I’m presently reading through Johann Hari’s fascinating book on depression and anxiety entitled Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—And the Unexpected Solutions.[1] It seems that Hari’s thesis is that our disconnection from others and life-giving principles such as meaningful work contributes greatly to the development and continuation of depression and anxiety. Unsurprisingly, it appears that to move beyond depression and anxiety we need to deepen and broaden our connections.

One point that really excites about this is that unlimited good could occur if we wholeheartedly embraced the pursuit of meaningful connections with God, others, ourselves, life-nurturing principles, and nature in our own and other people’s lives. Another is that the mission of connecting isn’t the exclusive field of rocket scientists or highly qualified professionals; in fact, it’s something that most of us can get involved in immediately. And a third is that this kind of work is bedrock for people committed to God and the church.

I guess there are a thousand and one ways that we can develop our connections. Allow me to highlight three paths. As Christians, we know that being in relationship with Jesus is central to the Gospel. Jesus told us to go and make disciples; that is, people who are devoted to Jesus and not some cause. We need to remain onboard with this project, join with the Spirit, and assist people to connect and stay connected with Jesus. And whilst a relationship with Jesus may not guarantee that we will avoid or be liberated from depression and anxiety, it will certainly assist us to experience life to a greater degree and tick many of Hari’s boxes.

We can also work to deepen our existing connections. This may involve ringing fellow parishioners, listening to them, and empathising. It might entail rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn. We may invite an associate who is struggling with depression to go for a walk along a beach, offer colleagues battling with anxiety to accompany them on a mindfulness course, or pray with a fellow team member who is feeling blue. Then again, we might work in our gardens or go sailing to deepen our own connections with nature. Options here are seemingly limitless.

            A third way of building connections is to step out of our comfort zones and befriend a stranger. One way to do this is to sit by someone you don’t know. Mick Duncan argues persuasively that “sitting next to someone is a significant act. It communicates that you are companionship-orientated and not goal orientated.”[2] Other ways include saying thank you, showing interest, and paying for a stranger’s coffee. Who knows what benefits could emerge from such actions?

            This is the season of opportunity. We are all part of interconnected webs and we all ought to examine ourselves in the light of our connections. We don’t have to live disconnected lives and sit idly by as others do the same. Life is found in connections. So, ask yourself, what steps could I take today to connect with God, others, ourselves, life-giving principles, and/or nature?

[1] Johann Hari, Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—And the Unexpected Solutions (New York: Bloomsbury, 2018).

[2] Mick Duncan, Alongsiders: Sitting with Those Who Sit Alone. (Dandenong, UNOH Publishing, 2013), 13.

Dr Phil Halstead

Lecturer and Counsellor

Phil lectures in Applied Theology with a focus on pastoral care, pastoral counselling, inner healing, and integrative theology.