It seems that as the years pass depression becomes more and more prevalent in western society. On the surface it may seem understandable, society is split between extreme left and right views, costs forever rise, jobs are harder to get and we’re told that crime and terror attacks lurk behind every street corner. But are things truly that bad for the west? Yes, these problems exist and shouldn’t be dismissed but all you have to do is pick up a global newspaper to see that there is far worse going on, particularly in the middle east. So why then is depression such an issue? It could be that it always has been and we are just starting to take it more seriously however one theory suggests that it’s the philosophy that people have been subjected to, and it appears that a possible fix for this underlying issue is to turn to a certain aspect of eastern philosophy.
The Western Way
How many times have you heard people say, “just be yourself”, “love yourself for who you are” or “never change no matter who tells you to”? It’s this exact philosophy that has led to the downfall of an entire generation and will likely only spread further to the next. “But what is wrong with these statements?” I hear you cry, well when you look at each statement there is nothing wrong initially. We should of course love ourselves and be happy with who we are but to never change implies that we never grow and that is where the problem comes in. If we are never willing to change or better ourselves how can we truly be happy with who we are as a whole. You’re setting your own limitations to yourself. By never needed to change ourselves, by saying love yourself no matter what we lead ourselves into thinking we are worthy of praise, of rewards without giving any effort and when life doesn’t give you those? Well it can only make you feel worse about yourself, then when you no longer love yourself, you’ll never realise you can simply improve.
The Eastern Promise
Eastern philosophy offers a different way of thinking. Here we don’t have “love yourself no matter what” but rather “learn to love yourself by improving yourself”. It is crucial to our wellbeing that we look at our own faults, whether they be related to our personality, our sensibilities or even our fears and instead of simply saying “I am what I am”, instead look to correct these faults. If you find that you are quick to get angry look at ways of easing your temper, perhaps meditation would help? If you’re unorganised look at ways you can change that, perhaps writing things down in a diary or on a calendar would help? Maybe you have a fear of heights? Sometimes facing those fears can change that or even pretending you aren’t afraid of them can sometimes work (don’t ask me how though).
If you suffer from depression, I advise that you seek help. But also look to changing the way you think about yourself, you might find things start looking up with a little self-improvement.