Depression is a Mirror to Spiritual Awakening

Image courtesy of Humans Are Free.

Image courtesy of Humans Are Free.

Mental wellness is a topic that often gets ignored. As a culture we are quick to speak of the importance of our physical health, but when it comes to our mental state, as a collective, we have given it a back burner to everything else. This realization is unfortunate because depression is the most common mental health phenomenon affecting the post-industrial world. It is a mood disorder that consists of sadness lasting over an extended period, and it often gets overlooked because we as a society view it through a small lens. We consider depression an illness, but what if we shift our perspective and begin to see it as a sensitivity to our consciousness?

Many people go through spells of sadness, especially after the loss of a loved one or a major setback in life, but what makes depression different is the prolonging of this sadness and the effect it has on the brain. Professor Lisa Miller of Columbia University has conducted extensive clinical studies on the cerebral cortex. Her findings indicate that although depression and spirituality affect the same region of the brain, they move in different directions. To understand how this affects us, we must first understand the importance of this organ. The role of the cortex is to "produce a meaningful perceptual experience of the world, enable us to interact efficiently and support abstract thinking and language." When a person is depressed the cortex will look thin and shriveled, However, when a person shows individual spirituality the cortex becomes thick and full. Spiritual development is essential to our evolution.

During Dr. Miller's study, subjects were told to relax and closed their eyes. After unwinding, researchers attached electroencephalograms (EEG) to their heads to test the circuits of the brain. The results found that adults with high personal spirituality gave off a wave length of 8-12 Hz. This wavelength is the same frequency emitted from meditating monks and, most importantly, the same frequency emitted from the earth’s crust. Our human ability to resonate with the earth's frequency coincides with the oneness that is described by spiritually attuned individuals. It further shows that the thin line between feeling separated or connected impacts us in a major way. It’s crucial, then, to stay plugged in. One way to combat this feeling of disconnectedness is to find time for meditation and community. Slowing the mind and being around people who embrace you as part of their fellowship keeps us grounded.

Another remarkable result from the study is that people who recovered from previous depression radiated more powerfully. In fact, young adults with a healthy spirituality were 2.5 times more likely to have suffered from major depression. So what was the turning point for them? Well, each participant mentioned their connection to something bigger than themselves. Regardless of the language used to highlight this Source--be it God, Allah, High Power, or The Universe--just having an awareness of that connection and trusting in its guidance will sustain our well being and empower us to lead successful and fulfilling lives. Once this understanding becomes full circle, our relationship with Life begins to become a "song and dance." Staying in the present allows us to take full advantage of how to move within this dance.

Dr. Miller’s research also elucidated that drugs could mimic the effects of living life from a spiritual standpoint. The frequency emitted from the relaxed participants was equal to patients on antidepressant medications such as Prozac. Medication can be a very effective form of treatment, but frequently, the symptoms of depression are likely to come back once the drug's effect diminishes. This is the difference between personal spirituality and using external forces to emulate this aspect of ourselves. People struggling with depression can aid their treatment by incorporating spiritual practices and with the help of their doctor may even be able to work towards eliminating the prescription altogether. Developing one’s personal spirituality is also its own protection protective against depression. Research shows that once the cortex thickens, the chances of depression recurring drops by nearly 90%. Because it is innate to our development, the effects will serve us for a lifetime.

According to Dr. Miller, "personal devotion is the highest reached human value." Arriving at one's spirituality takes work and dedication. Finding the tools that help us stay connected and committed to our spiritual practice is crucial for our wellness. And the strive for meaning and purpose responds to the suffering we endure--our experiences may be the avoidance and neglect of our spiritual selves. Depression can leave you despising the very thing that you know to be beneficial. So start one day at a time. Little by little, look for ways to create an environment that promotes your well-being. For five minutes a day, do something that resembles joy, even if that means trying to find stillness in between the thoughts. Seek out communities that create connection, one in which you can feel safe and loved. Wellness is a journey, and none of us are in life alone. Seeing the spiritual presence in the world around us can allow us to experience joy, which in turn can save our lives.