The Dalai Lama's Advice on Depression
Inner peace is a gift -- nurtured through meditation, empathy, and compassion.
Cultivating Compassion as Depression Therapy continued...
We can also look for "unintentional kindness" from people who help us survive -- providing the food we eat, the clothes we wear, etc., he explains. "We need to see beyond the superficial relationships to connect at a deeper level, where we all share the same aspirations." The world begins to feel less harsh, more nurturing.
"The challenge is to develop a deep sense of empathy for all people we interact with -- whether they are friends, people who give us difficulty, or people who are neutral to us," says Geshe Lobsang. "It's all about recognizing that they, too, have misfortunes and difficulties in their daily lives -- and that all beings want to be free of these difficulties, for their own happiness."
Through these practices, we can develop a real sense of connectedness with other beings, which is the source of empathy, compassion -- and, ultimately, our happiness. "That's how Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama can feel compassion for their enemies," he says.
You'll notice the spillover effect into your daily life, Geshe Lobsang adds. "When certain thoughts arise that might disturb you, you are able to notice them so you don't get stuck with them. You move on with the job at hand."
Meditation in Depression Therapy
Regularly meditating on compassion can also help prevent depression by reducing a person's emotional and physical reaction to stress in his or her daily life, says Charles L. Raison, MD, a psychiatry professor and co-director of Emory's Collaborative for Contemplative Studies.
"We look at compassion meditation as a protective strategy, sort of like exercise," he tells WebMD.
Over the past three decades, research has shown that meditation produces a relaxation response that helps decrease metabolism, lowers blood pressure, and improves heart rate, breathing, and brain waves. As the body receives a quiet message to relax, tension and tightness seep from muscles.
Meditation has gained millions of converts, helping them ease anxiety, stress, and chronic pain, improve heart health, boost mood and immunity, and resolve pregnancy problems.
By learning the Tibetan practice of "mindfulness meditation," it is possible to break the cycle of negative thinking that feeds depression, says John D. Dunne, PhD, co-director of Emory's Contemplative Practices and Studies programs.
"Negative thoughts are very real to depressed people," says Dunne. "They interpret their own actions in a very negative way ... have a very negative sense of self. They hold onto these thoughts very, very strongly."
Because a depressed person is so self-focused, it's difficult to convince them that their negative thoughts are not reality, he adds. "The goal of mindfulness meditation and compassion is to end this self-focus, this negative tone."