One of the causes for depression can be a strong sense of dissatisfaction with ourselves; perhaps the page on lack of self-confidence could be helpful? In modern society, it appears that only 'being number one' counts, but this leaves out the other 6 billion people, including 'me'. Does that mean that I am worthless? Of course not! Just look at the other end of the scale: many of our so-called great heroes of the past are admired for their power, courage and intelligence, but how many heroes can you think of that actually made it a point to create happiness and security instead of waging war and creating havoc?
Simply being a loving and caring person tends to help the world a lot more than being 'number one'. One may admire pop-idols and moviestars, but many of them are or will be in a sorry state, addicted to drugs and 'life in the fast lane'; not understanding that happiness is a state of their own mind, not of their bank account, level of drugs, availability of sex etc. If we can genuinely wish ourselves happiness and radiate that wish to others, our state of mind can change dramatically. If we change our mind, we can change our mood - a simple process, but not easy to achieve quickly.
One of the most important things is to understand that we can change our own mind if we make a bit of an effort.
If we would not be able to change anything in our mind, how did we ever learn to read and write? Andrew Solomon wrote in ' Anatomy of Melancholy ' :. When we are in such a state, we probably need more than what is described below, but once we can see the way out again, it is possible to work on a more permanent change of our mind. The great Buddhist sage Nagarjuna said:.
If there is a remedy when trouble strikes, What reason is there for despondency? And if there is no help for it, What is the use of being sad? So come what may, I'll never harm My cheery happiness of mind. Depression never brings me what I want; My virtue will be warped and marred by it. Openness can be another key factor: 'miracles' do happen when we stop resisting them, because although the result can appear miraculous, our mind changes continuously, and our minds can only be changed by ouselves.
Sincerely trying to help others is probably the best cure when we really feel sorry for ourselves. But if we are not mindful of ourselves and others, helping others can lead to Burnout , see this small part in the compassion page. So the Buddhist approach of study and meditation emphasizes taking control over our own mind and directing it into more positive habits.
From notes on a teaching by His Holiness the Dalai Lama:.
These people have more involvement with the self. Being self-absorbed has an immediate effect of narrowing one's focus and blurring one's vision. It is like being pressed down by a heavy load. If, on the other hand, you think more about others' well-being, it immediately makes you feel more expansive, liberated and free.
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Problems which before may have seemed enormous would then seem more manageable. The following message appeared in a Buddhist discussion forum, where self-centeredness was discussed as a possible important factor in depression:. But on the notion of self-centredness, I'm afraid I have to agree. From my own experience, coming through a massive clinical depression and coming through to the other end, cured, I believe self-centredness to be the very cause of depression.
And not just depression, but every ailment in the world as we know it. All I was doing was feeding my ego, indulging its little whims and woes, and feeling sorry for myself.
What was I doing for humanity? And yes, that is self-centredness in its highest -- or should I say lowest -- form. It's like the people stuck in the Matrix the film. They wouldn't believe it if you told them they were living in a dream. You have to wake up for yourself, then you see it.
From Working with Anger by Thubten Chodron:. Although we all have problems, when we over-emphasize their importance, we easily begin thinking that we are incapable and worthless.
- What Is Zen?.
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Such self-hatred immobilizes us and prevents us from developing our good qualities and sharing them with others. When we look at the broad picture, however, we can see many positive things in our life. We can rejoice that we are alive and appreciate whatever degree of good health we have. We also have food often too much! Many of the people reading this book live in peaceful places, not in war-torn areas. Many have jobs they like, and family and friends they appreciate.
We shouldn't take these for granted. Most importantly, from a spiritual viewpoint, we have access to an authentic path, qualified teachers to guide us, and kind companions who encourage us. We have genuine spiritual aspirations and the time to cultivate these.
Thinking about these good conditions one by one, we will be filled with joy, and any sense of being incapable and hopeless will vanish. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves. With most problematic states of mind, and certainly with depression, we often have a tendency to maintain the problem by self-confirmation. What I mean with that is often repeating to oneself things like "I am depressed", "I feel miserable", "Life sucks", "They are bad", "I hate myself", "I can't do it".
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The problem is that when we repeat this often enough, it will all come true! These kind of self-obsessive thoughts blind us to the needs of our family and friends, and we do nothing to help them. As a result, we receive less positive feedback and love from them, and also less simple satisfaction and joy of making them happy. In Buddhism, we use meditation to improve our state of mind by habituating ourselves to a positive state of mind, but repeating the above sort of tantrums throughout the day will only keep us in the same negative state. Just imagine what happens if a perfectly happy woman suddenly starts saying to herself "I feel miserable, I hate myself" once every five minutes Instead, positive affirmations can have a strong therapeutic effect; "I love my family", "I don't need to grow hungry", "Other people are much worse off than me", "I can help others", "I am OK".
So a simple technique is to forbid yourself using the word 'depressed' and your standard negative expressions, but replace them with more positive phrases. It takes quite a bit of mindfulness in the beginning, but with a bit of persistence you can talk yourself into a better mood! No, not yet. Begin with small actions to help others - empty the garbage can without being asked, clean up your own mess in the kitchen, polish the shoes of others.
Smile occasionally. Gradually build up the courage and determination to confront your self-cherishing mind and declare yourself a slave and friend of all living beings. Then you will extract more joy from cleaning up somebody else's mess in the kitchen than you will ever get from watching television.
Not only will this lift your depression, it will place you on the path to bliss. When we are young, not so many problems, but then there are drugs and sex, and eventually they become dissatisfying, then more depression, more depression. So, as your body becomes bigger and your brain becomes wider, you have more and more problems and become more and more depressed.
The more money you have the more problems come. You can see this. You only take care of your body, you never take care of your mind, and the result of this imbalance is depression. For most western people this is the case: only the body is reality and they don't care about the existence of the mind, the soul, the consciousness.
They don't believe they can change their minds. They can change their nose through an operation, but they don't believe they can change their mind. And when you believe this, then no way can you resolve your depression.
What Is Zen?
Our thoughts, our mind or consciousness are mental energy and cannot be localised in the body. It cannot be touched; it has no form and does not travel in time and space. We cannot touch it or grasp it. What is important to understand is that the view you have of yourself and the view you have of your environment are based on your own mind; they are the projection of your mind and that is why they are not reality. Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand-new hours to live. What a precious gift! We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others.
Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see. The Question is whether or not we are in touch with it. We don't have to travel far away to enjoy the blue sky. We don't have to leave our city or even our neighborhood to enjoy the eyes of a beautiful child. Even the air we breathe can be a source of joy. We can smile, breathe, walk, and eat our meals in a way that allows us to be in touch with the abundance of happiness that is available.
We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living.
Steps to Happiness: Traveling from Depression and Addiction to the Buddhist Path
We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive at the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive. Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment.