A spiritual approach to anxiety and depression

A Christian Science perspective.

I was reading the newspaper last summer when these sentences made me sit up: “According to the World Health Organization, the disease that robs the most adults of the most years of productive life is not AIDS, not heart disease, not cancer. It is depression” (Tina Rosenberg, “Fighting Depression, One Village at a Time,” The New York Times, July 18, 2012). And while the options for treatment are many, I also learned that the number of individuals taking prescription drugs for depression or anxiety is also on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since 1988 usage of antidepressants has increased nearly 400 percent – to the point where in the United States, one in four women between the ages of 40-59 are turning to drugs to combat symptoms of anxiety, stress, or depression.

We all deserve to feel settled and able to approach our day with dominion and peace. And while there is no question that these drugs have helped many individuals find relief, there is also a general understanding that they do not cure depression or anxiety, but mask or manage their symptoms and effects. In addition, there are some distressing side effects involved and certainly the potential of addiction to these drugs. But as the number of adults and children taking these medications continues to rise, it raises the question: is there a more effective way to find permanent relief?

Is it possible to cure anxiety and depression, without the use of drugs?

A friend of mine recently began to suffer from the effects of severe anxiety and was very discouraged to hear her doctor advise her to start taking an antidepressant. She is not one to turn quickly to medication, so in talking with me, she wondered if there was another way. My friend knew that I had once gained complete relief from severe symptoms of anxiety through a spiritual approach, and she asked me how I coped without the use of drugs. I shared with her the metaphysical treatment that I followed, and how it might apply to others seeking relief:

First, watch. Watch for signs of sadness, stress, or anxiety coming on, and head them off before they have a chance to gain a foothold in your thought. You have the right not to consent to them. You have the right and ability to move thought somewhere else instead. Gratitude is a great place to move thought. You can recognize good in your life right now in all its myriad forms, and think about those good things. Take a minute, pause, and allow that goodness to sink in. Take time to ponder all the blessings in your life.

Many who have struggled with depression and anxiety know that the greatest need is to be free of self-condemnation and dark thoughts that feel out of control. In the midst of all that we do for our jobs, for our families, and for others, we often forget to care for and even love ourselves. Yet when Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment to follow, he cited first the need to love God with all our heart, and then reminded us, “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (see Mark 12:28-34). God created each of us unique, beautiful, and valuable. We are vital as the tangible expressions of God. Without our individual reflection of goodness and love, those qualities would be less bright and evident to all.

In the Bible, David asks God about his worth: “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” He answers his own question with this inspired thought: “Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor” (Psalms 8:4, 5, New Revised Standard Version). God “crowned” us with this value and worth; it is our birthright and cannot be taken away any more than you could change the birthright of a king or a queen.

Loving yourself – recognizing your own worth, beauty, and strength – is a key foundation to finding healing.It’s also wise to be patient with yourself when treating depression or anxiety with a spiritual approach. Turning around our thoughts and behaviors this way is possible and effective, but it is not always easy and requires discipline and a willingness to change. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wisely noted in her work “Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896” that while the battle with our thoughts can be arduous, through persistence, and with God’s good strength, we are assured of victory. She wrote, “Be of good cheer; the warfare with one’s self is grand; it gives one plenty of employment, and the divine Principle worketh with you, – and obedience crowns persistent effort with everlasting victory” (p. 118).

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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