On Depression

I received an e-mail alert that the Dalai Lama will be at Emory later this month, talking about mindfulness, compassion, and the treatment of depression. That should be good, and I hope to go. Depression is a relevant topic, affecting millions of people, causing much suffering. It is also among the most treatable conditions.

Depression may be either “chemical” or “situational”. A chemical imbalance can be treated with an antidepressant, which increases serotonin in the brain, thereby increasing the feeling of well-being.

With a situational depression, you have the *event*, and you have your perception of the event. The event may be a death or other loss. You may feel trapped in a job or relationship. Or perhaps haunted by the past. Despair and hoplessness may consume you, and send you into a spiral toward the abyss. Perspective may be distorted. This is a dangerous, yet temporary place. Not a time to make huge decisions or sweeping changes. Time, rather, to ask for support, and garner some lost perspective. Others may not realize what you’re going through unless you ask.

We all experience times of difficulty. The meaning we attach to these times is often a function of how we were raised or other *past* issues. Be aware of how you see the present. How much of the past are you attaching? Were you shamed as a child, and are you shaming yourself now? Or are you offering yourself the encouragement that we all need at times?

Become aware of the habitual thoughts that light up in your brain, because, as you may know, thoughts produce chemistry, and chemistry is either the problem or the solution. Thoughts of your own strengths, hope, compassion, goodness, positive outcome (see the last post) will generate a far better feeling than irrational, negative thoughts. Even if life is dealing you a difficult hand, you can still find hope and beauty on a daily basis. This is a must. If you can find and experience hope, compassion, trust, beauty and kindness toward yourself and others, you’re on your path out of despair. I suspect this is what the Dalai Lama will discuss.

Nurture compassion for yourself and others. Ask for help if you need it. And by all means, avoid shame. If you’ve done something wrong, right it. Apologize, redeem yourself, forgive yourself, and move on. You cannot change the past. But you can stop beating yourself up. If someone has done YOU wrong, find your voice, speak up, take care of yourself and reclaim your power. Let go of what is weighing you down, and allow your energy to increase.

Be good to yourself.

“Do not brood over your past mistakes and failures as this will only fill your mind with grief, regret and depression. Do not repeat them in the future. ” Swami Sivananda

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