups. It is also common among single adult males. People of all religious denominations commit suicide. Among college students, suicide is the second leading cause of death, second only to accidents. Suicide is a terrible thing for several reasons. Most people who commit suicide do so when they are not seeing things realistically. They would not do so if they saw the true nature of the situation and realized their problem was only temporary and solvable. Secondly, the effects on surviving children, other relatives, and friends are devastating. Children wrongly blame themselves for the suicide of a parent, and are also more likely to follow their parentís example by giving up on life and committing suicide when as adults they find themselves in difficult situations. Finally, suicide is a sin just as murder is a sin. "Thou shalt not kill" applies to our own lives as well as the lives of others. Suicide is never Godís will.
Out of all the various personality types in our culture, there is one type that is more likely than any other to get depressed at some time in life. This type is the "nice guy" - the person who is self-sacrificing, overly conscientious, overdutiful, hard-working, and frequently quite religious. This type is called the obsessive-compulsive personality. Most lay persons know him as a perfectionist, a "Type A" personality, a workaholic, or even a dedicated servant. Over 90 percent of physicians and 75 percent of ministers given tests leaned toward obsessive-compulsive personality traits. While this dedicated servant is out in society saving humanity, he may be selfishly ignoring his wife and children. He is the medical researcher who spends seven days and nights a week in the lab in order to save mankind from various diseases while his wife suffers from loneliness, and his sons become homosexuals as a result of their father-vacuums and some eventually commit suicide. He becomes angry when his wife and children place demands on him. He canít understand how they could have the nerve to call such an unselfish, dedicated servant a selfish husband and father. He is the pastor who canít say no to parishioners placing demands on him. The pastor who devotes excessive hours to "the Lordís work" and neglects his family is often a selfish man who is building a bigger and better church for his own pride and selfish motives (though he is usually not aware of this). Sometimes he is merely a very good man who has been taught nonbiblical priorities. The Bible tells us that he who doesnít meet the needs of his own family is worse than a infidel. And so in their middle years, these dedicated servants, with a mixture of godly and selfish motives, become overwhelmed with anger toward God(for supposedly expecting so much from them), toward family and associates(for similar reasons), toward their children(for rebelling), and toward themselves (for not being perfect).They become severely, clinically depressed. In a weak moment, when they are suffering immense pain and hopelessness because of their lack of insight into the truth, they may even commit suicide.
There are three basic needs of all human beings: self-worth; intimacy with others; intimacy with God. All three of these are included in the great commandment, summarized by Jesus Christ in Mark 12:29-31. The Bible indicates that all other laws of Scripture hang on this great commandment - in other words, if we obey the great commandment, we automatically obey all the other commandments. What is that great commandment? Christ said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. The second is this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Their is no other commandment greater than these." Love God; love your neighbor; love yourself (genuine self-worth is the opposite of false pride, which is a terrible sin committed primarily by individuals who are trying to compensate for their lack of self-worth).
Following are seven basic guidelines for overcoming depression which are all based on the great commandment. If any human chooses to live by these seven guidelines they can avoid suffering most of the pains of depression. Of course he may still have some ups and downs, and still experience normal grief reactions just as all humans do, but he should be able to avoid suffering from the symptoms of clinical depression. Without a vital personal relationship with Jesus Christ, no human will have the power within himself to consistently choose these seven basic guidelines.
1. Commit your life daily to the purpose of glorifying Jesus Christ. - Wake up and thank God for another day to enjoy life. Pray that God will use you that day to bring glory to Him by benefiting your fellow man (including your wife and children). Pray for self-control (through His strength) to overcome temptations of the day, and ask Him to forgive you when you do make mistakes, realizing that all Christians do make mistakes daily. Committing the day to God helps to love yourselves more and not to be so self-critical. It also helps to love your spouse, children, and friends more, as you think of ways to benefit them for the glory of God.
2. Spend some time each day meditating on Godís Word and applying it to your life. - Our brains are just like computers, except for the fact that we have a will of our own and computers do not. Since we are born with a selfish, self-deceiving sinful nature, we tend to automatically do the wrong things much of the time-things that lead to depression and self-destruction. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9) If we choose happiness, we must choose to reprogram our brain to Godís way of thinking . We can do this only by frequent meditation on Godís Word. According to John 3:6, when an individual becomes a Christian, he has a new spirit within. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell within him. Thus, he has a new potential source to solve his problems. It is important to note that it is the spirit which becomes new, and not necessarily the mind, emotions, or will. The mind, emotions and will are transformed only over a period of time as one spends time in prayer with God, in fellowship with other Christians and in meditation on the Word of God.
