Regular Tai Chi does help with depression but you have to be well enough to get to the class! Lack of motivation is the biggest hindrance to accessing the benefits of Tai Chi. Once you are there, and attending consistently, you have the opportunity for a real transformation.
A Tai Chi session is a break from whatever else is happening in our lives, some ‘me time’, away from stresses, pressure and worry. We leave those things at the door when we enter the hall. The warm-up exercises release tension in the body and within a few minutes the stress chemicals, cortisol and adrenaline, have reduced. Depression and anxiety depletes our energy but Tai Chi strengthens it. The way of moving is designed to enhance the flow of chi (energy) in the body and make us feel calm and relaxed.
Tai Chi requires that our attention is focused on our posture and movements but this can be difficult to achieve when the mind is overwhelmed with negative thoughts. So we have to persevere. But we do this with compassion. We gently coax ourselves in the same way we would encourage a small child.
Whilst Tai Chi emphasises mindful attention in the present moment, far removed from psychological analysis, we may find ourselves venturing into the realms of therapy. Our Tai Chi practice becomes a means of self-help. When we recognise that our thoughts and emotions are not who we really are, they are only things that we have, we can learn to separate them from the true, ‘inner self’. We then become an observer of those thoughts and emotions, noticing when they arise and allowing them to softly fade away. Sometimes, especially during the standing meditation, we may glean an insight that provides some of the answers we are looking for. We may begin to understand why we feel as we do and how our difficulties can be resolved. That ‘inner self’ has the resources to make the changes we need. Professional or medical intervention may also be desirable or necessary as a treatment for depression, but Tai Chi can play a very useful role in improving mental health.