Depression is as old as humankind, and is one of the oldest described diseases in the history of medicine. World Health Organization predictions suggest that depression in 2020 will be the second cause of disability for general population, immediately after cardiovascular disease, and in 2030 even the first.

Though it was known in all cultures and civilizations, depression is certainly an important determinant of our time and there is an impression that, today, we are dealing with depression in epidemic proportions. Depression affects people of all status around the world. Today more than 600 million people suffer from depression. Most people will go through more than 10 (minor or major) depressive episodes during their lifetime. It is believed that every fifth woman and every tenth man experience a major depressive episode in their lives, and that women are more affected; the ratio of women and men being 2:1, but the fact is that men are less likely to seek help.

Depression in most patients begins gradually and goes almost completely unnoticed. Their contacts and ordinary conversations with people slowly become obsolete and boring, they gradually lose interest in everyday small things, they feel uncomfortable in society as the interest in close and dear people is slowly disappearing, their souls no longer have joy, and almost every thought and every task to be done is followed by an inexplicable sense of discomfort and fear. In the case of the ill, there is apparently unprovoked sorrow that lasts and lasts and follows a person for days and does not stop. The causes of depression are closely related to poorer mental health, and experts agree that depression causes a person to feel uncomfortable with mental pain and that this is the worst life experience for a person to face. Everyone can be sad because they have not achieved a goal, because they have experienced a failure or experiences a certain separation, but that does not mean that they are suffering from a depressive disorder. A person who normally mourns can optimistically look at the future and not lose hope while a person with clinical depression is hopeless, pessimistic, and thinks it will never be better. The feeling of having good self-esteem in people with normal grief is preserved, while, in people with depression, it is significantly disrupted and associated with the sense of inexplicable guilt and with an abundance of black, negative thoughts.

Sometimes in life all of us find ourselves in situations where we do not know how to deal, where we are pressed and pulled into a state of depression. Simply, certain circumstances in life require us to give more than we have to give. Stressors are sometimes so powerful that they also lead to a breakdown and psychotic symptoms in a healthy individual. These various stressors may include the global economic crisis with an emphasis on unemployment, growing and more responsible jobs, the use of constantly new technologies, various stressful debts, job or family abuse, job losses or changes in the job, personal financial backdrop, indebtedness, a higher material loss or losing home, severe living conditions, the loss of loved ones, post-natal depression, weather disasters, seasonal (winter) depression, frequent terrorist attacks, and many other different stresses. Real depression should be diagnosed when a person is constantly feeling sad every day in a period of two weeks or longer and when nothing can cheer them up again.

In the case of psychological symptoms of depression, seek advice from mental health professionals. Be careful, there is no easy way to treat depression because the human brain is complicated. Also, no depressive patient is similar to another, so treatment should always be individual. The psychiatrist will most likely prescribe tablets after the interview. Such tablets are called antidepressants and they do not actually treat the disease, but just suppress the symptoms you are experiencing. Such tablets will reduce the feeling of fear and anxiety, but only for a while, because the medication will not work the same after a certain period of time and will not be so useful, and if you suddenly stop taking it you will feel a terrible abstinence crisis. The psychotherapist will give you different kinds of analysis about your problems, giving you more to think about, instead of relieving you of excessive thoughts. Depressed people already have too many thoughts and too much to deal with about those thoughts and often believe thoughts that are not real. They do not realize that they are just thoughts, some particular ideas or concepts, and are, in fact, not real. Only when we stop believing and torturing ourselves with our own thoughts and start to let them freely pass through our minds, will the suffering and depression stop.

In group therapy, people will be forced to listen to other people problems, which, at the time, they may not want to hear, as they feel like they have enough problems of ytheir own. Also, it will make a person feel like they are unable to help themselves, but in reality, the best therapy, is still self-help and self-cure. When a person realizes that they can help themselves they may realize that one area that will make a profound difference is getting moderate and regular exercise. It is known that physical activity encourages the production of the endorphin neurotransmitters responsible for a sense of satisfaction, and it is also proven to stimulate the growth of new brain cells. After exercise, you will feel better because of serotonin that supports the feeling of happiness. Exercising outdoors, as well as exposure to the sunlight, certainly helps too.

One of the best, if not the best, self-help techniques in treating depression is learning martial arts and practicing martial arts skills. Practicing martial arts not only relieves depression, but also greatly prevents its return. Certainly one of the most effective exercises is the breathing exercise, whether it is a known technique of breathing yoga – pranayama, or similar breathing technique – uyai, or kung-fu breathing technique – chi kung, or karate technique – kokya  (aikido, tae kwon do) or breathing technique with the emphasis on exhalation technique – kiai (kihap). The breathing technique helps people with depression to relax and calms down. One of the best ways to breathe is the technique in which a slow breath is taken in through the nose while you count up to three, followed by a shorter pause, and a slow release through the mouth with a count of six. The breathing can be performed so that we breathe first through one nostril and then later, through the other nostril. Another method of breathing is the more powerful inhalation through the nose, followed by the more powerful exhalation from the mouth, with the knocks being carried out by the kiai (kihap). Sufferers from depression should initially practice breathing techniques near the windows in their bedroom or living room, and only later in their backyard or nearby park.

Certainly, proper meditation will also help the patients, but it needs to be done gradually and with control. They will also be helped by learning and performing the appropriate katas (forms), especially those with an emphasis on breathing technique. It is well known that some of the kata (forms) are considered to be a kind of meditation on the move (sanchin, tensho, wuji-qigong, thai chi, etc.). Those suffering from depression should perform only some sections of the kata, not the entire kata, especially not complicated and harder (masterful) sections of the kata. At the beginning, the kata can be practiced in their own home, then in the yard or in a nearby park, and later somewhere in the nature.

