Yoga for Mental Health

What Is Depression Trying To Tell You

Depression is an unwelcome friend. The thing is, something happened to get you where you are right now. It can be helpful to understand what caused you to first feel depressed. But more importantly, it is that we learn to listen to what depression is trying to tell us. A lot of people whom I work with have tried many things to improve their emotional life and mental well-being. Perhaps you too sought out a therapist. Maybe you’re taking medication. Or you started an exercise program. All without seeing any long-lasting or profound improvements in how you feel.
If we want to understand depression from a wider perspective we have to zoom out. We have to stop putting depression under a microscope. Instead, it’s time to launch a space rocket to get an astronaut’s view of the situation. Low moods feel inconvenient, but from a higher perspective, they are just a messenger. When our emotions go downhill, there is something on a deeper level that isn’t feeling right in our lives. Usually, we are unaware of what this something is. We are out of tune with the deeper feelings that live below the surface because we try to ignore that which feels uncomfortable or painful. This is why unpleasant emotions and moods come up. They draw our attention to the things that we have been ignoring. They bring us a message so that we can find our true path.
If you feel depressed or anxious it doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you. They are actually very common feelings which are part of life. It does become a problem when you’re experiencing those feelings too often—or so intensely that they get in the way of living your life.

“Moments of depression have the ability to open our eyes. To give us an opportunity to break free from a way of living and being which is not serving us. When we use our darkest moments as a gateway to insight, depression can reveal to us where we keep on getting stuck and what needs to be healed. It can point us to the deeper truth of where our hearts remain unfulfilled. Depression can be a catalyst for understanding our cognitive patterns, when and how they were shaped, and to discover how we sustain this mental-emotional cycle in order to decompress.”

So why is it so hard to understand depression and what we can do about it? Because we try to avoid feeling our unpleasant feelings. We engage in activities and behaviors that distract us from feeling pain. Common numbing activities are checking your phone, watching tv, and emotional eating. Other people divert into neurotic behavior like hair pulling, nail-biting, or scratching. Even positive activities like exercise can be used as an escape mechanism. We all have our very own habitual numbing activities. They take us away from what is happening inside of us: the things that are calling for attention, the friction, the unease.
If we want to find out why we feel depressed or anxious, we have to stop numbing and distracting ourselves. We have to invite discomfort. Feeling our uncomfortable feelings is the only road to developing a deeper awareness. It can be very challenging to hold space for all the emotions that you have put a lid on for such a long time. But this is a warrior’s path. It’s the courageous act of inquiring into what is happening in the depths of your soul.

“The key to tuning into your depressed feelings is to slow down. Sometimes you have no choice and depression brings you to an abrupt halt. The whole system screams “I can’t do this anymore”. If you’re reading this, it’s likely that your organism has started to say NO. Now it’s your turn: take some time out, slow down and find out what your depression is trying to tell you. Sit with the sadness and inquire into it. Allow it to guide you to what is causing the sadness. What lies behind the discomfort that you are feeling right now? It could be something more specific and it can guide you to what is going on.”

Here are some questions that can help guide you deeper. Don’t try to come up with a rational or intellectual answer. Rather, listen to the response in your body and emotions as you’re asking yourself these questions. If you want, you can write down your answers. Be honest with your feelings. It doesn’t matter whether they appear to make sense.
  • What am I feeling right now?
  • What other emotions lie behind that feeling?
  • What thoughts and beliefs do these emotions bring up?
  • What lies behind my sadness?
  • What remains unresolved from my past?
  • Why does my heart not feel fulfilled?
  • What is missing in my life?
  • What needs to change?
  • What is my heart longing for?
  • What do I need in this moment to feel more at ease?
To find emotional fulfillment, we have to get in touch with our needs—and learn how to get those needs met (you can read my article on needs here). Emotional discomfort is a beautiful opportunity to get in touch with what it is that our hearts desire. It can show us where our deep wounds lie and encourage us to heal them. Depression can reveal unresolved trauma. It can be a red flag telling us to pause for a moment. A warning-sign telling us that something isn’t working. Sometimes, asking ourselves these simple questions can go a long way. Joy and sorrow are two sides of the same coin. What brings us joy is the key to unmasking our sorrow. Reversely, what causes our deepest pain reveals to us our deepest needs and desires.
On a deeper level, staring at the void of life and death that depression confronts us with, can lead us to ask some of the most existentially important questions. Who am I? What is the meaning of life? And why am I here? What role does my existence play in this universe? On a spiritual level, depression could be trying to show us that we’re not living the lives we were meant to live. A question I ask myself regularly is “what would I do right now if money weren’t an issue?” This question brings me straight back to my heart and what truly matters to me.


Deniz Aydoslu, MA, is an advanced certified yoga and meditation teacher and expert in the therapeutic application of yoga and somatics for mental health. She helps women heal emotionally and restore their connection to Spirit by integrating the body, heart, inner child, and soul into a meaningful whole. She offers deeply transformative work as well as simple tools to improve well-being, creativity, and productivity through fun, easy, and nourishing self-care tools.

As an experienced yoga and meditation teacher, somatic educator, and shamanic psychotherapy practitioner, she infuses her work with the healing power of love and the value of nature as medicine.