How to Avoid Toxic Thoughts
Marti Wibbels, MS, LMHC
Children are taught to avoid toxins—whether in plants or household chemicals. We’ve learned to steer clear of poison ivy and venomous snakes and avoid plunging our hands into boiling water or our forks into electric outlets. But we miss the deadliest toxins of all each time we think destructive thoughts. Toxic mental habits can fuel ever-increasing levels of depression, anxiety, self-pity, or despair.
“Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny” (attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson). Amid fear, anxiety, depression, anger, discouragement, or despair, we can transform toxic thoughts by applying God’s Word to our concerns. A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back (Proverbs 29:11, NKJV). Choosing healthy thoughts can literally change our lives!
When anxiety and depression are comorbid (occurring together), life can feel unbearable. Nineteenth-century British preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon experienced such profound depression that his doctors prescribed vacations to sunny France to recharge his mental, physical, and emotional life. For anyone born with a biological predisposition to anxiety—dubbed the "rumination gene" by the Yale researchers who discovered it— it's vital to manage anxiety. If toxic thoughts continually fuel painful emotions, why not discover transformation? You can learn to doubt your doubts, adding new habits of prayer, exercise, and cognitive work, applying God’s Word, consistently replacing toxic thoughts with healthy ones.
Today, in Russia, airports are packed with young people fleeing the country to avoid being forced to fight in Ukraine, and in Ukraine, threats of increasing destruction loom. Now is the time to guard our hearts and minds to avoid utter despair. In a world torn with threats of war and famine, God’s Word offers hope: But this I call to mind, Therefore I have hope. It is because of the Lord’s lovingkindnesses that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great and beyond measure is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion and my inheritance,’ says my soul; ‘Therefore I have hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait [confidently] for Him, to those who seek Him [on the authority of God’s word]. It is good that one waits quietly for the salvation of the Lord (Lamentations 3:21-26, AMP).
1 John 3:13 tells us not to be surprised if the world hates us. 1 John 3:18 (AMP) says Little children (believers, dear ones), let us not love [merely in theory] with word or with tongue...but in action and in truth [in practice and in sincerity, because practical acts of love are more than words]. We can avoid toxic thoughts by relying on God’s Word and loving His people, by living what we say we believe.
However, if you're considering suicide, it’s time for immediate help. Anywhere in the world, you can ask a wise pastor, priest, rabbi, physician, or licensed mental health counselor for help. In the United States, call or text the suicide and crisis lifeline at 988. U.S. veterans or service members who are in crisis can call 988 and press "1" or text 838255. The U.S. Suicide and Crisis Lifeline has a toll-free Spanish language phone line at 1-888-628-9454. If your friend or loved one expresses suicidal ideation, help them think of three places to go where there will be safe people, three people to talk to, or three safe things to do—but if they are in immediate danger, help them get to somewhere safe (sometimes that requires calling local police to take them to a hospital emergency room for expert intervention).To find professional counselors in your area, you could search the “Find a Counselor” at the American Association of Christian Counselors.
Here is the link to listen to the podcast on this topic. You can also download the PDF discussed on this show by clicking here.
For additional information on this topic, download my articles on Overcoming Depression and Managing Anxiety. [This information is not intended to replace professional counseling.]