The nature of depression is such that relief in any form often eludes us. Our brains feel as if they have soaked up the sadness and negativity of countless universes. Our thoughts are dark, our bodies heavy. In this state, how can we find the strength to turn toward spirituality as a means out of our depression?
Taking a Few Small Steps
Know That You Can.
No one suffering from depression should deny themselves any treatment that relieves their symptoms. The use of prescription drugs and therapy are well-known and widely accepted means of relieving the symptoms of depression. What about spirituality?
Until very recently, there were two very divided camps on this topic---the medical camp and the spiritual camp. But with the publication of recent books such as "How God Changes Your Brain," we are now seeing evidence that "spiritual practices" do, in fact, change the actual makeup of the brain. Brain scans show the differences in brains during meditation or prayer, and as little as eight weeks of regular spiritual practice has been shown to cause permanent changes in the "wiring" of the brain.
Authors Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman explain that "religious and spiritual contemplation changes your brain in a profoundly different way [than meditating on non-religious themes] because it strengthens a unique neural circuit that specifically enhances social awareness and empathy while subduing destruction feelings and emotions."
A simple first step toward obtaining spiritual relief from depression is to get closer to nature. Whether or not you believe in a divine deity, few can ignore or deny that some force or universal power must surely have played a role in the divinity of nature. Make an effort to spend some time outdoors every day. Sit in the grass in your backyard or in a park. Lie under a tree and watch the stars or the birds or the clouds. Work in your garden. Wherever you are, contemplate the vastness of nature---the number of stars in the sky, the number of blades of grass or grains of sand. You cannot help but have a positive and spiritual experience.
Sound and Movement.
Music therapy has been shown to be an effective means of battling the symptoms of depression, and few types of music are as uplifting and joyful as old-fashioned gospel, the more modern "praise" music or even "God rock." The beat, the words, the rhythms will serve to banish the dark thoughts of depression from your mind for at least a time. Search for the spiritual music that gives you the most joy. Attend a Wednesday night church service at a local church (these mid-week services are usually more music-based than the Sunday services).
If you have fond memories of a childhood church-going experience, you may find the most comfort in those hymns from days gone by. If you do not have those types of childhood memories, search the music websites that offer "clips" of songs to find something you like. There is no need to buy music; borrow it from friends, family or your local library.
Take long walks while listening to spiritual songs on your MP3 player.
Participate in some form of regular spiritual practice. This may be meditation or prayer, chanting or simple contemplation. If you struggle to find your own words for prayer, listen to recordings of prayers or meditations, such as the beautiful rendition of The Rosary by Roma Downey, which accompanies the John Edward book, "Practical Praying." Whatever you choose, do it every day for at least 30 minutes. Surround yourself with other items that speak to you of spiritualism, such as candles, a cross, a rosary, essential oils or other religious artifacts. Journal your thoughts during and after each session.
Finding the Words.
Reading or listening to spiritual books will leave you with uplifting words to light the darkness of your depression. Jot meaningful phrases and sentences on post-it notes and put them on your mirror, your car's dashboard, your computer screen. Check your TV listings for religious channels or programs. Return to the religion of your childhood, or seek out new paths.