Over the years, I struggled with depression. At one point, I attempted suicide and failed–a very sad and frightening ordeal. Over time, the Lord gave me the following no-cost items (except for one) to help pull me out of depression and into a more positive outlook, so I could progress forward. You may copy or share this without changes and with proper credit to the author (Cathy Harvey).
1. Read God’s Word (the Bible) & Pray. The Bible is not like other literature books. It is alive with power and truth and can change lives because it was master-minded by the living God! It is the foundational rock everyone needs to stand on (whether they know it or not). (John 1:1; Psalm 62:1-2) Prayer is talking to God. He speaks to us through His Word, and we talk to Him in prayer. It’s a conversation, a relationship with the Creator of the Universe! (Philippians 4:6-7; Psalm 5:3)
2. Memorize Bible Verses. Keep God’s wisdom in your heart, and it will be with you wherever you go. It is healing, comforting, and strengthening because it deals with our heart and soul, the core of who we are. (Psalm 119:11; Joshua 1:8)
3. Join a Good Bible-teaching Church. Not all churches are created equal! We need solid teaching from pastors who understand and can teach the Word of God rightly in helpful and practical ways. There is not a perfect church or denomination, but some are more closely aligned with the Scriptures. They lead people to the truth through the power of the Holy Spirit, rather than feed people false doctrine. (Hebrews 10:25)
4. Make Good Friends. We all need a support system. We were created to be in community; no man is an island, not even a loner. One of the first statements God said was that “man should not be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.” Most churches offer small group Bible studies where people can meet and get to know a core group of friends to study and share life together. (Genesis 2:18; Acts 2:42)
5. Good Spiritual Music, good music in general. Think about The Charlie Brown Christmas Song or Pharrell Williams’ song Happy. It is so hard not to smile when we hear them! The healing and inspiring qualities of music are well-documented. Soldiers at war have been roused to courage, and David played his harp for the king to calm him when evil spirits bothered him. (1 Samuel 16:23; Ephesians 5:19)
6. Laughter. What a stress-buster laughter is, quickly defusing a foul mood and lifting our spirits. My family is Italian, and we tell stories and laugh often and loud when we are together; it’s a wonder we haven’t been kicked out of restaurants! God’s Word says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine…” Laughter has healing qualities. (Proverbs 17:22)
7. Color. Consider the beauty in nature, the colors you paint the rooms in your home or office, and the colors you enjoy wearing. Stop with the neutrals! Add a burst of your favorite color. I have filled my home with colorful artwork to cheer my spirit on a daily basis. (Revelation 21:19-21)
8. Sunshine and Good Lighting. I have read that 30 minutes of sunshine on our bare skin is healthy and offers vitamin D. When the sunshine comes out after a cloudy day, everyone feels better, happier. My husband put good lighting over my art table in the basement to imitate natural light. Every day feels sunny when I work down there! A friend told me her doctor discovered she was almost completely deficient of vitamin D. Once she got it back into her system, it helped immensely in relieving her depression.
9. Fresh Air, Exercise, Get Out in Nature (Look UP). Pick something you LOVE to do, so it will be a joy: biking, walking, swimming, yoga, whatever. For a walking break, I used to use the restroom in another building across campus, so I could get out of my windowless department. It gave me movement, fresh air, and sunshine as I enjoyed the natural wetlands landscape of the property where I worked. Small changes can make a difference. They all add up!
10. Dump Yer Junk! What this means is get wise counseling. This is the one tip that might cost money, but many companies offer insurance that can help cover part of the expense. Take advantage of it; it’s there for you. Depressed people need an objective, professional, third party who will listen, allowing us to vent all our junk freely without feeling judged. This might not be a pastor in your church–that is okay. Many pastors counsel people from other churches. You may be too involved in your own church to feel comfortable unloading all “the junk in your trunk.” I found someone I would likely never run into in public, and it was so very helpful. They had ideas I never would have thought of that helped me heal and overcome some difficult relationships in my life. (Proverbs 24:3-6)
11. Focus on Helping Others. Depressed people need to get out and volunteer and see there are others in worse conditions who need their help. We need to stop focusing on all our negative thoughts and get over ourselves! (See how I am preaching to myself!) It offers a fresh perspective on our own problems which may seem smaller by comparison, and thus, helps encourage us in our journey to victory. (Ephesians 4:32, 5:21)
12. Hobbies or Talents. The skills God has wired into each of us bring a sense of satisfaction and joy. Part of our purpose in life is to spend time developing, using, and sharing these wonderful gifts–and if your gift is cooking, could you please come to my house and share it? 🙂 (1 Peter 4:10)
13. Write It Out. I took a writing class and my instructor mentioned there is now researched proof of the healing effects of writing. She explained the process of writing for 20 minutes a day about something that is bothering you. Grammar and spelling don’t matter; just unload your thoughts and feelings. If done for 4 days in a row, there is healing in venting on paper. I wondered if that was part of how I dealt with my daughter’s sudden and tragic death so well. I wrote and wrote and wrote all about it, to family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. In the process, I received such loving support in return. I think my emotions were working themselves out as I left them on the paper, leaving me strengthened to move forward. (Psalm 45:1)
14. REST AND REGULAR SLEEP. A 4-letter word everyone needs–especially women in all stages of life. No, it’s not “shop” or “wine” as one woman shouted out in one of my talks! We need R-E-S-T; rest and regular sleep. Scientists and doctors recommend depressed people live on farmers’ hours: up with the sunrise and to bed early. It has to do with our bodies’ circadian rhythms in response to light and dark. It has to do with our bodies’ circadian rhythms in response to light and dark. God crafted our body systems for repair and rejuvenation during sleep and the dark hours. I guess I should get to bed! (Mark 6:31; Psalm 127:2b)
15. An Attitude of Gratitude. I heard on a television talk show years ago from one of the listeners who was struggling in her marriage and in her life. She started journaling 3 things each night that she was thankful for that day. I thought that was a great idea, and now I have a shelf full of gratitude journals. It is so much more positive, productive, and fruitful than a negative attitude of whining, complaining, and blaming. (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 5:20)
16. Forgiveness. The ripple effect of the power of forgiveness can change lives around the world. Mend the fences and reconcile relationships before it’s too late. Make a phone call, write a letter, set up a meeting. It is so healing and freeing. You can lay our head down at night in peace. Even if the other party does not respond well–and sometimes they do not–you can sleep with happiness in your heart knowing you did your part as best you could (sincerely and humbly). You will leave this earth with no regrets. No regrets! That’s huge. (Matthew 6:14-15; 18:21-22)
Over the years, I found the combination of all of these helpful in diffusing bouts of sadness, gloom, or depression. It took a little bit of conscious effort and some self-talk, at times, for me to take action, but they help! Most of them are free and within reach. I hope they help you as much as they have helped me. My outlook is now generally positive, spirited, and encouraging on a daily basis as these are built into my lifestyle. Just ask my friends.
If someone you know would be encouraged by this list, please feel free to share it with them or direct them to my website. For questions or comments, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.