By Sri Sri Ravishankar
Today the issue of mental depression is gathering a lot of attention around the world. The World Health Organization says that by 2020, the second leading cause of disease in the world will be depression. Nearly one in every five people in the USA has some kind of mental illness and each year, 25 per cent of the population in Europe suffers from depression.
Unfortunately, people don’t even acknowledge when they are depressed, and two-thirds don’t go for any kind of treatment. Neither at school nor at home are we taught how to handle negative emotions. We teach dental hygiene, but forget to teach mental hygiene. Stress does not go away just by talking or advising. We need to learn some techniques, tools or mechanisms to get rid of stress and calm the mind.
What causes depression? Among other factors, depression happens because one hangs on to the past or is over-ambitious. But change is a constant. If you do not let go, you are stuck and frustration and depression follow. You need to be aware that you are connected with the whole universe. We forget to look into the core of life. What is life? Who am I? What do I want? It is emotion that sinks you into depression and it is wisdom which takes you out of depression.
This is where meditation and breathing techniques can help. They are tools that could help you calm your mind, and make you feel happy from within. A lot of the illnesses can be handled through breathing exercises and meditation. First, meditation creates positive and harmonious energy around us. The second benefit is that it improves health, and can help in preventing many mental and physical illnesses. There is a lot of research on how meditation helps overcome hypertension, diabetes, heart problems, skin problems, nervous system problems, and many others.
Apart from health benefits, meditation improves concentration and helps one to be in the present moment. The mind vacillates between the past and future. We are either angry about the past or anxious about the future. Meditation helps keep the mind in the present. When the mind is calm, it is able to perceive things better. When the mind is disturbed, our perception is also totally disturbed. In your day-to-day life, you come across all kinds of situations that can be challenging and which demand a degree of alertness so we can make good choices.
These situations give rise to different states of mind and neither life nor the states of mind occur with our permission. In fact, they often occur in direct defiance of our wishes. Meditation can bring about a balance between different states of the mind. You can learn to switch from the tough aspect to the delicate aspect within you. You can stand up when needed and let go when needed. This ability is present within everyone, and meditation enables you to switch between these states effortlessly. With a few minutes of meditation and pranayama, our thoughts become powerful and our tasks are accomplished with just a little effort. I would say that meditation is food for the soul. And emotional cleansing and mental hygiene can bring about a big transformation in society.