Depression is a problem for many of
us, most Westerners have to live with it at one
point in our lives. Buddhism has a point of view on what
is depression and how it can be helped, even cured in some
instances. Here are some techniques for you to try.
What Is Depression?
You can search throughout the entire universe
for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you
are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You
yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love
If you are depressed, or know someone who is, you obviously know
what it is. I have had my blue periods but I am lucky that I was never
in a deep depression myself. I used to have a girlfriend whom I loved,
and still do, who was depressed around 300 days in a year. This had
been going on for years. She was clinically depressed, taking
medication to be able to function and difficult to live with, for
herself and for me too.
This experience made me interested in helping depressed people.
I have studied massage and I hope to be able to work with
depressed people to study the effect of massage on them. I haven’t
realized this project yet but I still have hope to do so. Buddhism
is also interested in depression, as meditation has some
interesting effects on the brain. Some of them, beneficial in
by self-cherishing – seeing one’s own physical and mental pleasure as
more important than that of anyone else.
depressed, we are sick, our past is hard to live with, our life sucks
and people are mean to us. I, me, myself. In the words of the Dalai
Lama, “There was an empirical study that found people who have the
tendency to use more self-referential terms (I, me, myself) tend to
have more health problems and earlier deaths. These people have more
involvement with the self. Being self-absorbed has an immediate effect
of narrowing one’s focus and blurring one’s vision. It is like being
pressed down by a heavy load. If, on the other hand, you think more
about others’ well-being, it immediately makes you feel more expansive,
liberated and free. Problems which before may have seemed enormous
would then seem more manageable.”
don’t dwell on the chemical aspect of it as it is hard to
assess if the chemical imbalence comes before or with
the depression) we stop the incessant focus on our
worthlessness, problems and suffering that
brings us spiralling down into an abbyss of despair. People
who are depressed are so focused on how bad they feel, that
they forget to look around them to see not only other
people suffering, but also beauty, love and amazement.
In a recent study, scientists have found that people really see the world with gray undertones. It is just an example showing how, our senses are not to be trusted when we are depressed.
Life looks gray when we are depressed. It is scientifically proven
that depression has physical impact on out bodies. Thus people really
see in gray undertones.
about depression as it is an affliction so common in our
culture. Until now, the usual way was to deal
with depression with an array of medication coupled with
cognitive therapy. Even if it has proven efficient in some instances,
every year an increasing number of cases are reported.
Don’t get me wrong, medication is necessary to cope with heavy
depression as it is often a life-saver. Medication is not enough though
as the root cause of depression needs to be addressed.
An analogy would be that it is hard to drive with a flat tire (the
depression) if you do not fix or change the tire and continue driving
on it, you might wreck your car. If you drive on a dirty road littered
with glass shards, nails and other dangerous debris (the root cause of
your depression), you might repair your tires 5 times, if the cause of
the flat tire is not addressed, you’ll keep getting them.
Religion is not a cure for depression as is shown in some studies (
Maselko 2008) although many depressed people take refuge in religion.
The support of the community helps to cope with the affliction but when
the religion is one that sees the follower as a sinner, making the
person feel guilty, cases of depression increase.
What to do?
The first Noble Truth
states that life is suffering. Depressed people are a living, blazing
example of this. As I say on that page, there is a cause to that
suffering and there is a way to stop it. The Buddha wrote a treatise on
depression, 2500 years ago.
The first thing to do is to get medical help,
be diagnosed and stabilize your depression. Once this is
manageable, it is time to work on it.
Some areas where Buddhism can help you:
- self esteem
- living your life in the present
- developing gratitude for what you have
I think that the first step is to get order in your life. Get some
physical exercise, even if it is a 20 minute brisk walk in the evening
as physical activity produce serotonine, a key brain chemical to avoid
You can then start meditation. Meditation after physical exercise is
always both easier and better as your body is already calm. There are
many guides on meditation out there but I recommend my all-time
favorite book:The Best Guide to Meditation.
It has many forms of meditation in it, many different techniques, from
Christian meditation to Buddhist meditation. I’m sure one will fit your
Do not seek a teacher yet unless you really feel like you need
support. Start by yourself, see how things go and once you feel more
confident in yourself, if you feel the need, join a group or a Zen
BE CAREFUL: when we are depressed we are very vulnerable
and some cult leaders take advantage of this. Always be critical, take
someone with you who’s judgement you trust to the meetings or teaching
sessions to get their opinion.
Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.