10 Tiny Ways To Find Hope When Depression Makes The World Go Dark

A therapist shares glimmers of hope that ignite the spirit even when depression is taking over.

Depressed woman looking up to a higher power lekcej, Karolina Grabowska,  cirminalatt | Canva

Some people turn to spirituality and religion in the hope of turning things around and providing them a lift when they feel depressed. For others, feeling depressed makes them feel alienated from their higher power. Spirituality (more than religion) can help a person who is clinically depressed.

No, your spirituality likely will not cure clinical depression — you should reach out to a mental health professional for that — but allowing your spiritual side to thrive can be a powerful boost to your emotional health.


Here are 10 tiny ways to keep your spiritual side thriving when you're depressed.

1. Find hope from your spiritual sources.

Many faith traditions have stories of people of faith who have gone through trying times, for example, Joseph or Job in the Hebrew Scriptures. So, read or recall the stories in your spiritual tradition.

hug yourself and raise your spirits


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2. Find hope knowing your higher power is there for you.

Prayer is something people tend to make complicated, but it isn’t. You should feel free to speak using your own words as they naturally come out or, if you prefer, use words from others that resonate with you. In the Abrahamic traditions, words often relate to our emotions. In some non-Abrahamic traditions, words are not as important, and being aware of the presence of a higher power, even in silence, is important. So, pray the way you find comfortable and fitting.

3. Do not give up hope when the response you receive is different than the one you expected.

Sometimes, your spiritual resources and practices do not give you the outcome you expect or desire. For instance, when reading an account, it can be discouraging to see all that others had to go through, even if they were better than you. Similarly, getting bad news after praying for good is disheartening.


However, these different responses do not necessarily mean you’re disconnected from your higher power or lack concern for your higher power. They open up new possibilities on your journey. So, do not allow discouraging news to take away your hope.

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4. Recall that you have meaning by focusing on your sense of vocation.

Vocation is not only for people who professionally do religious work but is for everyone. What do you feel you have been called to do in life? Is there a special role you feel your higher power has you taking on this earth? This may be seen in your professional life (from caring for children as a teacher to ensuring that “city people” get fresh food as a truck driver) but may also occur in your personal life (such as being a parent or the one who remembers birthdays at work).

Living out what you feel called to do is an important part of your spirituality. As you do, you recognize increased meaning in your life and change your response to whatever makes you feel down. So, do focus on and engage in what you are called to do with your life.




5. Recall that you have meaning by finding a connection to others through your religious practice if this is already part of your history.

Religious practice is much less significant than spirituality in helping depression. However, if you are part of a religious community, reconnecting with people in that community can help make you feel less down. You have meaning from connecting with others and going to a temple, synagogue, or church can be a way to practice your spirituality and connect to other people, both of which can help change your mood by helping to refocus you. However, if you don't practice religion, it is more important to connect personally with your higher power than to take up religion. So, connect with the meaning in your religious practice and its community if this is already part of your life and history.

6. Do not set aside your meaning by focusing on things you feel you should have done.

When you get down, it is easy to see the negative around you in life. When you focus on these, you forget about the meaning of your own life. Religion and spirituality have the possibility of drawing your attention to the things you should have done and haven’t or things you’ve done that you shouldn’t. Focusing on these so-called sins distracts you from seeing the positive things you have done and that are around you. So, do not allow your spirituality and religion to make you focus on your past actions that can take away from your understanding of your meaning.



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7. Seek quality care, including care for the psychological part of who you are.

People of faith use doctors for problems in the physical dimension. In that same vein, it is important to seek out appropriate help when you are having a problem in your psychological or mental health dimension. When feeling down is severe (especially if you have feelings of killing yourself) or prolonged (going on for longer than the current situation would suggest), you need to find a qualified mental health professional to help. So, do seek out professional mental health help when needed.

8. Seek quality care that integrates the psychological and spiritual dimensions of life.

Some counselors are qualified to address both dimensions together. Studies have shown that in the case of depression, these are tied together. You should either find a single professional who can guide you on both, such as a pastoral counselor, or you should know that the person you are working with (religious leader or mental health professional) has at least a basic understanding of the other dimension and knows their limits and can refer when needed. So, do get help that addresses both the spiritual and the psychological.

9. Do not seek care that is just spiritual.

While spirituality can help address why you are feeling down or depressed, it does not address everything. Finding a sense of peace will require addressing other dimensions of your life. This is not to limit the power of your higher power but to acknowledge your higher power is connected to your spiritual life and your whole life. Don't allow your care to be just spiritual, seek more comprehensive care.


10. Believe things can change.

There is hope for you, no matter how low you feel. Your life is valuable, and you have a purpose to live. Some people will provide you with quality care. In the Christian tradition, it is said that it is God’s will for us to have life and have it abundantly. What is your higher power’s will for you? So, do not give up on your belief you can find shalom, a wholeness and peace that envelops all of who you are.

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Rev. Christopher L. Smith, LCAC, LMHC, LMFT is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church, as well as a licensed counselor with extensive experience as both a counselor and as a supervisor of counselors. He is President and Clinical Director of Seeking Shalom, a counseling service.