Yoga for Mental Health

What Is Depression & Why Do We Get Depressed?

Being healthy is much more than the absence of disease. It includes a general feeling of well-being that results from knowing that we have the resources to meet life’s challenges. You are likely reading this because you are familiar with the feeling of depression—but have you asked yourself what depression is?

We tend to use the word depression to describe a cluster of feelings and thoughts like sadness, hopelessness, loneliness, isolation, and heaviness. You may have felt that there is also a deeper pain to depression. An existential pain which is hard to express in words. A feeling of lack, loss or emptiness.

“Freudian psychoanalysis defines depression as a feeling of grief without loss.”

We could further develop the idea that depression is the grief for a lack in ourselves or in our lives. Many people experience chronic feelings of emptiness and hopelessness without apparent reason. This non-specific sadness results in a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect one’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior. People who are depressed lose interest in activities that they once found enjoyable. Some are unable to manage their daily tasks. It isn’t uncommon for people to feel like they are a burden to their friends, family, and society.
Meteorology and geology can give us an intuitive understanding of what depression feels like. In meteorology, a depression is a weather condition in which the pressure of the air becomes lower. Working with this image, we can see depression as a shift in our field of pressure where our inner field of pressure is lower than the external field of pressure. This happens when our inner resources are no longer strong enough to deal with external strain. In geology, a depression is a land-form sunken or depressed below the surrounding area. The Oxford Collocations Dictionary offers the word “hollow” as a synonym.

“Depression protects us through withdrawal and isolation.”

But depression is more than feeling weighed down by life. It is a state which is part of the transformational process. It is a time that forces us into deep rest and contemplation. We are burdened by our personality which is responding to life in inefficient ways. 

The struggle that depression brings about offers us an opportunity to examine ourselves and our lives. Depression hides our desire for change. If we learn to listen, understand, and act on the call of depression, it becomes like a rite of passage. Depression may knock on your door whenever you are ready to birth something new into your life. Therefore, we can read depression also as “de-pressed”. The transformational time we enter after a period of feeling pressed-down.

The word depression is potent. We can read the word as “being pressed down” by the weight we carry … and the ensuing desire for deep-rest. De-pression also hints at the transformational process we are forced into because we feel like we can’t go on like this any longer.

When depression becomes severe, it can literally cripple us and get in the way of functioning and even attending to the smallest of daily tasks, like showering or preparing a healthy meal. When you learn to tune in to your emotions and practice observing your thoughts, you will be able to get in touch not only with deeper pain that is asking for healing, you’ll also learn to become aware of your needs. These unmet needs are the key to your healing and your happiness.

It’s normal to have a bad day every now and then, but if you feel depressed over a long period of time, or your depressed feelings are severe, it’s important to get help. Know that you are not alone and that there’s nothing wrong with you for having a hard time.

I like to see depression as ar red flag. A deep part from within you that is reaching out for attention. Something that needs to be heard, a need that needs to be met, something that needs to change. Embrace depression as a messenger that’s really wanting to point you to a more fulfilling life. What’s weighing on you? What’s lacking in your life? What thoughts are you having that are hurting yourself?


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.