Almost everybody feels depressed periodically when life doesn’t go according to plan. Temporary feelings of depression are often caused by situations like breakups, a death in the family, and the loss of a job. For most people, the depression fades as time passes and these situations resolve. However, for many, the depression never goes away and continues to anchor deeply into their psyche.

For those who haven’t experienced a level of deep, unending depression, it can appear illogical, especially since many depressed people have extraordinary lives and are surrounded by people who love them. However, to the person experiencing the depression, that’s not always enough. This deep depression isn’t caused by external circumstances, so it’s not easily remedied by them, either.

Although each person experiences depression for different reasons, a common underlying factor is disconnection. People with major depression feel disconnected from themselves, their world, and life itself. This disconnection expresses itself in a variety of ways including stress, anxiety, panic attacks, and even suicidal thoughts.

More than 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. That’s a significant amount of people. If you’re one of those people, and you’re struggling to find long-term relief, keep reading because there is hope.

Drugs aren’t the answer

While many choose to treat their depression with psychotropic drugs, others don’t trust medication, and for good reason. Not only are anti-depressants ineffective for most people, but they come with dangerous side-effects.

According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, in 2014, one in eight Americans over the age of 12 reported taking antidepressants. A quarter of people surveyed reported being on antidepressants for ten years or more. Unfortunately, research shows that antidepressants are rarely effective, and often increase depression and suicidal thoughts.

“Antidepressants are supposed to work by fixing a chemical imbalance, specifically, a lack of serotonin in the brain,” a 2014 paper reports. “But analyses of the published data and the unpublished data that were hidden by drug companies reveals that most (if not all) of the benefits are due to the placebo effect… Seventy-five percent of the improvement in the drug group also occurred when people were give dummy pills with no active ingredient in them.”

Despite what it seems, crediting the placebo effect for improvement isn’t bad news. This suggests that serotonin levels in the brain can be increased by a person’s will. Actually, that’s not far off.

University scientists from all over the world have discovered that simple activities like mindfulness and meditation directly impact the brain’s production of serotonin. However, it’s not just an increase in serotonin that lifts a person’s mood.

A 2005 review of multiple studies discovered that massage therapy decreases cortisol levels by 31%. Less cortisol production allows the brain to produce more serotonin and dopamine, the neurotransmitters associated with feeling good.

If you’re suffering from depression, the easiest way to decrease your cortisol levels is to reduce your exposure to stress, and increase activities that bring you peace of mind. Meditation and yoga are two such activities.

Yoga and meditation can restore connection with your world

Yoga is a practice that appears simple but is actually a powerful tool that can help you rebuild your connection with life. Yoga doesn’t just help you achieve a flexible body. Yoga develops a flexible way of being that results in more peaceful emotions.

Nobody knows this gift of yoga more than a Yogi. Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar explains, “a disease-free body, a violence-free society, a confusion-free mind, [an] inhibition-free intellect, a trauma-free memory, a sorrow-free soul and a quiver-free breath is the impact that Yoga can make on your life.”

These benefits described by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar develop as a result of connecting deeply with oneself through the practice of yoga and meditation. With these activities, your mind is focused on your body or your breath.

Engaging in breathing patterns does more than make you feel calm – it changes your brain chemistry, and that’s backed by science. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine published a study showing that yoga and deep breathing creates a significant reduction in depression. Another study from 2016 concluded a breathing-based meditation known as “Sudarshan Kriya yoga” reduced major depressive symptoms in those who were unaffected by pharmaceutical treatment.

If you’re tired of being depressed, get connected

You don’t need to buy
fancy equipment to start a yoga or meditation routine. You just need a simple
mat, a pillow, and some space. There are countless free classes on YouTube to
get you started. Even if you don’t feel like it, gather the will to do it just
once. When you do, you’ll feel so good, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start