Meditation & Health #18-Brighter Days Ahead:Dealing With Depression


Meditation & Health No 18 - Table of Contents



Brighter Days Ahead:Dealing With Depression

           By Miao Cai & Juliana Sun

           Depression is one of the biggest health challenges faced by humanity around the globe. Current predictions by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world, surpassed only by ischemic heart disease.One in five people will suffer a period of depression.



          “It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment.” – Naomi Williams


Depression Is Not a Sign of Weakness


           According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 350 million people worldwide are afflicted by depression. Depression is a mood disorder that affects how you feel, think and behave.

          In an effort to address this global crisis, WHO has made depression the focus of its 2017 World Health Day campaign. The aim is to spread awareness, advocate early diagnosis and treatment, and end the stigma surrounding this condition. Depression can affect anyone, regardless of age, background, circumstances, ethnicity, or other personal detail. It is among the most widespread of illnesses, often coexisting with other serious illnesses. Even people whose lives are exciting and productive may fall into a depression.

          Depression is not a sign of weakness or laziness. It is not something you can “snap out of” by “pulling yourself together.” It can cause great suffering and serious consequences in every aspect of life. Depressed people often function poorly at work, at school, and in their personal life.

          The famous and successful of the world can also fall prey to depression. Brilliant fashion designer Alexander McQueen, who had battled depression and anxiety, committed suicide just shy of his 41st birthday. The literary world mourned the loss of author David Foster Wallace, a genius of a writer who took his own life after struggling with depression for more than 20 years. Many high-profile people wage valiant battles with issues of mental health.

          When depression is mild, it is possible for the sufferer to be treated with antidepressants. But cases of moderate or severe depression may require medication in addition to professional talk therapy. Depression can be long-lasting or recurrent, and it may become a serious health condition. However, there is hope. The majority of depressed people feel better through a combination of medication, psychological counseling, and healthy lifestyle adjustments.



Fatigue and sleep patterns


          An overwhelming feeling of lethargy is common in cases of depression. Chronic fatigue can be the most debilitating symptom of all. This could lead to excessive sleeping or no sleep at all.


Difficulty in thinking


         The ability to think, concentrate, and make decisions typically becomes impaired in depressed individuals. A faulty memory and a short attention span are common.


Changes in appetite


         Some people with depression lose their appetite, feeling too distraught to eat. As a result, they lose weight. Others attempt to comfort themselves with food, eating more and exercising less to the extent that they gain weight.


Depressed mood


         Depression is much more complex than simple unhappiness. In the course of a human life, it is typical to experience periods of feeling down, but when you are truly suffering from depression you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days. Even small matters trigger irritation, and your outlook on life is bleak.


Loss of interest in daily activities


          Your hobbies, pastimes and social activities fall by the wayside. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy, pleasure and interest in most areas.




           Intense feelings of worthlessness or guilt often haunt depressed people. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.


Thoughts of suicide


           Those who are depressed often contemplate ending their lives. Most of them give warning signs of their intention. The tragedy of suicide can possibly be prevented if people stay alert to signs of depression in their family members and friends.


Look Out for Symptoms


           Hallmarks of the illness are persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you typically enjoy, along with an inability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, for at least two weeks. For one to be diagnosed with depression, at least four of the below symptoms must be present. The quicker that depression is diagnosed and treated, the greater the chance of swift recovery.



What Causes Depression?


         There is no single cause of depression. Research tells us that depression can be the result of numerous factors, including psychological factors, genetics, changes in hormone levels, certain medical conditions, stress, grief, or difficult life circumstances.

         Alone or in combination, any of the aforementioned contributors to depression can set off changes in brain chemistry that lead to a variety of troubling symptoms.


Psychological factors


          Traumatic experiences such as the death of a loved one, divorce, losing a job, a medical crisis, or losing everything in a natural disaster can cause such emotional upheaval as to trigger a depression. Traumas severely compromise one’s sense of control and security.


