Countering Stress and Depression by The Dalai Lama

At a fundamental level, as human beings, we are all the same; each  one of us aspires to happiness 
and each one of us does not wish to  suffer. This is why, whenever I have the opportunity, 
I try to draw  people's attention to what as members of the human family we have in  
common and the deeply interconnected nature of our existence and  welfare.
Today, there is increasing recognition, as well  as a growing body of scientific evidence, 
that confirms the close  connection between our own states of mind and our happiness. 
On the one  hand, many of us live in societies that are very developed materially,  
yet among us are many people who are not very happy. Just underneath the  beautiful surface
of affluence there is a kind of mental unrest,  leading to frustration, unnecessary quarrels, 
reliance on drugs or  alcohol, and in the worst case, suicide. There is no guarantee that  
wealth alone can give you the joy or fulfilment that you seek. The same  can be said of 
your friends too. When you are in an intense state of  anger or hatred, even a very close friend
appears to you as somehow  frosty, or cold, distant, and annoying.
However, as human  beings we are gifted with this wonderful human intelligence. 
Besides  that, all human beings have the capacity to be very determined and to  
direct that strong sense of determination in whatever direction they  like. 
So long as we remember that we have this marvellous gift of human intelligence and a 
capacity to develop determination and use it in  positive ways, we will preserve our underlying 
mental health. Realizing  we have this great human potential gives us a fundamental strength.
This  recognition can act as a mechanism that enables us to deal with any  difficulty,
no matter what situation we are facing, without losing hope  or sinking into feelings 
of low self-esteem.
I write this  as someone who lost his freedom at the age of 16, 
then lost his country  at the age of 24. Consequently, I have lived in exile for more than 
50 years during which we Tibetans have dedicated ourselves to keeping the 
Tibetan identity alive and preserving our culture and values. On most  days the news from Tibet
is heartbreaking, and yet none of these  challenges gives grounds for giving up. 
One of the approaches that I  personally find useful is to cultivate the thought: 
If the situation or  problem is such that it can be remedied, then there is no need 
to worry  about it. In other words, if there is a solution or a way out of the 
difficulty, you do not need to be overwhelmed by it. The appropriate  action is to seek its solution. 
Then it is clearly more sensible to  spend your energy focussing on the solution 
rather than worrying about  the problem. Alternatively, if there is no solution, 
no possibility of  resolution, then there is also no point in being worried about it,  
because you cannot do anything about it anyway. In that case, the sooner  you accept this fact, 
the easier it will be for you. This formula, of  course, implies directly confronting 
the problem and taking a realistic  view. Otherwise you will be unable to find out whether 
or not there is a  resolution to the problem
Taking a realistic view and  cultivating a proper motivation can also shield you against feelings
 of  fear and anxiety. If you develop a pure and sincere motivation, if you  are motivated by a wish
 to help on the basis of kindness, compassion,  and respect, then you can carry on any kind of work,
in any field, and  function more effectively with less fear or worry, not being afraid of  what others 
think or whether you ultimately will be successful in  reaching your goal. Even if you fail to achieve 
your goal, you can feel  good about having made the effort. But with a bad motivation, people can  
praise you or you can achieve goals, but you still will not be happy.
Again,  we may sometimes feel that our whole lives are unsatisfactory, we feel  on the point of being 
overwhelmed by the difficulties that confront us.  This happens to us all in varying degrees from time 
to time. When this  occurs, it is vital that we make every effort to find a way of lifting our spirits. 
We can do this by recollecting our good fortune. We may,  for example, be loved by someone; 
we may have certain talents; we may  have received a good education; we may have our basic needs 
provided for  - food to eat, clothes to wear, somewhere to live - we may have  performed certain 
altruistic deeds in the past. We must take into  consideration even the slightest positive aspect
of our lives. For if we  fail to find some way of uplifting ourselves, there is every danger of 
sinking further into our sense of powerlessness. This can lead us to  believe that we have no 
capacity for doing good whatsoever. Thus we  create the conditions of despair itself.
As a Buddhist  monk I have learned that what principally upsets our inner peace is what  
we call disturbing emotions.  All those thoughts, emotions, and mental  events which reflect a
 negative or uncompassionate state of mind  inevitably undermine our experience of inner peace. 
All our negative  thoughts and emotions - such as hatred, anger, pride, lust, greed, envy,  
and so on - are considered to be sources of difficulty, to be  disturbing. Negative thoughts 
and emotions are what obstruct our most  basic aspiration - to be happy and to avoid suffering.
 When we act under  their influence, we become oblivious to the impact our actions have on  
others: they are thus the cause of our destructive behaviour both toward  others and to ourselves. 
Murder, scandal, and deceit all have their  origin in disturbing emotions.
This inevitably gives rise  to the question - can we train the mind? There are many methods by 
which  to do this. Among these, in the Buddhist tradition, is a special  instruction called mind 
training, which focuses on cultivating concern  for others and turning adversity to advantage. 
It is this pattern of  thought, transforming problems into happiness that has enabled the  
Tibetan people to maintain their dignity and spirit in the face of great  difficulties. 
Indeed I have found this advice of great practical  benefit in my own life.
A great Tibetan teacher of mind  training once remarked that one of the mind’s most
 marvellous qualities  is that it can be transformed. I have no doubt that those who 
attempt to  transform their minds, overcome their disturbing emotions and achieve a 
 sense of inner peace, will, over a period of time, notice a change in  their mental 
attitudes and responses to people and events. Their minds  will become more disciplined and
positive. And I am sure they will find  their own sense of happiness grow as they contribute 
to the greater  happiness of others. I offer my prayers that everyone who makes this  their goal 
will be blessed with success.
The Dalai Lama
December 31, 2010
Published in the Hindustan Times, India, on January 3rd, 2011

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