In Romans 12:2, Paul states that we should not be conformed to this world but we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This renewing of the mind is a gradual process that begins at the time of acceptance of Christ (the new birth). This renewing of the mind is not a once-for-all phenomenon. It begins at the time of the new birth and continues throughout life.
Our mind can be reprogrammed by using the Word of God. In Isaiah 55:11 God proclaims,
"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." Godís Word will accomplish the purpose that He desires. His Word can reprogram our mind. See also Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1, Matt. 4:4, John 15:7, Col. 3:16, Jer. 15:16, I John 2:14.
Another way to reprogram our mind is to monitor what we are thinking. Critical and negative thinking reinforces a depressed mood. An individual can help to lift his mood by changing the way he thinks. See Phil. 4:8. This type of thinking tends to lift the mood whereas negative and critical thinking tends to reinforce an already depressed mood.
A good example about the pursuit of God by meditating on His Word is the story of King Hezekiah. He knew the Word of God, he loved it and he kept it. King Hezekiah sought God with all his heart. To be in pursuit of God, we need to seek Him with all our heart, determine that we are going to build a relationship with Him and that we are going to know Him better than any friend here on earth. It is clear that God is already in pursuit of us and He is looking for men who will be in pursuit of Him. "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him." (II Chron. 16:9)
3. Get rid of grudges daily.-
a. Whenever feeling any significant anger toward yourself, God,or anybody else, you will best handle that anger if you immediately analyze whether it is appropriate or inappropriate. Some of our anger is quite an appropriate response ( righteous indignation) to someone who has sinned against us. Examples would include a friend spreading gossip or lies about us. Another is a mate refusing to have sex. In Eph. 4:26, we are commanded to "be angry and sin not." This same verse warns us however, that we should never let the sun go down on our wrath. We must not hold grudges. We must be rid of that anger by sundown (bedtime).
Much of our anger is sinful and inappropriate. There are three main sources of sinful (inappropriate) anger: (1) Anger that results when oneís selfish demands are not being met. Selfishness is the root cause of most inappropriate anger. (2) Anger that results when oneís perfectionistic demands are not being satisfied. Perfectionists expect too much out of themselves, out of others, and even out of God. As a result, they are frequently angry toward themselves, others, or God-but mostly toward themselves. (3) Anger that results from suspiciousness. When a person has a few paranoid personality traits, he will frequently misinterpret the motives of others. Someone will not notice him, and he will assume that person is purposely avoiding him. A person with paranoid tendencies is so blind to his own repressed anger that he projects it onto others, and mistakenly thinks that others are feeling angry toward him. The Bible discusses projection in Matt. 7:3-5 where Christ himself states: "And why do you look at the speck in your brotherís eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye: and then you will see clearly enough to take the speck out of your brotherís eye." As we can see, sometimes our brother really has a speck in his eye. But even then we may blow it out of proportion because of the log in our own. In other words, we may get extremely angry over a minor matter because there is a superabundance of repressed anger in ourselves, or because our brotherís sin reminds us of one we ourselves have but are lying to ourselves about.
Anger toward God is always inappropriate, since God claims in Psalm 103 to be perfectly fair (just), righteous (doing what is right), and loving in all that He does. Whenever we feel angry toward God, we should talk to Him about it, realizing that our anger toward God is purely the result of our own human selfishness.
b. If your are convinced that your anger is appropriate, you will somehow verbalize that anger and forgive whoever the object of that anger may be by bedtime of the same day. This is in obedience to Matt. 5:21-24 and Eph. 4:26.
........If therefore your are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matt. 5:23-24) Christ tells us to demonstrate our genuine spirituality by loving our brother enough to face up to him, emotional pain and all, and resolve any anger we have toward him or he toward us. Note well that even if we are not angry toward him, but he is angry toward us, Christ still makes it our responsibility to go to him and reconcile our brother. This takes great courage and an abundance of Christian maturity and love.
