Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Overcoming Depression

By Dr Kyle Christensen, February 2017
Depression - too many are entangled in the cold, oppressive shroud of this demon. Depression weighs down the heart, mind, and soul.  It distorts your perception of reality leaving you in a melancholy fog of loneliness, despair, and self-condemnation. Guilt is depressions constant companion and the love and praise of others is mistrusted and slips from our consciousness.
What you need to understand about depression is that you have bought into a lie. The lie that you lack value, purpose, and destiny. As your mind adheres to the guilt, rejection, and self-condemnation that has been imposed upon your mind, your biology and physiology begins to change. The information sent through your nervous system lowers the levels of the hormones, serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These are the hormones produced by the body that make us feel happy.  A part of the brain called the hypothalamus is the mind-body connection.  It releases chemicals in response to our thoughts.  Laughter, joy, and love produce higher amounts of serotonin while low self-esteem, self-hatred, self-rejection, self-condemnation, and guilt result in lower levels of these feel-good chemicals.
The roots of depression are typically found as a result of low self-esteem due to a lack of nurturing during childhood; however there is often a strong genetic component because of a lack of love, care, and nurturing that has been there from generation to generation.  In most cases, the depression you are experiencing may not even be your fault; however it is your responsibility.  This is your life and you still have control over your destiny, but you must draw from your inner self the desire to make some changes. 
If you continue in your present mode of self-talk and thinking, you can only expect to be mired in this lost and lonely path.  As low self-esteem, self-condemnation, and guilt dominate your thought-life, the brain under-produces serotonin.  As a result, you have difficulty with your memory, emotionally you may be all over the place, and your often experience a low-grade degree of confusion - you are just hanging on.
Medicine's answer is not to cure or correct the underlying problem but to manage it, usually through pharmaceuticals. (It is interesting in the New Testament the word "sorcery" is translated from the Greek: phamakeia). Drugs such as Prozac™ are serotonin enhancers that artificially restore the chemical imbalance by slowing the re-uptake of serotonin. These drugs ultimately serve as a false comforter and a false source of peace.  As long as you take the drugs, you may feel better but you will still have the underlying feelings of low self-esteem, guilt and not liking yourself, which have become part of your internal picture of who you are.  Many express that while on the drugs, they still do not feel satisfied, just more tormented.
Disease management turns out to be just another form of bondage.  Please understand that depression is not the problem. Depression is merely the symptom of your toxic or negative thought life. As long as only the symptoms are being addressed, you cannot get well. The best you can hope for is managing those symptoms. Approaching depression from the viewpoint of being a victim, "There's a defect in my brain - I don't have enough serotonin. I can't help it!", is not the answer. We need to take back the responsibility and take back control of our thought-life. This, of course, is easier said than done. But it really is the only way to truly overcome the icy grips of depression and release its cold grasp on our soul and your happiness. 
Understand that you cannot overcome depression through your sheer willpower and determination.  My experience has taught me that it is only through the saving and redeeming power of God that we can be snatched from the suffocating entombment of our negative thoughts.  I have also found that you need help in the form of a loved-one who will work along side you because, quite frankly, when you're depressed internal motivation is not your strong point.
1. Jesus Christ invites us to "Come unto me." We need to begin seeing ourselves through different eyes. God's eyes.  As we begin to see ourselves with the love, hope, and potential that God sees us, our distorted and incorrect view our of poor, pitiful self will begin to melt away. The vague underlying nagging feelings of guilt will begin to fade. Honestly most of you don't even know what you feel guilty about. A study of who you really are as it relates to Christ is necessary.
2. Friendships are important. You need to hang out with people who are like the person you want to become. You cannot hang out with other depressed people or you will all hang together.  If your work environment is loaded with negative and depressed people then you must cover yourself with faith and the protection of Christ against those influences, daily, maybe even hourly.
3. Laugh, Sing and make Music.  Playing music, laughing and singing has been proven to de-stress your brain and body.  It protects you from getting sick and strengthens your immune system.  Laughing and feeling joy is like priming an old fashioned pump.  You must repeatedly move the handle up and down, up and down and may even need to pour in some water, but soon the pumping action will kick in and the water will begin to flow.  Likewise, to experience joy, you will need to prime the pump or Fake it, Until you Make it.  By laughing and singing you will cause the brain to naturally release the feel good hormones.
Laughing must be good-natured - not laughing at someone's expense or misfortune or sarcasm. Singing and making music must be uplifting and positive. Hymns of praise and rejoicing are most appropriate.  So what if you like the popular humor and music that is not uplifting and praiseworthy?  Humm, I wonder why you're still depressed.
Look into Laughing Yoga.  Developed by a medical doctor in India, it is very therapeutic and quite honestly it has been scientifically proven to change your physiology for the better.  To overcome depression, YOU MUST LAUGH. The more you laugh, the easier it is to laugh. And unless you have a broken rib, I promise it won't hurt.
It is also important to express gratitude.  Look for things to express thanks for.  Make things up if you have to.  Every hour, every day give thanks.  Seriously, it will change that negative chemical imbalance to one of feeling good.
4. You must develop an intimate, close relationship with God. You do this by spending time with Him. Your personal worship can include prayer, meditation, singing songs of praise and writing in your scripture/gratitude journal. This is a vital key in overcoming depression.  You cannot expect to experience any real form of joy or peace in your life if you are so busy doing other things that you never get around to spending time with God. Reset your priorities.

Know that God loves and approves of you regardless of your being rejected, abused or however deeply you are emotionally scarred. You can be healed through the power of Christ and His atonement. If you allow negativity to control your thought process, the result will be brain chemistry imbalance and ultimately disease.  If you allow the stinkin' thinkin' of self-hatred, condemnation, and guilt a foothold, your peace and health will be under attack.
The principles of overcoming depression are not complicated.  You simply need to:
  • Meditate/think about and learn who you really are in Christ. I'm not just talking about putting information in your head. You need to spend the energy and effort to "really get it".
  • You need too see yourself as God sees you.
  • You MUST apply the principles of laughing, singing songs of praise to God, and smiling (ad nauseum) at each onset of when depression is coming on.
Depression needs to be taken seriously, therefore you must be aggressive and not passive towards it.  It is nearly impossible to get depressed if your thoughts are under control.  Let virtue attend your thoughts continually and your confidence, love towards God, and others will grow. You cannot afford exposure to negativity in the form of music, entertainment, or literature. Comparison to others will drag you down, particularly as you view the false reality put forward on social media.  Heck, if we gauged our culture on the photos and fun things people post, then we would be the happiest people ever.
Now comes the moment of truth. You've been confronted with the notion that overcoming depression requires that you make significant and real changes in your behavior, activities, and thinking. You will need to change your priorities.  You will need supportive friends and/or family.  Schedules and checklists may need to be made. 
But this I promise you, the dark clouds will lift. The sun will shine upon your life and you will rise above the darkness, even that valley of the shadow of death - also known for King David as the valley of darkest depression. 
Dr Kyle Christensen
February 2017

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