Wednesday, June 22, 2016

3 Happy Habits

It's true that I had grown accustomed to dealing with depression off and on for most of my life. It's true that my "rock bottom" moment came when I was trying to survive debilitating anxiety about the future right before my special needs son entered kindergarten, and I accepted prescriptions from my doctor in order to overcome the horrible symptoms I was experiencing. It's true that even after I stepped down off the medication and tried other more natural methods of combatting depression, depression wasn't finished with me. What I should really say is that the devil wasn't finished with me, because as a dearly loved friend of mine says, depression is really just oppression from the enemy. But here is something else that is true, and it is the most important truth of all, and the reason I am writing to tell other people that depression can be overcome and left behind.

If you don't know, Jesus it the Light spoken about here, and I encourage you to read the first chapter of John and read this scripture in context. It's one of my favorite passages in the Bible. It's the amazing story about how God became flesh and lived among people so that He could overcome the darkness. There is still darkness in this world of all kinds, but it will never overcome the Light. Not ever. 
I'll tell you the last time I can remember feeling held back by depression was about two years ago, around the same time I started working as a fitness coach. I don't remember all of the circumstances that made me feel that way anymore, but I remember doing all the things I knew to beat it, even though I didn't feel like doing them. Because now I was part of a team and trying to serve as a rolemodel to help other people. I had done my Body Beast workout that morning and decided to go out for a run, because it was summer and the sun was out, and sun and fresh air and exercise are all good tools to fight depression. I had just downloaded an album from NeedtoBreathe, and had the music playing in my ears as my shoes hit the pavement. For the first time, I heard these lyrics....

Yeah in this wasteland where I'm livin'
There is a crack in the door filled with light
And it's all that I need to get by
Yeah in this wasteland where I'm livin'
There is a crack in the door filled with light
And it's all that I need to shine

Depression feels like a wasteland. It feels dark. But there was always Jesus, my crack in the door filled with light. For the last two years, God has been showing me how to not just "get by" when sadness tries to overtake me. He is showing me how to shine anyway, no matter what my circumstances are like. There will always be plenty of trouble for all of us. The Bible says that too. But it also says that we should watch our thoughts and think about what is good. This leads me to my new happy habits. There are three of them I have committed to do every day without fail, and they really do work! 

1. Open your Bible.
It's the only place where you will find the truth to cover over the lies that depression makes you believe. (A favorite quote from a favorite pastor of mine, Steven Furtick: "Don't believe everything you think.") It's the hope of all hope to know the love that God has for you and to know the end of the story. Today is not the end of the story, and the end of the story is that we win. If you can saturate your mind with that truth, you can make it through the day and have peace. Let the Word be your anchor, every day, before the demands of the day and the negativity of the world around you have the chance to reach your thoughts instead. Truth first. Hope first. God first. 

2. Pray. More specifically, pray prayers of thanks. 
It is hard to stay down when you are praising God for all that is right. I fully understand from my own experience that it can be too easy to feel like everything is wrong and you have nothing to be grateful for. That is what depression does. It makes you think you would be better off if you were anyone else. But a perspective shift will help you see that there are other people in the world who wish they could be you. And even though we ALL have a problem of some kind on any given day, there is always something to be thankful for too. I have commmitted to write down three of those things in my prayer journal every morning. Thank God for life, breath, a new day. Thank Him for the clean water you have, or a job, or a friend, husband, wife, son or daughter. Sometimes you will find it is easy to fill a whole page with the blessings you do have. 

3. Move your body
I know, I know. You don't want to do it in the depths of depression, Your body already might hurt. But when I committed to doing at least ten miutes a day 6 days a week, (you should allow your body one rest day.) I found that once I got going, I almost instantly felt better. It's something to channel the angry energy into that is healthy for you and it's scientifically proven to brighten your mood. Endorphins are great! Try whatever activity you like, even just walking. When you can walk outside, all the better. When I am especially stressed out, kick boxing is my favorite! The best work out is the one you will do. So choose a good video program, or get outside, or to the gym, or to the class that just started up in your community. Just schedule it in and don't miss it. 

There are other things I do that bring me joy and some of them are fast and easy. I will share those mood lifters in another post. But for me, these three things have been non-negotiable for a while now. And you know what? Even though I have STILL had hard circumstances in my life of all kinds, this past winter is the first one that I didn't feel the affects of SAD very much. It was so much of a difference that a friend even pointed out to me that she noticed it! I still don't like the winters here because I don't like to be cold, I like the sun, and the snow affecting my son's regular routine is the worst of all. He hates being off schedule and that makes life a little harder for everyone. But these three habits kept me happy anyway. I finally feel like I have arrived at a full understanding of the following much quoted scripture. 

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