Depression is a condition that has for the most part, escaped efforts by conventional medicine to provide a lasting solution. Now we find that two ancient meditative exercises, Tai chi and Qigong, can significantly reduce symptoms of depression.

One of the shortcomings of conventional medicine’s ability to treat depression is the proposal that depression is only a biological condition. Such a proposal ignores the soul – the personality within the physical body. Adding to the biological needs of the physical body, the needs of the soul relate to love and the connection with our spiritual needs.

Contrasting this, traditional medicine recognises three elements as critical to overall health: Body, mind and soul.The disregard of the soul – the person within – leads to the desolate theory that chemicals that modulate the nervous system can alone fix depression. Certainly, drugs and even herbs that modulate neurotransmitters can reduce symptoms related to nervous responses. But modulating nervous responses typically doesn’t provide a long-term solution.

Besides this, synthetic drug treatments to modulate brain and nerve responses often come with significant side effects.

Side effects of drugs prescribed for depression

A number of drugs are prescribed for depression by doctors in Western medicine. These include, among others:
• Amoxapine
• Brexpiprazole
• Bupropion
• Celexa
• Cymbalta
• Doxepin
• Effexor
• Lexapro
• Marplan
• Methylphenidate
• Paxil
• Prozac
• Remeron
• Ritalin
• Symbyax
• Tofranil
• Wellbutrin
• Zoloft

Besides the potential of addiction, side effects of these antidepressants can include, among others:
• blurred vision
• changes in appetite
• constipation
• diarrhoea
• difficulty urinating
• dizziness
• drowsiness
• dry mouth
• headaches
• increased sweating
• loss of appetite
• nausea
• ringing in the ears
• sore throat
• tremors (shaking)
• trouble sleeping
• upset stomach
• weakness
• weight loss or gain

Often, doctors will end up prescribing additional medications to combat these side effects. This can lead to a cascading prescription plan. This is one of the reasons we find many adults taking multiple prescriptions: to manage the side effects of antidepressant medications.

Traditional treatments for depression

Traditional treatments for depression can include herbs to reduce anxiety and mood-related responses. But traditional doctors also understand the deeper component of depression: the soul.

Exercises that encourage contemplation and meditation have proven to be successful for treating depression because they address the condition of the soul. Contemplation and meditative exercise foster a person looking deeper. This promotes a spiritual solution for feelings of emptiness and loneliness.

Tai chi treats depression

Tai chi is a meditative exercise that promotes spiritual contemplation.

Researchers from the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital conducted a study using 67 adults diagnosed with depression. The researchers divided the patients into three groups. One group practised Tai chi exercise three times a week for 12 weeks. Another group participated in education discussions about depression, stress, passive control and mental health during the same period. The third group remained on a waitlist for both during the same period.

The researchers tested each of the patients prior to the clinical trial. Then after 24 weeks, the researchers again tested each patient again. The doctors used the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression to test the patients.

The researchers found those who practiced the Tai chi had a significant reduction in depressive symptoms compared to the other two groups.

The Tai chi exercise treatments resulted in a 56 percent response rate and a 50 percent remission rate. Yes, just three months of Tai chi cured depression in half of the patients. This was three and four times more than those in the waitlist and education “control” groups.

In a paper on the study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the researchers concluded that, “As the primary treatment, Tai chi improved treatment outcomes …”

Furthermore, there were no negative side effects in the Tai chi treatment.

Qigong also treats depression

Qigong is a very similar meditative exercise system. It has many similarities with Tai chi.

There have been multiple studies testing Qigong with depression in humans. In 2015, researchers from the Australian National University and the University of Queensland conducted a systematic review of the research.

The researchers analysed 30 studies that treated a total of 2,328 depressed patients using Qigong exercises. The analysis found a significant improvement effect in 48 percent of the patients who underwent Qigong treatments.

What is Tai chi?

Tai is a series of slow, gentle and relaxed body movements. These are combined with deep focused breathing and a mental focus within.

Once the basic moves are learned, these exercises result in a contemplative meditation. The exercises are best practised outside in a natural environment where the air is fresh.