Can Ayurvedic Medicine and Buddhism Provide Depression Treatment?


Rachel can’t sleep, can’t eat. She is in the midst of a family health crisis, marriage problems, and other issues. She’s faced bouts of mild depression all her life, but this is suddenly much worse — a severe case of anxious depression requires a ‘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.”

Psychologists often turn to cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients change their thought patterns, he notes. “In my own practice, I try to bring in mindfulness practice — a Buddhist practice — as another way of addressing mind and thought,” he tells WebMD.

Mindfulness involves honing the ability to focus on the present moment, Emmons explains. “It is a way of facing problems we all confront, a way of controlling our thoughts. It’s an opportunity to settle the mind so our thoughts aren’t so active. Even beyond that, mindfulness gives us a means to work more skillfully with whatever problems we’re faced with — and take them on without feeling overwhelmed. It has an affect on the stresses that fuel depression.”

‘Circle of Trust’

Rachel was an ideal candidate for mindfulness, says Emmons, because her mind often spun out of control. She took an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction class, which can be found in most major cities. She was able to develop an imagery technique to calm her thoughts and fears, he says.

Creating a “circle of trust, a soul community” of like-minded spirits can help us feel less isolated in this very scary world — another important component of a balanced life, says Emmons. “As much as anything, depression is a call to community, a stark reminder that we cannot go it alone — we are simply not designed that way,” he writes. “In the end, I believe, we need another to heal, and the creation of community is just as important to our well-being as is the inner journey of coming to know ourselves.”

Any person facing depression, says Emmons, can emerge from it a larger person. “We can be more than we were before. We need not be diminished or weakened by depression,” he tells WebMD.