Practicing Kata in Nature

Depressed people need to leave their home and start practicing in the nature and outdoors, preferably with exposure to sunlight. Starting a training session for the depressed person will initially be traumatic and stressful for them. The depressed person will be very reluctant to come to training. It is very important for instructors, or their assistants, to learn that such a person may no behave rather normally. They should note that a depressed person is dejected, slow, sad and listless, and above all, avoids other exercisers and is in search of solitude. It is good for such persons (and they may ask for it themselves) to let them do some training alone. Do not force them into training or ask to do some more complicated or heavier task because too many demands can increase the feeling of failure. Give such people tasks that will help them be successful, and make sure to praise their successes, preferably in front of others. It is also helpful to give the depressed person another task to accomplish in the future which will take more than a few days to accomplish. The justification will be that you have given this assignment because you are certain they will accomplish the task better than others if given the opportunity. Assign an older member of the club or a trusted person to visit the person in their home, so they can add something to the task that may have been forgotten or share something important thus helping encourage them to get the most out of the task and to encourage them to return to the next training to share what they have learned.

Exercising martial arts greatly increases people’s awareness of themselves and their abilities and eliminates anxiety.

It is good for a depressed and anxious person to be in the company of stable personalities with strong character, who will show them that various life problems can be treated as a specific challenge rather than some unsolvable problem.

An anxious person will be influenced by a company of strong personalities, who are ready to fight, ie those who are born fighters, used to various challenges and life difficulties. Such persons will help the depressed person to gradually change his or her negative thinking and hopelessness into a positive attitude.

A depressed person will feel a certain loss of strength and energy, so if various people in the club – such as leaders, competitors, or some of the members – are willing to help the depressed person try and exercise more by setting a good example and through encouragement, this would improve the seituation as well. In a group of strong and self-confident people, the anxious and depressed person will feel safe and secure and will gradually want to become a strong and confident person also.

A depressed person feels that no one wants to be with them, because it is known that all people prefer to be in the company of cheerful people rather than depressed people, but it is not significant for the exercisers of martial arts. Those practicing martial arts do not have time for fear, insecurity, or any regret for the disadvantages they have experienced, but they keep fighting against the troubles, because life itself is a kind of struggle.

Practicing Martial Arts

Don’t think depression is a disease affecting only weak or lanky people, because that is not true.

You might be surprised to find that some familiar people, such as retailers in a nearby store, bankers, nurses, doctors, cops, firefighters, teachers, students, some military personnel, artists, journalists, businessmen, drivers, and various other people, are or were suffering from depression.

Sometimes men knowingly conceal their illness behind a variety of aggressive and irritable types of behavior, but when they begin martial arts training they will often be exposed because martial arts require self-control, certain calmness, great self-confidence and overly controlled aggression. So, people who practice martial arts should, by their example, point out a desirable behavior to a depressed person, both in the school and outside the school. Some people begin martial arts so they can take out their aggression, dissatisfaction and frustration, or their inner discomfort and anger by kicking a sack, a makiwara, or a wooden kung fu (muk-yong) dummy or a rubber man-shaped Bob. These people will be recognized by the Instructor, and they will be warned and taught so that they can learn to rule their emotions. Depression is sometimes hidden behind such uncontrolled aggression (most often with men).

The fact is that a certain hormonal status may, through biological processes in the brain, condition the occurrence of various and even depressive disorders in women. Practicing martial arts greatly helps women to overcome such health problems. Women often heal their inner discomfort, a certain fear, sadness, concern, or a disease like depression, with yoga, tai chi or some kind of meditation. Unfortunately, it is less known that one of the best ways of treating such conditions in women is fencing (modern or kendo). The discipline requires certain calmness, concentration, focus on a particular moment, all of which encourages women in self-confidence, and removes fear as well as indisputable concern for some event in the future.

Exercise of the kata (forms) will also help with such depressive conditions, as well as the katas, with various weapons that are aesthetically appealing to women. Women may also feel much stronger and safer if they practice with weapons such as swords, spears, tonfas, some knives, and so on.

Athletic Kick at the beach

Practicing various martial arts also helps children in eliminating various depressive states. If a child is in training or somewhere else, uncontrollably aggressive, irritable, listless and confused, do not immediately conclude that he/she is simply undisciplined because he/she may be ill and suffering from depression. Such a child’s condition will be immediately recognized in training, and the trainer (instructor) will help the child by example, as well as with the conversation with the child. The child will be directed to controlled aggression and also to a certain correct control of his/her emotions, and in particular martial arts exercises will enhance his/her self-esteem.

Although depression can be cured in more than 50 percent of cases, it is recurrent. In the prevention of relapses, it is important, together with the use of appropriate and carefully dosed medications, to work on oneself, to induce certain lifestyle changes, reformulate and set up new and realistic goals, or apply a whole range of psychological and social interventions. Then a person will be greatly assisted with learning and practicing some martial arts skills. Martial arts coaches can never be misled by a sick person’s false smile or with short – “I’m fine“. During the training they will notice any change of behavior in the depressed person and respond in a timely manner. Practicing martial arts will help people not to fall back into a state of depression, and will help in the eliminationof depression, as well as in preventing relapses of the disease. The treatment of depression can take a long time, but the length it takes to heal can be greatly reduced if a person undergoes proper training using martial arts skills.

If you are depressed, begin practicing martial arts and confide in your instructor – the leader of your martial center and trust him! He will not condemn you, nor consider you weak, but he will be understanding, and will certainly strive to help you.