“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
As someone who is no stranger to anxiety, I’ve discovered just how important it is to guard my mind. I think that everyone struggles with negative thoughts from time to time. However, for people with anxiety, this battle can be especially intense.
In an earlier post, I wrote about strategies I use to fight the battle for my mind. In this post, I want to share some specific ways that God is teaching me to combat negative thoughts.
Being wise about entertainment: The honest truth is that for much of my life I didn’t give enough thought to the media that I consumed. However, several years ago, the Lord challenged me that the TV and movies I watched were affecting me more than I realized. I asked God to make me more sensitive in this area and I quickly realized that most media focuses on things that are completely opposite of Philippians 4:8. Rather than filling my mind with lovely, pure, and peaceful things, I was consuming negativity, impurity, and anxiety. Now I’m not saying that I think that all movies and TV shows are evil. I think that film can be a powerful tool for conveying important stories and messages. However, I do believe that as Christians we need to be a lot more careful about what we’re consuming and the way that the things we watch affect our minds. Although, I definitely still watch movies and TV shows from time to time, I am much more careful about what I’m consuming. And this has done wonders for decreasing my anxiety.
Reading/listening to uplifting content: While I’ve found that many TV shows and movies are harmful to my thought life, there are other types of content that support good thoughts. I’ve always loved reading, especially books about faith, psychology, and personal development. Reading opens my minds to enriching ideas and perspectives which have such a positive impact on my life. The same is true about listening to podcasts and sermons. Over the past few years I’ve become a bit of a podcast junkie. 🙂 I always feel so encouraged and inspired by my favorite podcasts. I’ve found that this is a much more positive and productive way to spend my time than on other forms of media.
Limiting social media: I have such a love-hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, I love the way that it connects me to dear people in my life, especially people that live far away. At the same time, I’ve noticed that when I spend too much time online, I end up feeling discontent, self-critical, and restless. I think that for people who struggle with social anxiety, social media magnifies our sense of unworthiness. Seeing the “highlight reel” of everyone else’s lives quickly causes me to feel like not enough—not social enough, not pretty enough, not busy enough, not successful enough— and this is a very unhealthy place for me to dwell. Additionally, social media is such an inauthentic representation of reality. Social media fails to show the mundane, ordinary, and unexciting parts of life that we all experience. Therefore, I’ve realized that in seasons of anxiety, it’s helpful to limit my social media use or take a break completely. It’s amazing how much more peaceful and comfortable with myself I feel. And I also have more time and energy to invest in meaningful relationships with the people around me.
Spending time with uplifting people: This one is so important. As someone who tends to take on the feelings and emotions of others, I am very impacted by the people around me. Although I strongly value having ministry relationships in my life where I can pour into others, I’ve realized that it is vital to also prioritize mutual, life-giving relationships. I need time with gracious and compassionate friends who will listen and seek to understand. I need to be surrounded by people who are also pursuing peace and joy in their lives. Finding this balance is challenging, but so critical in maintaining a positive perspective.
Prioritizing beauty: Spending time in God’s creation does wonders for my anxiety. There’s something powerful about getting away from the day to day worries of life and soaking up the beauty that God has made. In these times I gain new perspective about the things I’m worried about. I also have such a profound sense of peace and rest. The same is true about listening to beautiful music, reading a well-written story, or watching a beloved movie. God’s world is overflowing with beauty and it is such a healing remedy for my mind.
Practicing gratitude: Although I mentioned this in an earlier post, I think it’s worth mentioning again. Having a daily (or at least weekly) practice of gratitude has revolutionized my thought life. It’s so much easier to focus on what is true and lovely when I’m operating out of a posture of thankfulness. It’s almost impossible to be self-critical or anxious when I’m thanking God for all that is good in the world.
Spending daily time with the Lord: This is by far the most important way that I combat negative thoughts. I believe that daily time with God is a necessity for all Christians. However, as someone who struggles with anxiety, solitude with the Lord is absolutely vital. In the quiet place, I remember who I am and how God sees me. I gain God’s big picture perspective on life and get out of my self-centered orbit. And my soul finds true rest. Honestly, in seasons of busyness and stress, daily time with God seems to be the first thing to go. However, I’m realizing that during these times, it is all the more essential! I am definitely still a work in progress on this one. However, I’m slowly discovering that daily time in prayer and in God’s Word radically transforms my thought life.
I’d love to hear from you! What are some practical ways that you fight negative thoughts?