How to Think Positively When Depressed

We all experience bouts of depression at times—some of us more than others. Are there any strategies that can help us think more positively when we feel depressed?

How to Think Positively When Depressed
“Keep your face always toward the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind you.” So goes an old saying.

If overcoming depression were only as simple as turning one’s face toward the sun! According to the World Health Organization, about 280 million people around the world experience depression.

How can a depressed person begin to view life more positively? Some need and seek professional counseling, and some are helped through medication.    

But are there other strategies one can use to climb out of the dark hole of depression? Are there biblical strategies that will help us think more positively when we feel depressed? 

How to think more positively when you are depressed

Here are five biblical strategies that can help you when you’re feeling down and depressed.

1. Ask: Have I contributed to the circumstances that make me depressed?

Some counselors work to make you feel better about your life choices rather than helping you change them. That seems easier, and requires little effort on your part, but it may not ultimately solve the problem. As uncomfortable as it may be, sometimes we should consider our choices and examine how they may have contributed to the negative outcomes in our lives.

One author wrote that her therapist gave her some advice she didn’t want to hear. He told her that her life choices and environment led to her depression. If she worked on fixing the bad choices and changing her environment, her mental state would improve.

Words like that aren’t always easy to hear, but sometimes they are correct and are what we need.

It would be good to seek wise counsel as you work to leave depression behind (Proverbs 24:6). Whether you talk with a pastor, a professional counselor or a good friend who knows you and will be honest with you, ask if he or she can see any ways that your choices may have led to your depression. And if so, ask him or her to help you determine what needs to change, and to help you make those changes.

The benefits could be dramatic.

2. Be thankful.

Now let’s go on the offense and take action to change our way of thinking.

It’s easy to focus on everything that’s wrong with our lives. Problems at work, friendship issues, relationship drama, health troubles, etc.

Look at your life through different eyes by considering all the things for which you can be thankful—and take the time to give thanks to God for every one of them.But seeing only the problems can cause us to swirl deeper into the pit of despair.

Instead, stop to consider that everyone has something for which to be thankful. It has been said that a happy man has the things he wants—but a far happier man wants the things he has. Could your perspective use a little adjustment? What would happen if you began to focus on the things for which you can be thankful?  

The apostle Paul had been shipwrecked, been beaten with rods and stones, had his character and integrity attacked in the court of public opinion, and yet he wrote this: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, emphasis added throughout).

Actively look for things to be thankful for, even very small things. Do you have clothes to keep you warm? Do you have a place to sleep, sheltered from rain and inclement weather? Are you able to see the verdant green of grass and trees, or the beauty of a delicate flower? Do you have a reliable job? Do you have people in your life who care about you?

Look at your life through different eyes by considering all the things for which you can be thankful—and take the time to give thanks to God for every one of them.

For more insight on being thankful to God in prayer, read “Thanksgiving Prayer” and “How to Pray Better.”

3. Try to make someone else smile.

What can you do to make your coworker, spouse, child or neighbor smile? In other words, how can you bring some joy to someone else’s life? Here are some ideas:

  • How to Think Positively When Depressed - Holding Door

    Giving a friendly smile as you hold the door open for someone is one way you can try to bring a little joy to another person’s life. 

    Give a genuine compliment to a stranger.
  • Hold a door open for someone with a smile.
  • Pay for someone’s meal at a restaurant.
  • Give a friendly wave when another driver allows you to merge into traffic.

Unexpected deeds of kindness can brighten someone else’s day and put a smile on his or her face.

This can help us shift our focus to be more outward—on others—and less inward on our own problems and concerns. Paul wrote, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

Seeking to make someone else smile—to bring joy to his or her life—is looking out for the interests of others.

For more insight on having more outgoing concern for others, read “Christian Giving” and “Fruit of the Spirit: Love.”

4. Do something productive and enjoyable.

One of the most satisfying and encouraging things in life is to successfully accomplish a task. A tool you can use is a simple to-do list. A to-do list helps us focus on tasks that need to be done and gives a road map to complete them.

Go for a walk in nature, drink a cup of tea while watching the birds, or take a few minutes to call a friend.Large and intimidating projects can be broken down into smaller steps on your list. Every time you complete one, mark it off. In short order you will see you are making progress. Your focus should be on progress, not perfection. You will feel better knowing you are working your way down your list, successfully getting things done.

Naval Adm. William McRaven suggested that there’s a huge benefit to starting off each day by immediately making your bed. It’s a simple task, but often overlooked. His reasoning was that you will immediately feel a little more together when your bed is tidy and made. And, first thing in the morning, you will have already accomplished something!   

However, the tasks on your list need not all be hard or unpleasant. Put some enjoyable things on your list also. Go for a walk in nature, drink a cup of tea while watching the birds, or take a few minutes to call a friend. Play a game, read a book, or relax in a bubble bath. Give yourself permission to enjoy a few moments, and then mark that off your list too!

5. Ask God for strength and help to come out of depression.

Whenever we have troubles and concerns, we should take them to our loving Father in prayer. Paul wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

What things bring you down? Whatever your answer is, you can take those things to God in prayer. You can lay your concerns, fears and even broken dreams before Him and ask Him to guide you through the heaviness and to move in the direction He wants you to go.

After all, He has promised never to abandon us (Hebrews 13:5) and to make sure all things work for our good if we will humbly follow Him (Romans 8:28).

There are many facets of depression and many causes that can lead us there. The solution is not as simple as facing the sun so your shadow is behind you. But it is our prayer that these steps will help you begin to move forward out of the darkness of depression and toward a better and healthier life.

Topics Covered: Christian Living, Social Issues, Life Lessons

About the Author

Tom Clark

Tom Clark

Tom Clark married his lovely wife, Mary, in 1985. They have three grown children and four grandchildren. Tom was ordained a minister in 1989 and has served congregations in Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota and North Dakota. He currently pastors the Bentonville, Van Buren and Mena, Arkansas, congregations of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.

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