Finding Joy: A Mind-Body-Spirit Guide
A Western psychiatrist draws on Eastern traditions to guide us out of depression.
Step 2: Your Mind-Body Type
In Ayurvedic medicine (used for centuries in India), there are three mind-body types -- Air, Fire, and Earth, explains Emmons. Each is based on your body type -- whether you're a thin, wiry type, or strong and muscular, or a bit on the hefty side. Other patterns -- whether you tolerate hot weather, have straight or curly hair, get constipated easily or not, sleep easily or not -- are all factored into your Ayurvedic type.
Air types like Rachel are most prone to anxious depression, he says. Fire types align with agitated depression, and Earth types are likely to have sluggish depression.
"Someone like Rachel, who is thin by nature, has an active, restless mind," Emmons explains. "She needs to do things that will calm her nervous system -- aerobic exercise that is light but repetitive like walking, easy jogging, bicycling. Being out in nature is especially helpful for Air types, because it is grounding. Moving the body in a repetitive fashion, as opposed to competitive activity, elevates serotonin levels. It's a potent treatment."
Also, Rachel needs to develop structure in her daily life -- a more predictable eating pattern and regular exercise. A regular sleep schedule helps keep the body's hormones regulated, an important factor in fighting depression. "With depression, the body has failed to correct itself when under stress, so all mechanisms are disrupted," Emmons explains.
Rachel should also add warmth wherever possible -- with soothing foods and drinks, hot baths, and massages. She also can benefit from "conscious breathing" -- a slow and regulated breathing practice. "It involves bringing attention to the breath," he explains. "Count to four as you breathe in slowly, count to two while you pause, then count to seven while you breathe out even more slowly. Even five minutes of this can be calming."
Fire types generally need cooling, calming foods and activities, he adds. Earth types need stimulating foods and activities to keep them motivated.
Step 3: Your Spiritual Needs
By studying Buddhist philosophies, one can overcome the spiritual crisis of depression, says Emmons.
"Depression is a sign, a signal, and it's important to take heed of what it's trying to tell us," he tells WebMD. "It often means we need to change our diet, get more exercise. But it might be pointing toward deeper spiritual and relationship issues that need to be addressed. Unless you've changed the original dynamics -- the reason why you were depressed -- you will get depressed again."
Life isn't easy, after all. "There are what I would call 'enemies of joy' -- factors in our lives that literally depress us. One of these is the problem of 'mind run rampant,' which causes endless worry. It's a depressing way to live -- so we become depressed," Emmons says. "There is also a feeling of isolation -- that we are going through this life alone. Without the sense that the universe is a friendly place to belong as a family, we have great difficulty not becoming depressed."