‎3 Eastern Strategies to Treat Depression

Depression is a worldwide issue: it is the leading cause of disability; more than 300 million people struggle with depression, and about 8 percent of American adults suffer from depression.

Yet long before the West founded its civilization, 9th Century Scholar Abu Zayd al-Balkhi, in Sustenance of the Body and Soul, argued that depression is triggered by an imbalance in brain chemicals. Al-Balkhi advocated for a holistic treatment of all mental illness challenges, including depression.

Therefore, it behooves us to look for holistic ways of coping with depression from around the world. Inspired by Eastern traditions, I will share three distinct strategies for coping with depression.

1. Change your environment.

Depression might be associated with a particular place and time. A solution to that predicament is to travel and immigrate. Depression sometimes forces the person to lose interest in life altogether. However, there are different ways of living. If living in a particular place is not helping with your depression, then carefully consider relocating.

For example, if living in a modern and competitive culture like the United States is worsening your depression, consider immigrating to a traditional and communal culture. Changing environments will force you to see life from a different angle, which might help with depression.

Changing the environment is an Eastern principle. When early Arabs were not doing well in one city, they immigrated to another city. So try changing your environment as a way of coping with depression. Even if relocating does not help address your depression symptoms, it will expose you to new ways of existing in the world.

2. Learn a new language.

Language is central to thought and emotions. Learning a new language will force you to see the world differently because you must articulate thoughts and emotions through a different vehicle. Learning a new language is good training for the brain because it expands its outlook on the world.

However, monolingualism runs rampant in the United States, with 80% of Americans speaking English only. Since learning a new language will allow you to perceive the world from a different angle, such training might help with depression because it will expand the myelination process in the brain.

Depression changes how a person views the world. It forces the person to lose interest in many activities. Learning a new language and living in a new culture is a reinvention of self. It is a good practice. Although learning a new language is an uncomfortable process, it often leads to fruitful outcomes.

3. Change starts from within.

Change starts internally and then manifests itself externally. Depression often changes the makeup of the brain, causing chemical imbalances, which then make the person experience unimaginable pain. About half of those who commit suicide have major depression.

Even so, change always start from within. And this is a predicament because one of the symptoms of depression is learned helplessness. Depression colors the perception of people. And during those low moments, people who suffer from depression can consider taking agency in coping with their predicament.

The cycle of repeated failing behaviors must be broken, and the individual must initiate those actions. If the person repeats the same behavior over and over, then they will get the same repeated outcomes. But if they try new strategies, they might experience new personal victories.


Depression impacts lives negatively. It puts some on the verge of suicide. However, we should not limit our treatment of depression to any particular tradition. We need to advocate for a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to treating the maladies of depression.

The most important lesson for those who suffer from depression is never to lose hope and never feel ashamed. Depression has been with humanity since time memorial. For example, recorded history suggests that depression existed in Mesopotamian texts in the second century B.C.

Although the language around how depression is discussed might naturally differ, the condition is familiar to humans across time and space. There is comfort in knowing that depression is a worldwide and historical phenomenon because one of the symptoms of depression is a sense of loneliness and isolation.

If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, seek help immediately. For help 24/7, dial 988 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.