Drugs and Illnesses


          Certain medications prescribed for various medical conditions can trigger depression by altering brain chemicals in some way. Long-term use of high blood pressure medications, sleeping pills, and other drugs may lead to depression. If you have a longstanding or life-threatening illness, such as coronary heart disease, cancer or arthritis, your risk of developing depression may be elevated.


Genetic factors


         Research has shown that someone who has a parent or sibling with major depression has a 2 or 3 times greater risk of developing the mood disorder. Heredity could be to blame, or influential environmental factors could contribute to the familial link.


Biological factors


          Women are subject to frequent fluctuations in their hormone levels throughout their lives, from puberty, to the time during and after pregnancy, to menopause, making them more vulnerable to depression than men. Changes in the body’s balance of hormones may give rise to depression.



Serious Consequences of Untreated Depression


          More than 19 million Americans suffer from depression in any given year. In light of the prevalence of the disorder, it is likely that you know someone who has experienced, or is currently suffering from, a depression.

          Untreated depression increases the chance of risky behaviors such as drug or alcohol addiction. It is common for depressed people to isolate themselves, avoid social interaction, and be frequently absent from work.


Depression hurts your relationships


           When one spouse suffers from depression, the resultant strain on the marriage can be immense. Living with a depressed partner who is often unhappy, critical and negative diminishes the ability to connect and create tension in the relationship.

           Depression in parents has been consistently linked with multiple behavioral and mental issues in children. There are higher rates of the mood disorder among kids of depressed parents, and their depression is more likely to begin at an earlier age, last longer, recur, and cause greater functional impairment. Such children are also more likely to suffer from anxiety.

           Depression resulting in suicide is now the second leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds. Suicide of a family member deals a horrific blow to relationships, inflicting lasting trauma on the loved ones left behind.


Chronic depression damages the brain and heart


           Research shows that the brain suffers negative consequences of depression. A decrease in brain volume is one of the most disturbing side effects. People with depression have a greater risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Depression is also a risk factor for dementia, and depressives who are multi-symptomatic tend to suffer a more rapid decline in thinking and memory skills.

           Many of the physical changes caused by depression, such as insomnia or a lack of deep sleep, are thought to compromise the immune system. This can exacerbate existing illnesses. In turn,physical changes prompted either by depression or chronic disease can cause further detriment to one’s mental condition.

           There is thought to be a two-way relationship between heart disease and depression. People diagnosed with depression are more than twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease. Heart patients are three times more likely to be depressed at any given time than the population as a whole.

            Even at a microscopic level, depression has a profound effect on the body. Researchers from The Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford discovered conclusive evidence that, apart from wreaking havoc on the brain, depression can also alter DNA and the way cells generate.



Treatments for Depression


           A person’s social, physical, and mental wellbeing can suffer serious adverse consequences if depression is left untreated. Not addressing the condition also places an enormous burden on society. Depression is a mood disorder, not a terminal illness. Early recognition is the first step to recovery.

           Medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy) are crucial. Since a depressed person may be unaware of or in denial about their condition, family and friends may play a key role in detection. Thus, it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of depression. Your love and concern may motivate your depressed loved one to seek help.


Practice positive self-talk


            Words have power. Choose to speak positive words to yourself and choose to have positive thoughts. Start slowly, and be kind to yourself. Use gentle words and when you find yourself saying something negative, change it to something positive.

            Try working with affirmations.When done correctly this can help develop the sort of positive thinking you want. For instance, you can recite “Grandmaster JinBodhi’s Golden Words,” such as “I am most confident” or “I am most courageous,” to motivate yourself.



Lifestyle adjustment


           Stress management techniques are useful in combating depression. And stress relief can help prevent depression from developing. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise can all help manage stress.

           The more you take charge of your health by making positive lifestyle choices, the more you will be able to effectively treat depression. The importance of exercise and nutrition cannot be overstated. Maintain a fitness program (even if that is just regular walks), avoid junk food, eat more fruits and vegetables, consume adequate protein and healthy fats, and stay hydrated. Reconnect with Mother Nature.

