For the next ten weeks we will be discussing over one hundred ways to cope with anxiety and depression. As we mentioned in last week’s episode, depression and anxiety can cause discouragement and a sense of overwhelm.
Our goal for the next ten weeks is to provide you with a list of coping skills that are attainable. No one can say that they cannot do any of the over one hundred activities that will be discussing. That’s encouraging!
Each week there will be a theme for the particular activity that is featured. We have grouped the one hundred and one skills into ten different themes. God, exercise, slowing down, fun, animals and nature, socializing, aesthetics, creating and learning, touch and smell, and helping will be the themes.
This week we will begin with the most foundational and profound theme: God. In Him, we move and have our being. When our focus is on Him, it changes our view of our world.
We are told in Philippians 4:8 to think on things true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. We are told to meditate on them. This is the thread that ties together the next ten weeks for our series. While we will be talking about God specifically today, His hand is in the different themes we will address in later episodes.
Science and Faith Collide
Researchers studied the impact of six weekly prayers in hospital patients. The stress hormone cortisol was studied through saliva samples from each patient. The prayer intervention showed significant improvement of depression and anxiety, as well as increases of daily spiritual experiences and optimism compared to those who did not. Wow, this is Philippians 4:8 in action!
15. Read the Bible. The Bible has many verses and passages that address anxiety. Philippians 4:6-7 states, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Isaiah 41:10 says, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
53. Pray. A study by Dr. Harold Koenig and other colleagues at Duke University showed that six weekly prayers with patients at the hospital reduced their stress and anxiety while raising their optimism.
26. Walk on the beach and look for seashells. The color blue has a calming effect. Gazing into the ocean literally changes our brain waves, putting the mind into a meditative state.
33. Visit a cathedral or church to view the stained glass windows. Viewing artwork stimulates the pleasure centers of your brain. It also serves as a positive distraction for those who are chronically ill.
90. Lay on your back outside and watch the clouds. Being in nature separates us from the bombardment of technology in our lives and allows us to be alone with our thoughts. Interestingly, a study found that people would rather administer to themselves mild electric shocks than to sit alone with their thoughts. At the onset of the study these same people said they would pay money to avoid being shocked. Modern society has indulged this need to be entertained. Cloud watching is a pleasant form of distraction that will not seem as threatening.
87. Go sailing. Spending time in nature allows us to slow down and appreciate God’s creation. The chemical composition of salty air balances serotonin levels. The rhythm of waves have a relaxing effect on the body.
59. Write a letter. Letter writing is a great way to express yourself. It forces you to organize your thoughts instead of letting them ruminate in your mind. After writing the letter, you don’t have to send it for it to be helpful.
70. Attend a bible study. Community is important to the wellbeing of those struggling with mental health issues. Finding a group and a church that is not antagonistic towards mental health can provide support for someone struggling with depression and other conditions. More churches and church groups are partnering with mental health professionals to give much needed attention to those suffering from depression and other conditions.
76. Write down what you are thankful for. Making the habit of identifying three things you are grateful each day for even a few weeks can create improvement in depression. In fact, some scientists believe that the impact is as strong as an anti-depressant! Practicing gratitude can also decrease overeating, increase empathy for others and improve self-care.
84. Sing a praise song. Singing lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. It improves life quality and decreases anxiety. Research suggests that singing as part of group even synchs the heart rates of group members, which is almost like a meditative state.
You have probably noticed that each of these God-themed activities require different amounts of energy and motivation. Some activities are solitary (just you and God) others involve being with others or nature.
If you are feeling particularly unmotivated, activities such as reading the Bible or prayer may be a good starting point. Prayer journaling and letter writing may be a next good step. Finally, working your way up to being a part of a bible study and/or singing in a group will provide great fellowship and give you the opportunity to feel less isolated.