Zen and The Art of Depression

Okay, not real depression. This is not an article about the clinical kind of depression that doesn’t go away and needs medication. This article is about when you just plain feeling crabby for no particular reason. You know, those days when for some reason, everything seems to be going sour. There’s no particular excuse but you just feel awful.

These episodes seem to come about more and more as we age. We have more perspective, and we know what’s going on. In our teenage years, we might lash out at parents or pick a fight with a friend, not having noticed that we got up on the wrong side of the bed. Once older and somewhat wiser, we tend to notice that its not them, really, it’s us.

Handling Others During Depressed Moods

Having come to this realization, those days are much easier to deal with. A good strategy is to start conversations with friends with a disclaimer: “I’m in that kind of mood, be careful.” If you’re lucky, you have a friend or two who can handle this. These kinds of friends know better than to push your buttons, and if they do so accidentally, don’t perpetuate the fight by taking things personally.

If you aren’t so fortunate as to have perceptive friends, forced isolation always works. No, seriously. If necessary, turn off your cellphone and shut the door to your room with a bold-lettered “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging in front.

What To Avoid Whilst Depressed

Also avoid making any kinds of major decisions when you are feeling down. When our heads are all unhappy we tend to get overly emotional. Whatever you do, don’t quit your job! No, seriously, don’t quit your job while you’re feeling depressed, or make any other life-changing decision. If the feeling that you must do something is really intense, you might just journal about why you want to make changes. Whatever you do, wait until you are in a better mood to finally take that step. You don’t want to wake up the next morning with regrets.

Hot babe meditating

Zen Philosophy and Depression

So what’s any of this got to do with Zen? The point of all this advice about avoiding confrontation and big decisions is that when we’re depressed we become drama queens. We can’t let the little things go, and we see deep, significant meaning behind all of the little things that happen to us. Unfortunately, we usually see these things in a negative light when we’re predisposed to think this way, so we read-in the worst.

Well, this Eastern philosophy talks a lot about not reading into things. Gloomy people make mountains out of molehills. The little comment someone makes sets you off you’re just certain it was a passive aggressive insult. A boyfriend says to his girlfriend that she has a great, curvy body, and she replies angrily, “You think I’m fat, don’t you!”

There are many Zen stories about great masters who seem to be unfazed by anything. A man is approached, accused of doing something he didn’t do, and he smiles, says I’m sorry, and accepts the burden with no complaint. A terrible tragedy befalls a wise old one, and when others say, “Isn’t it awful?”, he simply says, “We will see.” The first man isn’t worried about his reputation and so doesn’t really care what others think. The second knows that what seems like bad luck may become a new opportunity, and so he doesn’t worry when things go sour.

Final Thoughts

Although we’re not likely to approach the stoic detachment of a Zen monk, and we probably wouldn’t want to anyway, when we are feeling that sort of casual depression that comes around for no reason every so often, it is best we take our inspiration from these types. Just avoid confrontation and accept what comes; and when it seems we have found ourselves in an awful circumstance, we should probably just wait and see.