Of all ways of feeling off, depression can be the toughest to release. As mentioned in Part 1, the type of depression in which you feel lethargic, heavy, tired all the time, poor motivated and despondant is a Kapha imbalance, according to Ayurveda. Kapha is associated with earth and water and, as a friend once told me, when thrown off it makes mud. When I heard that I thought, what a great visualization for the feeling, depression is like mental, spiritual and emotional mud. So how do we shake off this mud?
I am not a doctor or an Ayurvedic therapist, but these are the tools I have used over the years myself for depression:
-Avoid compounding the situation with frustration: For anyone but especially those of us who are Pitta types who tend to be ambitious and identify with our accomplishments, on top of the general misery that is depression, it can actually cause a bit of an identity crisis. If I derive a sense of self-worth from my doings, and I feel incapable of doing anything, then-what does that mean about my value as a person? It can be so frustrating to want to get things done and find yourself unable to do more than phone scrolling, and this frustration is often worse than the depression itself. If this is you, reframe depression in your perspective as a master class in self-kindness and patience, plus learning to accept and love the self without its endeavors.
-Movement: You have to get the energy to overcome the stagnation and start to move, and moving the body will get energy flowing, though if you’re feeling stagnant, the last thing you want to do is get off the couch. So start small, even just going for a walk around the block or a few gentle yoga poses can help.
-Connect with others: Depression is very isolating and can make one want to socially hibernate, but talking with a friend can help pull us out of the cave. Laughing is especially helpful.
-Eating the right things: Certain foods can increase stagnation and some work against it. Eating lots of processed foods and sugars and heavy foods like cheese will aggravate depression. The foods are “dead” and filled with what in Ayurveda is called tamas or inertia. Eat fresh foods full of prana. Warm foods, especially fresh veggies, made with pungent, warming herbs like cayenne and cinnamon can reduce feelings of heaviness. Ginger tea is also known to help.
-Connect with the sun: One of the simplest things you can do for depression is greeting the sun as it rises. You can either do a sun salutation, recite the Gayatri Mantra or create your own ritual of acknowledgement. Sunlight itself also is known to help lift spirits as those who live in close to the north/south poles or in wintertime often experience depression simply due to the reduction in daytime hours.
-Simple actions: It’s amazing how when you’re in the throes of depression, even the most basic actions seem monumental, but if you can muster the energy to simply make your bed, tidy up a bit or get dressed, it can get a little bit of momentum going. On the flip side, binge watching and constant scrolling can promote Kapha accumulation.
-Eastern remedies: There are many Ayurvedic practices like abhyanga with sesame oil or taking specific herbs that can really make a big difference. Reach out if you’d like the names of some qualified Ayurvedic practitioners. I’ve also had good experience with acupuncture for treating depression.
-Vedic Meditation: We know Vedic meditation helps with so many things and depression is not an exception. However, meditation is often not enough on its own and other medical interventions are necessary. Even if it cannot eliminate depression, it does give you a sense that center of your awareness is in the witness state, so it’s like you’re witnessing the depression as opposed to feeling like the depression is you.
-Go to a doctor: It is important to seek medical attention in the form of medication or psychotherapy or both if your symptoms persist. Some meditation students are skeptical of Western medicine, but for many these kinds of treatments are what is needed.
-Shift your perpective: When we don’t resist what is happening to us and accept what is happening, there is less suffering. With acceptance, we can see what information is embedded in the experience for us.