Dr Vasant Lad, founder of the Ayurvedic Institute of Albuquerque, New Mexico, in Volume XXV, Number 4 of Ayurveda Today, defines depression as a popular diagnosis characterized by "a loss of pleasure and interest in life... accompanied by a sense of pressure, hollowness or emptiness, and low self-esteem." We all can feel down sometimes, but when it becomes our dominant attitude, it can feel hard to overcome.
Ayurveda, the science of life, views everything in terms of the play of three elements — Kapha, Pitta, and Vata. Likewise, Attitude Reconstruction is built on the idea that we have 3 pairs of emotions and that these emotions are at the root of everything we think, feel, speak and act. You can take a short quiz at Attitude Reconstruction and determine what emotions are most dominant for you, and thus, what your emotional constitution is.
Our three pairs of emotions correlate with Kapha (sadness), Pitta (anger), and Vata (fear). I thought it would be interesting to share with you the three kinds of depression according to Ayurveda before I offer you my seven suggestions to free yourself of this debilitating condition. I hope you find this as insightful as I do.
The Three Types of Depression According to Ayurveda
Main Signs and Symptoms of Kapha Type Depression
Kapha correlates with sadness, so if you have a strong kapha you are probably familiar with these symptoms, which include feeling heavy, sluggish and withdrawn.
Feelings of heaviness
Slow and sluggish talk
Silence or monosyllabic speech
Diminished interest in usual activities
Feelings of hopelessness
World looks dull, gloomy, and grey
Main Signs and Symptoms of Pitta Type Depression
Pitta depression is characterized by anger that is taken out on other people as well as on oneself. Maybe you recognize these qualities in yourself when you feel depressed.
Sense of failure
Feelings of worthlessness (uselessness, low self-esteem)
Guilt and self-blame
Misdeeds or misconduct
Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death
Shift quickly from one idea to another
Jokes a lot, has a fake smile, keeps sad feelings or feelings of failure inside
Overconfident and overly optimistic
Reacts with violence or aggression if questioned
Main Signs and Symptoms of Vata Type Depression
The third kind of depression, Vata, is characterized by fear, anxiety, and restlessness, and mood swings. If fear is your most dominant emotion, you might be familiar with some of these symptoms.
Fluctuating, comes and goes like a breeze
Symptoms worst in evening
Fear and anxiety
Restlessness, severe agitation
Insomnia, waking often during the night
Diurnal variation of mood — worse during dawn and dusk
Feeling of unworthiness
Loss of appetite
Occipital headache or cluster headache
Weeping silently in a private place
Talking in a jerky manner (alternating fast and slow)
Down-turned corners of mouth
Poor eye contact
Loss of pleasure
Diminished sexual desire
Amenorrhea in women
World looks dry and colorless
Seven Strategies for Getting the Upper Hand Over Depression
Regardless of what kind of depression you experience, there are concrete actions you can take. I know this because I've worked with people who believed their depression would never lift, and I've seen them take action to turn the corner and find the peace, love, and joy they'd been yearning for. You can dig yourself out of this over or under whelming feeling.
1. Reach out to someone safe for support. Don't be alone with your feelings of hopelessness.You currently only have one perspective: yours. Two heads really are better than one, and other people can help you find new opportunities, solutions, and insights that you might not have seen otherwise. There's always someone out there--a family member, friend, counselor, or support group--ready to listen. Sometimes it's easier to seek support from a stranger, and that's exactly what community hotlines are good for.
2. Be open to medication. Don't judge yourself for needing help. Depression can deplete your energy and erode your health. It's a very real, physical condition, and there's no shame in admitting you can't heal yourself. Medication may help at times like this--even if it's short-term, to get you through some rough times. When you're feeling really bad, it's good to consult a doctor to determine if medication might help you manage these intense, down feelings that don't seem to lift.
3. Focus on specifics and take little doable steps. Don't lump all your woes together. This is called globalizing, and it will cause you to feel overwhelmed. Try not to use words like "always," "never," and "everything," as in, "I always get into this fix, and it never works out. Everything in my life is a total mess." You'll only sink deeper into despair. Instead, deal with one challenge at a time.