           Start improving your health through small goals, like getting more sunshine. The sun is a natural energy booster. It raises levels of serotonin, the body’s natural happy hormone and can stave off moderate depression, particularly if combined with exercise, such as a walk in the park.


Psychological therapy


           Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is among the most popular and most effective forms of psychotherapy for treating depression. Cognitive theories of depression are based on the idea that what we think influences our mood. Through the lens of this idea, it is not events that lead to emotions such as depression but our interpretations of and thoughts about these events. CBT helps patients create a new mode of thinking to manage their depression.

           Psychoanalysis is a form of modern psychotherapy which aims to understand the unconscious mental processes that determine a person’s thoughts, actions and feelings.

           The goal of psychoanalysis therapy is to make the unconscious conscious. In other words, repressed feelings and experiences are brought to the surface, to be dealt with and released.


           By bringing unconscious elements of life into current awareness, psychoanalysis therapy guides people to see how unresolved issues and unconscious burdensome feelings influence their behaviors and mood.



Let the pen flow


           Keeping a journal can help you to organize your thoughts, plan how you are going to achieve your goals, and solve problems. It can serve as a stress-relief mechanism.

           If stressful events took place during the day,express your feelings freely about them in your journal before you go to sleep so that you release negative emotions and thoughts. This will help you to have a restful sleep, and prevent you from carrying intense stress forward into the following day.


Necessary nutrients


           Taking a close look at nutrient intake is essential when dealing with depression. A lack of nutrients promotes inflammation in the body and can touch off a number of psychological symptoms. Some of the nutritional elements that play a key role in mental wellness are:


B vitamins


           They have a hand in producing brain chemicals and therefore have an impact on brain function and mood. In particular, make sure to get adequate vitamin B-12, B-6, and folate.


Vitamin D


            A deficiency in this critical vitamin has been associated with depression, autism and dementia. It is not always possible to get enough vitamin D from sunlight, so pay attention to dietary sources.


Magnesium, selenium, zinc, and iodine


            Low levels of these minerals have been linked with depression.


Amino acids


            The building blocks of protein, amino acids optimize brain function. A lack of them can leave you feeling depressed and unfocused. Look to eggs, legumes, and nuts and seeds to boost your intake.


Omega-3 fatty acids


            These crucial healthy fats reduce inflammation and have a powerful influence on mood and memory.



Build healthy relationships


            Make your adult relationships a priority.When you are feeling depressed and vulnerable, it is more important than ever to maintain strong connections to family and friends. Engaging with other people prevents you from feeling isolated, and keeps you motivated and focused on your goals.


Take up an activity


           In a world where we spend so much of our time working and taking care of day-to-day business, it is fundamental to our wellbeing to spend a few moments a day on calm reflection, and at least an hour every few days doing something pleasurable. Finding that one healthy activity that brings you pleasure, especially if it can be enjoyed with others, is vitally important to treating your depression.

           Sports, games, reading, and outdoor activities are healthy ways to distract oneself from depression. Making a commitment to being involved in enjoyable activities also combats isolation and obsessive thinking. Make a list of all the things you can do, all the things you want to do, and just try one.



Meditation as an effective treatment


            Numerous recent studies have found that engaging in a regular meditation practice can help alleviate and protect against depression. For example, the meditation methods taught by Grandmaster JinBodhi have brought many depressed practitioners out of their depression and helped them to regain their physical and mental health. One of them is Natalia from New York. Natalia suffered from persistent depressive disorder. However, her energy level increased after she learned The Meditation of Greater Illumination and The Meditation of Purity at Bodhi Meditation Center. She no longer suffers from insomnia and her depression is a thing of the past.

           Brighter days can be achieved in part by having a more positive and balanced outlook. Be compassionate with yourself when you are struggling and do not feel strong. Family members and friends are urged to learn to relate to a depressed soul with acceptance, kindness, patience, and compassion. Loving depressed people unconditionally can assist them in rediscovering a state of wellbeing. A return to happiness and health is within reach.



Meditation & Health No 18 - Table of Contents