No matter how much you verbalize your anger, you must forgive. Forgiving starts with an act of the will. Forgiving is a choice. It is important to remember that forgiving does not mean to erase all recall. Rather it means not to charge the offense to someoneís account. God the Father forgives us of all of our sins because of what Christ did on the cross for us. This means that He no longer holds our sins against us. He no longer charges them to our account.
c. Leave all vengeance up to God. Never get even with anyone, including yourself. - There is only one unconscious motive for retaining anger: that single motive is vengeance. Vengeance is a stupid motive. If you have any faith in God, personal vengeance is totally unnecessary and stupid. God will wreak vengeance on all who deserve it- or else He will show His divine grace and forgive them, especially of they have repented. But whether God shows vengeance or divine grace, it is Godís decision. It is none of your business! Stay out of Godís business! We humans spend half our lives trying to play God in various ways. We are so ignorant. Look at what Paul said about vengeance in Rom. 12:17-21: "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ĎVengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink: for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.í Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." If we would only forgive others when they wrong us, and forgive ourselves when we make mistakes, we would never suffer the pains of depression.
4. Spend a little time nearly every day getting more intimate with your mate and children. Parents, brothers, sisters, and other close relatives should also have a high priority. Do all you can to resolve family conflicts.- Donít ever get vengeance on family members. Heal the wounds the best you can and leave the rest up to God. Intimacy with your family is more vital to your self-worth and overall mental health than most people imagine.
5. Spend some time each week having fellowship and fun with at least one or two committed Christian friends of the same sex. If you are married, have fun with other married couples. In this way husband and wife can together benefit from intimacy with others.- Select your friends carefully because you will become more and more like your friends whether you intend to or not. Share your burdens with your friends (Heb.10:24-25).Cultivate friendships with happy Christians who are enjoying the fruits of Christian maturity. Donít become too intimate with immature Christians who are continually wallowing in their own depressive attitudes toward life and their own self-pity.
6. Be involved in a daily routine (including work, play, housework, projects) that brings personal satisfaction to you. Be convinced that this routine is Godís will and purpose for your life-your way of glorifying Him.- God doesnít call everyone into full-time Christian work. And being in full-time Christian work does not make anyone more spiritual than a committed Christian who digs ditches for a living. In heaven, there will be reverse status that will surprise many Christians because the first will be last and the last first. Pray for Godís guidance, but depend on His Word to give you that guidance. When choosing your daily routine, be careful not to overly commit yourself.(1) Set aside time daily for intimacy with God, including prayer and Scripture meditation. (2) Set aside time for personal mental health, because you wonít be of much use to God, family or others, if you donít have good mental health yourself. This means time to unwind and relax. It includes time to watch football and other events you may find relaxing. It includes dates with your mate and other couples for fellowship. It also includes some exercise. (3) Set aside enough time to be continually building a more and more intimate relationship with your mate. This includes time for fun, fellowship, serious communication, and a good sex life. Your mate should be an even higher priority than your children. (4) Set aside enough time to adequately train your children. This includes time to play with them, listen to their problems, pray with them, watch them perform at school, etc.(5) Set aside some of your remaining time to earn a living. The Bible says that if you donít take care of your familyís needs, you are worse in Godís eyes than an infidel (atheist). (6) Whatever time is left over, develop some ways to use your God-given talents to perform some ministry. Donít take on too many projects at your local church. Pick one function at your church and do it well, for the Lord, not for the approval of men. A few spiritually immature missionaries and pastors have made priority (6) their main priority. As a result, their children, their marriage, their mental health, and finally their relationship with and usefulness to God have suffered untold damage. They naively get angry with God for giving them too much to do. God says, " My yoke is easy, and my burden is light." If your work yoke or spiritual ministry yoke seems too heavy, take some of it off, itís not from God anyway. ItĎs from your own obsessive, compulsive need to be perfect in order to get unconscious approval of your father and mother.
7. Do something nice for one special person each week. This kind deed can be physical (helping with a chore), emotional (buying a book or giving counsel), or spiritual (having devotions together). - Pray that God will show you ways to help one special person each week. This guideline will help you get more involved in the lives of others. It will help you realize how useful you really can be. It will help you win the love of others. You will be rewarded for it as well by God.
Ask yourself how many of these Seven Basic Guidelines your are already practicing. Then compare the amount of depression your are experiencing with the amount of happiness your are experiencing. For anyone who personally knows Jesus Christ and their personal Savior, and lives by these biblical principles, happiness is a choice.
Happiness is a Choice, The symptoms, Causes, and Cures of Depression, Second Addition
Frank Minirth, M.D. and Paul Meier, M.D.
Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House Company