Write down specific issues you're bummed about: relationship, job, death, made a mistake, health, not having friends, no money, etc. This will enable you to deal with one specific loss, hurt, regret, injustice, violation, or threat at a time. It may take some time, but the progress you make in one area will help in other troublesome areas.
4. Don't dismiss your emotions as unimportant. When you deny your emotions, you start to create blocks that will deplete you. Soon you'll be spending all of your energy trying to act different from how you really feel--and avoiding the sadness, fear, and anger that is trapped inside of you.
Get that emotional energy out of your body physically (even if it feels like the last thing you want to do) by crying, pounding, and shivering. Make sounds to voice your emotions. If you're crying about a loss, say "Good-bye!" to what you lost while you cry or just say "I feel sad." For feelings of anxiety, shiver while saying, "I'm feeling scared."
Acknowledge your rightful anger by pounding the heck out of something inanimate, like a mattress, while making sounds (like growling, for example) or saying, "I feel so angry!" You'll feel so much better.
5. Wage a battle against downer thoughts. Don't let negative thoughts go unchallenged. Practice interrupting old spin and stretch your brain to find something positive from every interaction. Take control over downer thoughts, such as "There's no hope" or "Life is bleak."
Interrupt and replace future-oriented thoughts by repeating a statement such as, "Be here now. I don't know the future. What's one positive thing I can do for myself today/right now?" Quickly replace thoughts of unworthiness with "I'm doing the best I can. I'm a good person. I'm whole and complete. My job is to take care of myself."
6. Abandon "waiting." Don't wait for someone to rescue you. Pulling yourself out of despair can't happen until you acknowledge that you need to take action. Behavioral and emotional change has to start with you.
Abandon unfounded hopes or waiting for others to change. Write down everything you wish were different, then take the first statement and put before it, "I give up all hope that…"For example, "I give up all hope that my parents will ever understand me," or "I give up all hope that my boyfriend will be faithful." Keep repeating the statement, constructively express any anger or sadness that arises, interrupt destructive thinking, and focus on what you are saying. Soon you'll be able to see what's true for you and what's in your control to do right now about each item.
7. Refocus on connecting to yourself. Don't judge yourself harshly. It may have taken many months or years of accumulated disappointments, missteps, and life circumstances to get to the state of despair in which you find yourself.
Ask yourself, "What's my purpose? What are my goals?" Keep asking daily. Write your answers. Persist until you come up with ones that resonate as true. Then remind yourself of your goals and purpose daily. Set out a series of small steps to get to your goal and just do one or two little steps daily.
Other Practical Suggestions
In addition to these seven Attitude Reconstruction strategies, Dr. Lad and Ayurvedic medicine recommend several other practical suggestions that are helpful to overcome feeling depressed. Worthy of mention is to get up early and watch the morning sun. (The dominance of pink, orange, and golden colored rays increase feelings of happiness, joy, and creativity.)
Don't stay alone all the time. Get up and be active. Do regular spiritual practices, such as yoga, pranayama (regulated breathing), and meditation. And finally eat fresh foods and avoid negative behaviors that can promote depression. (This means avoiding smoking, alcohol, drugs, staying up late at night, fasting, and frequent sexual activities.)
Getting the upper hand over depression is not out of your reach once you learn how to channel your energy into what you want deep down, in your heart of hearts, instead of being passive and feeling disappointed. The prognosis is good if you do your part to heal.
©2018 by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
All Rights Reserved.
Book by this Author
Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
With practical tools, real-life examples, and everyday solutions for thirty-three destructive attitudes, Attitude Reconstruction can help you stop settling for sadness, anger, and fear, and infuse your life with love, peace, and joy.
About the Author
Jude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT), an educator in Santa Barbara, California and the author of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. In 1982, Jude launched a private psychotherapy practice and started working with individuals, couples, and groups. She also began teaching communication courses through Santa Barbara City College Adult Education. Visit her website at AttitudeReconstruction.com/
* Watch an interview with Jude Bijou: How to Experience More Joy, Love and Peace
* Watch video: Shiver to Express Fear Constructively (with Jude Bijou)