Positive Psychology Points Back to the Bible | Three Good Things | Paul and Philippians 1

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Have you ever wondered how Paul was able to demonstrate resilience and encouragment, even while in prison?  For one thing, of course, Paul had the Holy Spirit with him. Yet Paul intentionally did something else which directly contributed to his resilient spirit.  Paul wrote Phillipians around 60 or 62 AD, but he clearly demonstrated a decision to think in a certain way – and today, so much later, we know that what Paul did works, and that there is even neuroscience that proves it works.  In the 1980s, a field of psychology began studying resiliency in people. For the people in the world who don’t have significant mental health issues, who don’t struggle with depression or anxiety - what do those people do that contributes to their uplifted state?


In Phillipians 1, Paul is writing from prison.  In his writings, he remains positive and upbeat, as he talks about the good things that have happened in prison; and he mentions what he has been able to accomplish in prison.

Let me say that again:

First, Paul stated some good things that had happened while he was in prison, and

Second, Paul states some things  he had accomplished, even while in prison.  

  It’s been some months, and  I need to finish up the emotion series with a talk about  depression and anxiety within the framework of our theology of emotions. We are practicing identifying emotions and using them as indicators.  We view the emotion as an indicator, and then we decide how we are going to respond or what actions we will take. It sounds easy…but how, right? It can be hard in the moment. However, by using simple strategies, we can practice responses that are within God’s direction for us.  Eventually, those responses become positive habits.


A few statistics - at least 3 in 10 adults in the US have an actual clinical diagnosis of depression. 18% of US adults are currently being treated or are on medication for depression. Additionally, nearly 1 in 10 US adults have had a depressive episode within the past year. (This is data from 2023).  So if you are not affected, then someone close to you is.  For our youth and adolescents, it’s even more of a concern. A survey taken in 2019 indicated that 40% of our youth experience persistent depressive feelings or feelings of sadness. And anxiety is even higher than that.



So these strategies can be used daily – but most importantly – when a person begins to feel the “early slide” into depression. If you have experienced it, you know exactly what I’m speaking of.  It’s feels like a fog of heaviness, and it starts to creep up on you, and you know that a depressive episode is right at the door. It’s like you can feel it starting to seep in.  That feeling is your indicator to definitely start using some of the strategies that I’m about to share.  Secondly, even though all of my professional training was done in a state university, I always ensure that what I teach or recommend is in line with my theology and with biblical teachings.


Anyway – I am trying to keep this short so let me get back to where I was.  In order for us to use our emotions for good, we have to be aware of those emotions. We have to take time, at least a couple of times a week, to think about our own thinking and state of being. What have I been feeling this week? What have I been thinking? When you are doing that kind of check in with yourself, and you start to notice, “Oh, I’m starting to drag. I’m starting to not want to get up and go to work. I’m starting to not want to get up and even do fun things.” Or, “I stress ate a whole box of cheese crackers or chocolate chip cookies last night.” Those are the signals to look for, and then immediately activate this first simple strategy. 


I have been sharing this strategy with everyone I meet at work and with all the parents of the youth I work with. It is so simple, and it is so effective, and it even has research and neuroscience backing it up.  Here is what to do – when you feel that you are starting to slip into the “blahs” of depression. Then begin this process – near the late afternoon, evening, or near the end of each day – make yourself identify and name aloud at least two good things about the day. First, you are going to identify and name something good that happened that day. It doesn’t matter how small of a thing it is. Name something good that happened, even if it is the tiniest thing. Second, name at least one thing that you accomplished that day. Again, even if it is the smallest of all accomplishments.


Start there and start small if necessary. If you are interested in the evidence behind this very simple strategy – it comes down to a neuroscience finding. Paul modeled this, and research shows us this is so effective.  When we cause ourselves to think and reflect when we cause our self to think and reflect on our day in such a manner. When we choose to think about something good from the day in those two ways, we literally give our brains a shot of dopamine when we make ourselves have those types of reflective thoughts.  Try it anytime you are feeling a bit down, and you will realize that you actually feel  better after doing the exercise, even if it’s small, the dopamine still hits.  It works; it is a quick, easy, effective research-based potentially life changing strategy that anyone can do anywhere.


I am closing out for today, because I try to keep these under 15 minutes. My next post is going to be another strategy very similar that is also coming out of the research. It’s simple to do, and it is not cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s actually easier than cognitive behavioral therapy, and I will be sharing that next, along with people like David who definitely modeled it for us.


Now finally, if you’re finding these very simple strategies and tips to be helpful, I think you’ll also like a book that I wrote that has very simple, doable strategies to help you with your walk and staying closer to God. It’s called Closer to God:Simple Methods, Starting Today. It’s on the website and it’s on Amazon, both the paperback and Kindle version – the Kindle can be read for free if you subscribe to Kindle unlimited. You can also find the links to the books at sherryelaine.com or at gospellifelearning.com. We will see you in a few – bye!