Swami Sivananda’s Guide on How to Overcome Depression
It is very easy to overcome depression. It is not at all as difficult as one imagines. Mind has the mysterious power of magnifying a problem and making it appear formidable. Do not listen to the promptings of the mind. Reject them ruthlessly and throw them out.
Here are some practical hints that will enable you to triumph over this malady once and for all:
1. First try to analyse yourself thoroughly and find out the cause of the problem. Do not be hasty. Sit calmly and think over the matter. Spend some days over it if necessary. Put your thoughts down on paper and reflect over them. If necessary, get the assistance of someone whom you love and trust and who will be sympathetic to your feelings. Pray to God within to lead you to the right person.
2. Do not listen to promptings from within that your problems cannot be solved and overcome. The Guru or the Divine within you, and the loved ones around you, can effectively solve or dissolve all your problems.
3. Know that for every problem that confronts you-however difficult and complicated it may seem to be-there is the requisite guidance, strength and wisdom readily available to you from the Divine dwelling in the chambers of your heart. God is nearer to you than your life-breath. Turn to the Lord with a childlike faith and experience the miraculous results.
4. The easiest way to tap the divine power within is to repeat God’s holy Name. Select any Divine Name from the scriptures and repeat it constantly, without a break. In this one method of spiritual practice all the holy scriptures of the world are unanimous. The power latent in the Divine Name is like the power latent in the seed. Just as the seed needs soil and water to enable it to germinate, so also the Divine Name needs to be constantly repeated to make its power manifest.
The Divine Name is the one sovereign, infallible remedy to get rid of depression once and for all. Take any Mantra, like Sri Ram, Om Namasivaya, Om Namo Narayanaya, Om Namo Bhagavade Vasudevaya, Om Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram, the Mahamantra: Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, Hare Krishna Hare Krishnna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, and repeat it throughout the day and also just before you go off to sleep and the first thing when you wake up in the morning. It will protect you from all dangers and calamities.
5. Keep the body fit by doing regular physical exercises, and by participating in healthful activities. A hike in the countryside will be refreshing and invigorating both mentally and physically.
6. A pure, nourishing diet is very important for the health of both the body and the mind. Take more of fresh fruit and vegetables. Take health tonics. They are available from the health stores. Vitamin tablets from natural products will be found highly beneficial.
7. The nervous system must be strengthened by means of exercise, relaxation, pure food and regular prayer. A useful nerve and brain tonic may be prepared as follows: Soak 8 dates, a similar quantity of almonds and 4 cardamoms in a bowl overnight. In the morning remove the skin from the almonds. Reduce the ingredients to a paste, add honey and butter and take with warm milk. This delicious tonic rejuvenates the nervous system quickly. A teaspoonful of Amla powder mixed with a glass of warm water and taken twice a day will help tremendously in strengthening the nervous and physical system. Amla is one of the most important ingredients in the well-known Chyvanaprash tonic.
8. Attend regular prayer services in a temple or Ashram. The holy vibrations will give you added mental and spiritual strength to cope with your problems.
9. Study the scriptures daily. This will give you discrimination, which will give dynamic strength to the mind. It will be your most effective weapon to deal with the promptings of the mind.
10. Check undesirable habits. Overcome them by developing virtuous qualities. Lead a life of purity and righteousness. Such a life will free you from all worry, fear and depression.
11. The constant repetition of some beneficial formulae will strengthen the mind considerably. Such repetition is called auto-suggestion. Here are some proven formulae for this purpose. Repeat them as many times as possible during the course of the day, and when you are just about to fall asleep at night:
(a) I am Thine. All is Thine. Thy Will be done, O Lord.
(b) Let go and let God.
(c) What cannot be cured must be endured.
(d) Whatever has happened has happened for the best; whatever is happening now is happening for the best; whatever is to happen in the future will happen for the best.
(e) Through the Grace of God, I am getting better and better every day in every way.
(f) Even this will pass away.
12. Serve the sick and the needy through a service-oriented institution. If you take up some useful activity for the good of others, you will have no time to think about yourself. Losing oneself in selfless service is one of the most dynamic methods of overcoming depression. If you give cheer, joy and happiness to others, you yourself will receive cheer, joy and happiness in return.
13. Do not try to evade or run away from your problems, difficulties and trials. Face them bravely through calm reflection and discrimination, knowing that the Divine within is ever your guide, protector and savior. Know also that everything in this world that you now hold so dear is not lasting and will soon disintegrate and pass away. You are only a passing pilgrim on this earth plane. If you constantly reflect and discriminate thus, then all such emotions and feelings that have such a tenacious hold on your mind will be loosened, and an inexpressible freedom, lightness and joy will fill your heart.
14. Be content. Adopt a lifestyle of “simple living and high thinking”. A great deal of unhappiness today may be traced to unfulfilled desires. There is no end to desire. Each desire breeds a host of new ones. Modern man longs to own TV sets, video recorders, dishwashers, expensive cars, swimming pools and other items of luxury. Reduce your desires and lead a life of contentment and simplicity.
15. A constant attitude of gratitude to God for having provided you with your physical and material needs, will give you an abiding sense of contentment and peace, and free you from depression, cares and worries.
16. Select any suitable method, or a combination of methods, and put them into immediate practice. You will succeed without difficulty, Nil desperandum. Never despair. There is a magazine of enormous power within you. Tap that power diligently and come out victorious. Then share your knowledge with others.
17. Strictly avoid viewing scenes of violence, sex and murder on TV. Avoid places of gambling and liquor, evil company, and literature that deals with violence, sex and crime.
18. Performance of daily Agni-Hotra and recital of the all-powerful Sri Hanuman Chalisa are very effective remedies to overcome depression and suicidal tendencies.
Blessings in Disguise
Adversities, trials, difficulties, calamities, diseases, afflictions, pains and sufferings are all blessings in disguise. They strengthen the will and increase the power of endurance. They turn the mind more and more towards God. They instil in us discrimination and dispassion. They draw out all our latent faculties. They force us to perform even beyond our ability. They develop all talents and capacities lying dormant within us.
It is easy to bask in the sunshine of prosperity. The crucial test is your reaction under adversity and hardship. God wants us to enjoy eternal bliss and peace. For this purpose the body and mind have to be thoroughly purified and strengthened, so that they may be able to bear the pressure of His matchless bliss and peace. This process of purification and strengthening cannot be effected without one confronting adverse conditions and circumstances.
Furthermore, nature’s law of cause and effect operates with relentless precision. The wise and discriminative person will allow the effects of this past actions to bear fruit by meeting all the conditions of life with patience, good cheer, calmness and faith in God.