Healing the Holiday Blues

Try these holistic approaches to turning depression from an unwanted intruder into a welcome friend.

For many of us, the holiday season brings an unwelcome visitor: depression. But rather than fight against or resist this intruder, you can welcome, understand, and even use the blues as a path to healing. I know. I've worked for many years to heal my own depression, and what I have to say is born of the fire and ice of my own journey.

Let's begin with understanding. We might notice that the holidays can bring up painful as well as pleasant feelings. Past holidays may have been difficult, or our lives may not be as fulfilled as we would wish. There may be loneliness, sadness, or anger.

Strangely, however, these feelings are not really the problem. If we look deeply into ourselves, we may notice that not only do we feel some pain, but we may also be comparing ourselves with others: "Everyone else seems happy, so what's wrong with me?"

This is where the problem actually starts. Loneliness, hurt, anger, and sadness are normal human feelings--and they are not the same as depression. Depression is a feeling of deadness and defectiveness. It occurs when emotional pain arises, but, thinking mistakenly that there's something wrong with it, we don't let ourselves feel it. Instead, we block the emotion out, telling ourselves there's something wrong with us for feeling this way. We feel bad and simultaneously think that somehow we are bad. This is depression.

So what can we do? The healing of depression, like the healing of any emotional or physical disturbance, occurs best on four levels of our being--mind, heart, body, and spirit. Here are some simple suggestions.


  • Accept your depression. I don't mean give in to the depression, just accept its presence in your life so you can work with it. If depression comes in part from rejecting our feelings, rejecting the depression will just make things worse.
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  • Meditate to contact your deeper emotions. Since depression is often frozen grief or anger, if we can feel the warmth of the deeper feelings, we can sometimes begin to melt the ice of depression. Try this awareness meditation several times a week for 10 minutes. Sit with your eyes closed for five minutes and focus on your breathing. Then silently ask yourself, "What else am I feeling?" See if, along with the depression, there is any hurt, sadness, or anger. If so, open up to it and let yourself feel it more deeply. See what happens.
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    Kenneth Porter, M.D.
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