Doing Life Together

time-3306753_1280Depression affects millions of people. It impacts how you interact with others, sleep, eat and think about the world. But have you ever thought about the language of a depressed person?  A study published in Clinical Psychological Science looked to see if there were words that marked anxiety and depression.  The findings are interesting and may cause you to pause and consider the power of your words.

Depression is marked by cognitive distortions–thoughts like, “There is no way out of this. I can’t go on. Life is too hard, ” etc. This tendency to be somewhat absolute about the way the world works is called “absolutist thinking.” And when scientists studied the words of people who are depressed, they found them using more of those absolutist phrases than people who are not depressed.

When we speak, we include both content and style. Content refers to what we talk about or express. In the case of people with depression, there are more words of content related to negative emotions. The content is usually about feeling sad, lonely, unhappy, etc. And people with depression reference themselves more often than other people. We think this may be  due to the lack of connection or social isolation depressed people feel. Also, a marker of depression is that you continue to think about the negatives of your life  which can worsen depression.

Language style relates to how you express yourself. In the case of depression, more often words like, “always and never” are expressed. This all or nothing thinking style characterizes depression and needs modification in order to change thoughts to more realistic expression. The more one thinks of the world as black or white and doesn’t allow grey in their thinking, the more likely the style of though can lead to feeling negative.

The take away from this interesting study on words and style of someone who is depressed it to change your thoughts and your emotions change too. This is part of the work of therapy.We teach people who are depressed to look at their automatic thoughts. If they have a negative theme, then the work is to find the positives and not be so back and white in terms of how you see things. Once a person is able to modify thoughts to a more positive and realistic view, their emotional state improves, leading to less depressed behavior as well. This is why we take thoughts captive and focus on good things in our lives. For some people, this shift in thinking may not be enough to pull them out of a depression, but it sure is part of the overall work to treat depression.

pretty-woman-635258_1280“I hate my body.” “My thighs are too big; my hair is too thin and I don’t like what I see in the mirror.”  

Do you ever think or say that? Do you obsess over your appearance? Those imperfections you see in the mirror—do they define your view of self? If so, keep those thoughts to yourself if you have children near you.

So much of a child’s attitude about his or her body comes from listening to how parents and other people talk about their bodies. If a parent is constantly dieting, making negative remarks, obsessing on fat and talking about the way other people look, children pick up on these themes and may feel they don’t measure up to perceived ideals. You set the stage for a child’s healthy view of self, early on in life.

Because we are all made in the image of God, God values us for who we are, not based on our physical appearance. The unconditional love of God is a message you want to give your children no matter what their flaws or imperfections. But first, you have to believe this message or it won’t be convincing. Do you accept God’s unconditional love for you? Or does His love and everyone else’s have to do with how you look? Parents, check your attitudes about your body. The messages you tell yourself often get passed on to your kids and young adults unknowingly.

Often, the emotional pain that comes from being teased or overweight can create self-hatred and lead to depression, anxiety and social isolation.  Children are faced with an unsympathetic culture when it comes to body image and feel pressure to conform to ideas of beauty and thinness that are not always healthy. Don’t add to their uncertainty about whether they look “good enough” with your own self-doubt. Instead, emphasize your love for them no matter what, and be kind to your own body in front of them.

Now, be healthy, don’t overeat due to stress and model unhealthy habits. But when it comes to how you talk about your body, be accepting. The goal is to teach children to eat well and develop healthy habits and be accepting of how they are designed.

When you refuse to measure up to some cultural ideal, you are winning the battle for self-acceptance. Don’t compare yourselves to others. God didn’t make a mistake when he put His image in you. Believe this and then reinforce this message to your kids! Help them develop a healthy self-image.

girl-15599_1920Jenna was offered a job. She prayed and felt a peace about taking it. During her first few months, she began to notice a great deal of organizational dysfunction including a boss who was not so kind. Fear gripped Jenna. Did she make a mistake? Should she have taken this job? She knew the position was important to her career path, but was full of self-doubt and fear. There were a number of obstacles to overcome.

Taylor started her new job at the same time and place as Jenna. She noticed many of the same problems as Jenna and also encountered the unkind boss. Same place, same problems, but Taylor had a very different reaction. She was filled with hope, not fear. What accounted for the very different reactions to the same workplace problems?

  1. Taylor remembered the promises of God. She too prayed but wasn’t fearing her future. She was confident that God led her to this position and would be faithful to help her work through the difficulties. She might even win over the unkind boss! Taylor could have second guessed herself and focused on the uncertainty and problems. Instead, she employed Psalm 34 and believed God would deliver her from all her fears. She needed the job and knew God had opened this door. Her lens for viewing the job was one of trusting God’s faithfulness and not giving in to fear.
  2. Taylor saw the problems and some of them were big. But no job is without difficulties. She needed to stay strong. She named her fears and reminded herself that nothing was too difficult for God. Conflict would come, but she could handle that conflict with God’s help. Whatever the obstacles, she would move in faith, not fear, trusting God to help her.
  3. Taylor trusted in God’s power, not her own. She said to herself, “God’s got this! Fear can’t win. God is on my side. If God is for me, who can be against me?” The Lord will fight for her as promised in Scripture. Taylor was not meant to fight her battles alone. The battle is the Lord’s and He goes before her. Knowing she could face anything with God’s help gave her hope.

Do you look at your future with fear—a terrible boss, a bad diagnosis, a troubled marriage, etc.  and  think, “ I have to make this happen or take care of this on my own?” Or do you think, “God is on my side and is powerful to help me overcome?” It is the Lord who directs our paths and makes our future. Move in faith, not fear. Be hopeful. We serve a big God, awesome in power!

people-3104635_1280Friendships may be one of the most underrated relationships when it comes to feeling loved and supported in your life. And finding a best friend is no easy task. I can name on one hand the number of really best friends I have had through life. And sadly, if you don’t keep those relationships going with a lot of intention, best friends can become distant as well.

Given the stress we often feel related to time–time to relax, to chat and just hang out with those with whom we click, best friends can be hard to find. You have to click with that person and then engage in intentional behavior. And in the process, you may decide, this isn’t the person I want to befriend in a deeper way.

But when the process goes well and you want to move forward, it takes time. It is estimated that it takes about 50 hours to convert an aquaintance to a friend and then 90 hours to become a friend, and more than 200 hours until they become a best friend! Time is definitely a factor, but it is not the only thing needed to become a best friend. While hanging out with someone gives you opportunity to develop closeness, how and what you talk about matters.

Now you might just hit it off with someone and have an immediate bond, but deepening that friendship requires both time together and meaningful conversation, not simply small talk. Your ability to slowly and steadily reveal parts of your life to a person begins to deepen the friendship. In fact, researchers think that a lot of small talk does little to move a relationship forward. So to progress the relationship, you have to dig deep and talk about things that matter.

In addition, people who are agreeable, open to experience and conscientious make great friends as well as marriage partners. Those characteristics help you be a friend and connect with others easily. It just may be that if you have those characteristics, you have an easier time of being a friend and developing friendships. So think about it-do you disagree a lot, think you are always right, are afraid to branch out and try new things or have a “whatever” attitude? If so, it might be more difficult for you to find and be a friend. If you want to find better friends, consider the positive characteristics and work on those.

Overall, a best friend is hard to find, but worth the effort. When you find one, the relationship can enhance your life!