First and foremost we need to remember that disturbing emotions are an important part of life. They are warning signals that something has happened and we are in distress. The more we ignore them, the heavier they become for us to haul around each day. We often hear people of faith wrestle significantly with distressing emotions. Somehow the belief that if you are faithful you shouldn’t feel distressed or should be able to focus on your blessings has made it’s way into our religious communities. Even people of faith will experience these disturbing emotions. Take Hannah for example. In 1 Samuel chapter 1 we meet a woman who desperately wants a child and has been greatly distressed. She is bitter, sobbing often, not eating, angry and unhappy…..sound familiar? Sometimes life is crazy hard and we are going to hurt.
How do we know when we have crossed from sadness to depression? When our mental habits are keeping us stuck in discontent and unhappiness. When we can’t break free from our growing relationship with our negative thoughts and feelings (they become like that comfy pair of jeans that have rips in all the wrong places but you are afraid to give away). We start to “cut back” because we are tired, we sleep too much or not enough, we eat too much or too little, we try to suppress or think our way through our emotions only to end up spending way too much time in our heads and feeling lower than pond scum.
Research is showing us that we can’t simply think our way out of the murky waters of depression. Success comes from a holistic approach that combines creating new mental habits, listening to our bodies, and developing an increasing ability to withstand the curve balls life will continue to throw at us. Learning that thoughts are not facts; our brain doesn’t know as much as it knows about. Learning to acknowledge and be present with what is happening rather than being focused on what should or should not be happening. Learning to breathe and unleash the power of this life-changing tool. We are all capable of peace and calm. Sometimes we just need a new gameplan.