By Suma Varughese August 2007 Depression is quite often a response to our present conflict between material pressures and spiritual aspirations. used wisely, it can be a springboard to spiritual awakening and wisdom Depression ManagementHere are a few tips that can help you manage your emotions, and ensure that you are able to hold on to the threads of life, even enjoy the few colourful ones, until awakening exhilirates your very core.• Accept: Unless you accept that you are depressed, there is nothing you are going to do to make yourself feel better. A majority of the world faces depression, so don’t kick yourself for it. The main characteristic of depression is resistance, so the more you accept, the better you will feel. It’s okay to accept that you can’t accept. Even that is a step forward.• Company matters: Try not to spend too much time with people who are miserable or pessimistic. It will exacerbate your depression. Instead, seek the company of those who are cheerful and optimistic.• Laugh away the blues: The mantra that Art Of Living, the spiritual organisation headed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, propagates is, “Fake it till you make it”. Laugh even though it’s the last thing you feel like doing. Read some great jokes, meet people with a good sense of humour. The cheer will rub itself on you.• Take action: Since depression is characterised by inaction, the antidote to it is action. Force yourself to do your duties whatever they might be. Take up some regular exercise every day. Yoga is particularly beneficial, and will give great benefits.• Soul-itude: If you have a mild attack of the blues, a holiday just with your self in a picturesque place, could work wonders. It gives you time oft to have coffee and conversation, on a cool morning in a beautiful valley, with none other than your soul.• Try therapy: Gone are the days when there was a stigma attached to meeting a psychotherapist. Today, it is increasingly recognised that seeking professional help for your blues is part of caring for yourself, and taking responsibility for your health. It is to be applauded, not derided.• Nothing like a walk: Luckily, some of the best things in life are still free. A regular dose of exercise in fresh air can help tremendously. Although exercise isn’t a cure for depression, its psychological and physical benefits can improve your symptoms. “It’s not a magic bullet, but increasing physical activity is a positive and active strategy to help manage depression,” says Kristin Vickers-Douglas, Ph.D., a psychologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester.• Try bodywork: Bodywork therapists are experts in helping you to work through the tensions that depression stores in your body, and can therefore make you more grounded, and peaceful. Even an ordinary massage will help.• Eat your way out: The choices we make in the foods we eat, sets the basis for physical, mental and spiritual health. Some foods actually fight depression. A few good examples are: Foods with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids: These include walnuts, fatty fish (like salmon, tuna) and flaxseed oil. Fish oil supplements are also useful. Brown rice: Contains lots of B vitamins, and is low-glycemic, meaning it allows sugars to be absorbed slowly, providing energy for the long-term. Just avoid the “instant” rice packages. Whole grain oats: Again, loaded with B vitamins, and soothing to the digestive tract. Cabbage: It does a lot to give a salad a nice crunch and your mood an uplift. Foods to avoid: Anything with caffeine, high-sugar, high-fat as research indicates that these interfere with our brain chemistry, and therefore can be a factor in contributing to exacerbating depression.• Sunny side up: Your mood is influenced by a complex web of relationships between sunlight, melatonin (the sleep hormone), and serotonin (the hormone associated with wakefulness and elevated mood). As darkness falls, your melatonin levels naturally increase. And as the morning light emerges, melatonin levels decrease. Serotonin levels increase when you’re exposed to bright light – a major reason why moods tend to be more elevated during the summer. This hormone is the basis of today’s most popular and successful antidepressant drugs, called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs).• Spiritual emergence: Sometimes what may seem like paranoia or psychosis may actually be a spiritual awakening. This might take the form of sudden energies moving within you, or seeing visions, or hearing voices. You can distinguish this from a genuine psychotic experience, by checking your feelings. Is there a greater sense of love, compassion, connection to the universe? Psychosis, on the other hand, would create fear and alienation. Even through this, you might need support. Find a therapist who is open to the spiritual dimension. Better still, try and meet a spiritual master. Spend some time on your own, to get peace and rest. Turn to God, and start a dialogue with Him, or say a prayer. Remember that you will be taken care of.• The Joy Equation: www.thejoyequation.com gives an interesting four-step solution to depression: They are:Information… knowledge of what it is you’re facingAction… Simple, easy-to-follow instructions for combatting your depression.Inspiration… Stories of people just like you who have successfully banished depression from their lives the natural way.And support… Having people in your corner who care about you and your progress and who are willing to invest time helping you out.- Megha BajajYou are in Good CompanyEveryone has it sooner or later, so quit putting yourself down. In fact, the great seem particularly susceptible to it. Here is the roster of famous names who underwent depression at some point in their lives: Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Vincent Van Gogh, Virginia Woolfe, Sylvia Plath, Princess Diana, King Solomon, Ernest Hemingway, Baudelaire, Edvard Munch, John Keats, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allen Poe, Leo Tolstoy, Beethoven, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, S.T. Coleridge. The learning from their experience is that no one is spared periods of darkness, as life knows that some of the most profound lessons are learnt through it. Hear it from some of these seasoned players of life:“I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would be not one cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell. I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible. I must die or be better it appears to me.” – Abraham Lincoln Postscript: He was treated for his depression. He became the 16th President of America soon after. Some of his greatest achievements came after the depression as it made him more self-aware and empathetic. Her name has become a synonym for holiness and faith, but it turns out that even Mother Teresa experienced the dark night of the soul. Between September 1946 and October 1947, she experienced visions of Jesus instructing her to found the Sisters of Charity, and she sank into spiritual depression when they stopped. “My smile is a great cloak that hides a multitude of pains,” she wrote in 1958. “[People] think that my faith, my hope and my love are overflowing, and that my intimacy with God and union with His will fill my heart. If only they knew.” Later, she went into more detail: “The damned of hell suffer eternal punishment because they experiment with the loss of God. In my own soul, I feel the terrible pain of this loss. I feel that God does not want me, that God is not God, and that God does not exist.” Postscript: Nothing stopped Mother from doing her work and today she has become a blazing symbol of love and faith for the world. Her last few words, as reported by Sister Nirmala Joshi were, “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you”- Megha Bajaj Religion Offers ReliefSince depression is in many ways a crisis of meaning, religion can restore our faith in life and ourselves. Here, in India, we have always handled our mental and psychological traumas by going to a guru, going on a pilgrimage, seeing an astrologer, and the like. These options are worth exploring for they can cure us. Moreover, the spiritual truths enshrined in all religions can be of profound comfort and inspiration. Religions tell us how to live life by revealing the spiritual laws that govern it. We can find our way back by using their powerful resources. HinduismCause: Depressive disease figured prominently in the sacred writings of India, including the twin epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. In the Mahabharata, Arjuna’s dismay on the eve of battle is well-known. He says, “My mind is very restless, forceful and strong, O Krishna, it is more difficult to control the mind than the wind.” The Hindu view is that depression is caused by ignorance; we do not recognise that we are part of God, because maya blinds our eyes and distorts our vision. Cure: The Bhagavad Gita states, “Let a man raise himself by his own self, let him not debase himself. For he is himself his friend, himself his foe.” One’s own mind has a preventive and a curative function. Healthy habits of attitude, thoughts, dispositions and feeling can offer equilibrium. It brings out the fact that enormous resources are available within for healing. Since thoughts create reality, Krishna offers loving refuge: “Focus your mind on Me alone and let you intellect dwell upon Me through meditation and contemplation. Thereafter you shall certainly come to Me.” BuddhismCause: The Buddhist perspective is that an underlying selfishness/egotism is often the basic cause of feeling depressed. This does not mean that the suffering
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