Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Spiritual Meaning of Depression

Depression is a sensitive topic. My personal and professional experience has afforded me first-hand knowledge in navigating the emotions associated with depression. My work with a sports psychologist in a mentoring program provided an insightful understanding into the inner mind and human behaviour.

It is interesting to note that amongst the general population, 1 in 3 people will experience some form of depression at some stage of their life. Depression may range from a mild to chronic state. Among the two, mild depression is most common in people. It is worth noting that at some stage in one's life, you may have experienced a 'depressive mood.' It may be triggered by a host of causes, mainly due to external situations which were beyond your control.

I recall one summer I experienced a depressive mood that lasted some weeks. I didn't want to exercise; I sat on the couch, found it a challenge to socialise, had very little appetite and slept in on most days, fearing getting out of bed. It was a passing stage, which I neither fought with nor resisted. The most important thing was I never identified with it by holding the thought in my mind that 'I was depressed.' In my case, it was a period of time fraught with stress and anxiety, which I refused to deal with.

Exercise is usually a good activity to involve oneself during these periods, since it facilitates the connection of mind and body. Caution needs to be taken that you don't overtrain or over-exercise, since that may trigger additional symptoms. It is still largely unknown how much exercise is good for the depressed person. Research has shown that individuals benefit from as little as 15 minutes of exercise three times a week ranging up to 30 minutes of exercise everyday.

According to research studies when the deep limbic system is overactive, negativity and pessimism is usually evident in the depressed person. This overactivity is closely linked with depression. The hippocampus within the brain is responsible for memory and assists the brain learn and retain new information, while the amygdala controls fear and anxiety. There is evidence to suggest that a hormonal link between the hypothalamus and the brain could be linked to depression. The message to note is that depression may be triggered during periods of intense stress in one's life.

Depression reveals spiritual transformation

Depression may be referred to as the dark night of the soul which was a term coined by a mystic priest St John of the Cross. The inference is depression is a passage from darkness to light. It is the releasing of the ego's grasp on the soul. The spiritual definition behind depression should not be viewed as negative, rather as a test of faith - a move toward transformation. It is wise to seek those people whom you trust if you believe you are experiencing depression. They may include: counsellors, therapists, psychologists, family, friends and loved ones. Many people develop a strong sense of self and meaning after they've recovered from depression.

There is a spiritual transformation which occurs deep within their soul - as they discover their true nature. They discover a silent voice within - a deep, impenetrable love that will not die. There is a realisation that we are greater than the story we tell ourselves. Hope emerges out of darkness and suddenly the soul reconnects to the higher self which was always there beneath the veil of misery. We discover a deeper compassion for oneself and others.

My own period of experiencing low levels of depression taught me faith, courage and hope in the universal energy of life. I trusted I was deeply loved and cared for. How can a universe which created me and others not want to serve my growth? What creator or intelligence would be so cruel as to abandon me during my time of need? Know and trust that any experience unfolding in your life is drawing you closer to the light. Darkness serves to show you there is light at the end of the tunnel. That the transformation you undergo will serve your greatest potential as someone worthy of love.

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