How to Work with Depression
I never heard the word “depression” until I came here, to America. As I was growing up in India, I never knew anyone there who had depression. But living here in the US, I came to learn more about depression. After being here for a while, you can feel it yourself as well.
From my perspective, when we experience these very difficult states of mind, it’s important to see that we are actually standing at a crossroads. It is a critical moment. It’s as if there’s a very thin line there. And if you cross that line, you could lose everything.
But if we can take this opportunity to work with our mind, we can see, first of all, that we’re at a point where there’s no way to go any further down. You can only go up from that point. You’ve hit bottom and it’s a great opportunity in the sense that, if we can work with our mind and move upward, then even the most difficult states of mind cannot actually harm us. We can use that experience to develop a strong, positive mind.
One of our first problems is the way we tend to speak and think about difficult states of mind.
For example, we say, “I am depressed.” When you say “I am depressed,” it sounds almost as though you yourself are depression, which of course is not the case. You are not depression. You are you! And you are having a moment, an experience or a thought, of depression.
But if you look at the thought or feeling of depression and think, “Oh, I’m having a thought of depression right now,” or “I’m having a feeling of depression,” then already the experience becomes lighter, rather than seeming to be continuous, as though it might go on forever. If you can see the experience and identify it as this one moment of experience, then you don’t have a sense of being stuck.
Working with Difficult States of Mind: A Contemplative Exercise
Many studies have been done that say simply naming your emotions helps reduce their power. So merely identifying our negative thoughts and emotions is a very helpful way of releasing their energy.
Here’s a way to work with your mind when it is in a difficult state, such as anger, depression, or anxiety.
1. Begin by simply bringing your mind to the present moment.
2. Observe your experience as it is right now, without judgment, without interpretations.
3. Simply identify that experience: “I feel anger coming up now.” “I’m experiencing anxiety.” “I have a thought of depression.”
4. Once you have identified the thought or experience, check inwardly. How do you feel? Notice your state of mind right now. Is there a difference?
When you identify disturbing thoughts and emotions as they come up, you can get a little space and distance from them, and this can bring some sense of relief. When you can see and identify it clearly, then even if you are having a moment of depression, it can become a much lighter experience.
By continuing to practice this way of looking at difficult states of mind you can develop quite a lot of skill, a lot of wisdom to let go and release that feeling or experience of depression.