Everybody has a down day occasionally. Our emotions are slippery things, and some people have a more volatile emotional life than others. If you can understand what’s getting you down, perhaps you can do something about it.

The human mind responds to stress in many different ways. Your thinking and emotions are affected by what’s going on in your physical body, by memories and outside circumstances, by the people around you, and even by your spiritual life. If one of these areas is unhealthy or stressed at a given time, a little stress in another area may be enough to push your emotions over the hill.

If you’re feeling down, especially if it’s out of proportion to any obvious outward stress you’re experiencing, consider whether any of these are reasons you could be depressed:

  1. Lack of sleep. If you’re physically tired, take a nap or put the problem on hold until after a good night’s sleep. My husband has often put me to bed when I’ve felt overwhelmed and emotional in the evening, knowing I’ll feel better and see things clearly the next morning.
  2. Inadequate or unhealthy diet. A surge in blood sugar after junk food, and then a mental crash, can make anyone irritable. Processed foods clog your brain as well as your body. A diet of healthy protein, fruits, and vegetables is likely to help your mind feel clearer and happier.
  3. Lack of exercise. You know about the “feel-good” endorphins released when you exercise. A quick walk or run around the block, especially if there’s fresh air and sunshine included, may completely turn your mental mood around.
  4. Trying to change something you can’t change. Nothing will wear you out faster than repeatedly trying to force something to happen that’s not within your power to change. This includes trying to change other people, or systems you have no control over.
  5. Eating a negative or stress-producing mental diet. The nightly news is often filled with bad stuff: “if it bleeds, it leads.” Much of the rest of media is filled with people acting out of violence, greed, dishonesty, or selfish sexuality. If you feel down, that mental diet will only make you feel worse.
  6. Hanging around negative people. Some people just suck the life out of you. A bad attitude is often contagious. In this sense, “misery loves company” is right. Choose the kind of person you’d like to be. Then hang out with that kind of person.
  7. Worrying about what other people think. If only you could remember that they probably aren’t thinking about you at all! How often have you let fear about what others think keep you from doing something meaningful, taking a positive risk, or enjoying something great?
  8. Mentally or emotionally tired. Your mind can get tired too. Creativity, relating to people, study, monotony, social isolation – these are a few of the things that can become too much for your mind to handle. Your mind needs rest, entertainment, and refreshment too.
  9. Negative mental habits. Some people naturally focus on the obstacles or problems around them. A healthy mind doesn’t ignore signs of trouble, but doesn’t focus there. It focuses on creative solutions or hope or positive relationships instead.
  10. Not doing something you have the power to do. Tired of sitting there and complaining? Get up and do something positive. Nothing will make you feel better than helping someone else, or seeing the positive results of action you took.
  11. Working in a job without meaning. Meaningless work can also suck the life out of you. And don’t buy into the lie that there’s nothing you can do about it. You can find meaning in the job you have, create a plan to search elsewhere, or create your own source of income that is meaningful.
  12. God’s enemy and yours is bringing oppression. We’re not alone in the universe. Followers of Jesus are often targeted by the devil because of the positive difference God wants you to make for His kingdom. Sometimes it’s nothing you’re doing wrong, but something you’re doing right.

If you’re feeling down, check your physical lifestyle, your mental habits, the people around you, and the spiritual dimension of your life. Often there’s much you can do to feel better, become more productive, and move forward in the purpose God has for you.

P.S. If you aren’t making progress on your own, or feel your life is hopeless and are considering harming yourself, please get help immediately. Call 1-800-273-TALK in the United States, or visit suicide.org.

Your Turn: What do you do when you have a down day? Does knowing why you’re depressed help you take any positive action? Leave a comment below. 

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