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Depression / Blog

    Michael Govan, MA, LPC

Michael Govan, MA, LPC's Bio

Govan is a therapist with the goal of helping individuals struggling from the troubles of their personal lives.

How Having A Little Faith Can Ease Your Depression


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Some of the symptoms commonly associated with depression include loss of appetite, energy, and enthusiasm, diminished interest in things previously enjoyed, sleeplessness or hypersomnia, poor concentration, and social withdrawal. Some people have feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or inappropriate guilt. Others face low self-esteem and too many have suicidal thoughts.

Did you know that science has discovered that applying our faith to our circumstances can reduce depression? Most of us believe in some sort of benevolent Higher Power or God who is able to help us in our time of need. According to surveys most people pray to God on a fairly regular basis. Some of us wait until we get into some sort of jam we can't get out of before we call for help from God.

Recently, research from Wayne State University has demonstrated that even people suffering from traumatic brain injuries have been positively helped specifically by their faith. A definite correlation exists between those who are self-reported as having religious beliefs or seeing themselves as Spiritual (a connection to a Higher Power) and better emotional and physical rehabilitation outcomes! The same is true for those who suffer from depression. 10 Steps To Connect With Your Spirituality While Depressed

Part of the problem with depression is that we feel so out of control, we lack the ability to handle it. No matter what we do with all of our wisdom, all of the methods we use to attempt to overcome those horrible symptoms, they just don't work. We’re left in a closed loop system feeling like a rodent on a wheel just spinning out of control. Most of us are powerless to change our mood. Religious practices and spiritual mindedness point us away from what we can do, and towards relying on our Higher Power. The hope is that He can do what I can not.

In 12-step groups this is what the first step leads people to see, their powerlessness to change on their own. In the first step prayer, people reach out to the God of their understanding. The Big Book says, "God, Creative Intelligence, Universal Spirit of Nature or Spirit of the Universe my name is ________, and I’m a real alcoholic … and I need your help today." I'm certainly not making depression equal to alcoholism, but I'm pointing to the fact that when something seems bigger than what I have been able to handle, turning to a Higher Power for outside help is a common practice.

Allowing a Higher Power to be a help in your life instead of clinging to the belief "I have to do it all on my own" can set you free in several ways. First, when you don't feel like you have the strength or know-how to get free from depression, the spiritually minded can depend on God's love to help them out. After all, He's all knowing, supremely powerful and benevolent! Let's face it, there are a ton of things you and I do very effectively. But there are a lot of things we won't even attempt. Why? Because we just don’t believe we can succeed in doing them. Sometimes we just want the Baker to bake the bread. We don’t have to be masters at everything, just the things that make our world work for us. Even the things we are doing well, often we do in communion with others. No man (or woman) is an island, and we’ve come to realize it takes a village to raise our kids. So why should I have to do it all on my own?

This leads directly into an inescapable truth. Being spiritual implies being a part of a Community. Most people who value religion exercise their faith in some sort of community with other believers. When we have others supporting us, we don't feel so alone. We’re less depressed around others. There is no "Religion of one!" Throughout recorded history, like-minded people have banded together for safety and community. It is beyond the scope of this article to mention all of the religions and denominations that have done this. At one point in history this got out of control, and God had to confuse people's languages in order to break up a group building a tower to Heaven.

The point is that depression pushes us into isolation. In isolation our pain increases, and that old belief that I should be able to handle this all by myself resurrects. But when we take up the spiritual practice of meeting with likeminded, caring others, the depression can diminish in that religious practice. Acceptance: Finding The Gift In Depression

I remember as a new Believer asking God one time, "Why do You want us to worship You all the time? You already know how valuable You are!" Immediately He shaped the words in my heart to understand His response: "You are free to think about the things down there or what surrounds Me. This praising is about Me, but it is for you!" Getting out of depression requires getting our thoughts into a different place. A spiritual/religious place is uplifting. When we're depressed that really comes in handy!

Lastly, most religions have their own sacred script which generally is held dear and truthful by devotees. Scriptures have many words of wisdom for members. Most of the traditions have inspiring stories and heroes that have been victorious over their hardships. Consider the Old Testament Book of Job. Job was the wealthiest man of his time and also the most righteous. God allowed Satan to kill his children, steal his wealth and afflict him almost to the point of death. Job overcame the depression of all he had lost and God blessed and restored him with twice as many blessings. Thousands if not millions have taken heart that like Job, they also matter to God. And like Job, God had a better place for them here on earth after their sufferings. 

Another story from the Old Testament is about Joseph, the favored son of the Patriarch Jacob (Israel). The story unwinds about how his brothers conspire against thisdreamer and eventually sell him into slavery in Egypt. While there, he ends up further suffering in a dungeon for years. But when the moment was right, God rescued Joseph in miraculous ways and he ended up being second to Pharaoh, and saved the remnant of Israel from the devastating famine. Stories like these, found in the pages of the Holy books, are able to inspire those suffering with depression to hold on and hope that God will help out there situation like He did in the Sacred Book. How To Talk With Someone You Love When They Are Depressed

In the Quran we read the story of the patient old man. At the end of the story we read the wisdom: remember, there is always someone else who has more problems than you do. The tag line on the end is an example of hope in the midst of suffering. This is the third example of how Religion/spirituality can help with depression. 

If you or someone you care about is suffering from depression, hopefully they can find hope in the words penned above, and will allow the God of their understanding to help them heal!

Originally published on YourTango.