In Part 2 of the article “Beyond the Symptoms,” based on an interview with Dr. David Simon, which was featured in the December 2009 issue of Elevated Existence Magazine, Simon discusses a holistic approach to anxiety and depression, and ways we can make changes in our lives in order to alleviate and release the emotions that can lead to disease in the body.
For part 1 of the article, see “Remembering Dr. David Simon: An Interview Part 1.”
Alleviating Anxiety and Depression
When dealing with many mental or psychiatric disorders, medication is extremely important.
Illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder — often based on a deeper genetic, biochemical imbalance — require medication, Simon says. But for issues with anxiety, depression and insomnia, a mind/body approach can have amazing effects.
And when used in conjunction, can get people off medication sooner. “Medication for these things can be such an easy shortcut, and we need to raise the threshold of how readily doctors are giving them out,” he explains, noting often people will feel better from the medicine and the underlying issue will never be addressed. “When someone dies, suddenly a person is put on an antidepressant, and they are not even allowed to grieve.”
Ideally, Simon believes medication should be used for a short period of time while helping people work through their issues, along with teaching them alternative lifestyle changes, such as meditation and yoga.“People often just want relief, and if doctors offered them relief without going on a psychotropic medication, most people would opt for that, but so many just give the pill,” he says.
While a psychiatrist might know that if a person started meditation on a regular basis and reduced the amount of caffeine they take in during the day, it might help with their anxiety, many assume the patient won’t do these things, and so they just offer a pill, Simon explains. But in essence, people are “outsourcing their biochemistry.”
“I work with people trying to get off medication all the time, and I tell them, ‘If you had a manufacturing plant in the United States and you learned you could do the work overseas for much less, you would fire everyone and move. But then, if all of the sudden you decide you want to start back in the United States, you can’t just open up the same day — it takes time.’”
Simon says the same is true with the human brain. Once you start giving it serotonin from the outside, it realizes it doesn’t have to make it from the inside anymore. So getting off of medication can take four to six weeks, “until the brain says, ‘Oh, you’re serious. You really are going to make me manufacture this myself,’” he explains.
By looking at diet, exercise and sleep habits, shifts can be made to produce the same chemicals from within, rather than depending on an outside source. Getting to bed by 10 p.m., eating healthy foods, walking in beautiful, natural settings and more can help create a feeling of peace and keep a person centered.
“The practice of meditation is key because it gives people a glimpse of how they can generate peace inside their own body,” Simon says. “Good, healthy food; good smells; nourishing sounds; and good relationships — if everyone had these things we would all be healthy and happy. At The Chopra Center, we recreate the memory of wholeness, and teach skills to allow people to stay connected to their center.”
Particularly when it comes to anxiety, Simon believes by putting time into it and learning these new skills, people can learn to live without anxiety in a natural way. “Living without anxiety is a skill set that we have to be taught, and then the need for medication will go away,” he explains.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in December 2009. The seminars mentioned below have changed. See www.chopra.com/healingtheheart for more information.)
The Chopra Center offers emotional healing seminars, which Simon says he has been developing for years. The first of the two-part series dedicated to emotional healing is called “Free to Love,” which takes place over three days and is about identifying, mobilizing and releasing emotional toxicity getting in the way of good health. The second part is “Free to Heal,” which dedicates five days focused on rejuvenation for the body.
“Fee to Love is intensely healing, but we are finding people are pretty raw afterward, and so we encourage them to learn how to take better care of themselves in a compassionate and loving way through the second course, “Free to Heal,” explains Simon. “With both, they have the deep insights to release the pain, and also have the tools to move forward, treat themselves lovingly and have healthy relationships.”
In his book, which is based on these courses, Simon reveals a variety of methods for emotional clearing, including heart-opening yoga poses, breathing exercises and specific “intuitive self-reflection” exercises that take the reader through a series of questions to both reflect upon and journal about. “Breath and thought work closely together, so we find that by consciously using the breath, we can access information we previously suppressed,” he says.
Also, the yoga poses were developed over the years to make it easier for people to bring awareness into the places of the body associated with emotions, and stretching, moving and breathing helps the release of toxic emotions from the body. “If people are tuned in, they feel emotions in the heart, gut and occasionally the sexual organs,” Simon explains. “The yoga poses are designed to open up the core emotional center and release the energy trapped inside.”
And while many who go through the program or do it themselves at home may be tempted not to do the journaling element, Simon says it is a very important piece. Rather than going through the steps in the mind, writing them down is necessary — not only to remember the insights revealed, but to get them out of our minds and onto the paper.
“We carry all this stuff around on our internal hard drive, and when we write it down, it’s like downloading it to a flash drive and creating space,” Simon says. “We need to quiet down the usual conversation of our mind and start asking questions from a deeper place. We may not think we know what we need, but we do know it somewhere, and intuitive self-reflection is a way of hearing the truth and bringing into awareness.”
The key to emotional health, and in turn physical health, is learning how to stay centered, no matter what life throws at us. It’s about learning to make better choices, and knowing we all deserve to be happy and healthy, have nurturing relationships and have a meaningful life by expressing our unique purpose. By ridding ourselves of toxic emotions — some we may have been carrying around for a lifetime — and learning a new, healthy way to live and love, we can find our center and know how to return to it when we fall off.
“If we have an inner state of wellbeing, where the mind is relatively quiet and the body is in comfort, we can evaluate, and listen to our bodies and minds to get information from a deeper place,” Simons says. When evaluating a decision in life, our mind and body will often generate signals, letting us know when something doesn’t feel right. The more centered we are, the more likely we will be able to recognize the signals, he notes.
“The more your baseline is centered, balanced and comfortable, the more sensitive you will be to going out of your center. But if your baseline is one of chaos, you won’t even notice you are out of balance.”
To leave a note in remembrance of Dr. Simon, visit the Remembering David Web site.