Negative thoughts have the power to undermine your health.
Positive thoughts can improve your health.
After the tragic suicide of Robin Williams, depression became a hot topic on media circuits. Many of us wondered how such a tragedy could be prevented. News sources told us the staggering number of people currently on medication for depression. Why is depression such a widespread problem in our society?
For some time, I wanted to have a speaker at our church’s Women’s Fellowship on the topic of depression. Robin Williams’ death convinced me that this was a much needed topic and the time was right. I’m glad I followed my hunch – or I should say, the Spirit’s leading. We had an awesome turnout as twenty-three women listened and resonated with Lynsey Peachy from the Crossroads Counseling Center in Galesburg, Illinois.
Along with medication, Lynsey said, it’s important to do other things that will help alleviate depression. Avoid alcohol, decrease sugar in your diet, get plenty of exercise and good sleep. Practice gratitude and think positive thoughts.
Lynsey’s last suggestion caught me by surprise. Yes, I know those are good things to do and would probably help. But Lynsey said that thinking negative thoughts will actually emit a chemical in your brain that makes you feel bad. Likewise, thinkign positive thoughts will transmit another chemical reaction in our brain that can make us feel good.
Our women resonated with this. After the meeting, I observed several clusters of women talking about how all the bad things happening in the world impact them. It’s hard to get away from so much bad news as I talked about in an earlier blog. Several of us told how we cut our television service just so we could get away from the negative talk. It’s everywhere! Even The Weather Channel’s website home page often hosts a sensational headline that is well, negative.
I felt four fingers pressing into my chest, my own fingers, that is. What negative messages do I send myself? How often do I hash and rehash a troubling situation in my mind? There’s judgmental thoughts, grouchy reactions to situations, thinking about how something isn’t the way I like or what disappoints me. All negative thoughts. I don’t need news sources to make me feel bad. I do it to myself as well.
A new realization entered my brain. The negative things we say to other people can trigger this brain transmission too. Whenever we report bad news, gripe about something they or someone else has done, make a negative comment about the weather or the day, or even ask (like <blush> I do to my husband) “What’s wrong?”, we’re initiating those mental transmission and we can contribute to make a bad day worse. Negative messages. Negative thoughts.
My husband told me this story one time. In his bible college psychology class, a group of guys decided to gang up on one girl. With great concern, each of them went to her and said, “Gee, are you feeling ok? You don’t look so good.” At first she assured each person she felt just fine. But guess what? By noon, she headed home. She didn’t feel good. At the time, Jack and his friends were trying out the theory of the power of suggestion. But if what Lynsey is saying is correct, those negative suggestions were actually working on her physically.
So what do we do?
Want to show God’s grace to someone? Want to demonstrate His unconditional love? It can be as simple as controlling the negative thoughts about situations, other people or our personal problems and instead, voicing positive, encouraging and uplifting thoughts.
We can’t stop there. You can’t just get rid of the negativity, leaving the house empty for the Evil One to fill it with the bad stuff from another source. We have to replace the bad stuff with the good stuff.
Don’t worry about anything. Instead surrender it to God in prayer, lacing it with thanksgiving (Phil 4:6,7)
Set your mind on what is good, pure, lovely, just true, of good report (Phil 4:8)
Take every thought captive for the sake of Christ. (2 Cor. 10;5)
How do I plan to replace the negative with the positive this week?
- Sing praise songs every morning. Out loud.
- Turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts. Look at the other side of the coin.
- Don’t dwell on the disappointments. Let them go and move on to something else.
- Resist the urge to observe that my husband doesn’t look like he feels very well.
Yes, I know depression, especially chronic severe depression, is much complicated than simply thinking the good thoughts. There are many contributing factors. I am not totally responsible for causing someone to have a bad day. I’m also not saying that we should never share our troubles or heartaches. There’s a time and a place for that and we need to allow others to care for us.
But I can help myself and others toward having a better day by monitoring what goes through my mind and out my mouth. If I don’t make negativity a daily habit, those closest to me will take notice when I do bring up hurts, trials, or disappointments – that it must be important enough to mention. In the meantime, I can help myself and others have a better day just by keeping my thoughts and attitudes focused on Jesus and things above. Our grace and unconditional love cares about the people in our lives so much that we would restrain the negative words and say uplifting things just so they can have a better day.