My raison d’être has always been, and still is, helping people to fight depression.
It was my own battle with depression, my subsequent brush with death, and my eventual success with qigong that motivated me to start teaching this art back in 2005. When I quit my my cushy IT job in New York City and moved to Florida to attend acupuncture school, I was thinking about helping my fellow depressives. It was a calling.
People tell me that my passion for qigong is infectious. That’s because I’m dead serious about this art. I know that qigong saves lives because it saved mine.
Today, I have thousands of students from all over the world, but not all of them identify with clinical depression. After all, qigong helps with a wide range of problems because it supercharges the body’s natural healing ability. My students have gotten remarkable results with health issues that I didn’t even know existed.
Qigong is powerful medicine, but I need to be clear that I’m not “cured” of depression. The word “cure” is problematic for many reasons, not the least of which is that some level of depression in life is entirely normal.
On top of that, I’ve had more than 3 major depressive episodes in my life. Way more. According to the latest research, this means that I have a 99% chance of recurrence.
When you talk about a “cure” and then a student experiences a minor relapse (which is normal), it can make them feel like a failure even though they’re actually a success.
That’s why I don’t hide my depression from my students. I’ve already written at length about it, and I imagine I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Unlike some qigong teachers, including several of my own, I don’t make false promises of “curing the incurable.”
Qigong is amazing enough on its own. There’s no need to pretend that it’s a cure-all. I leave that to the snake-oil salesmen.
I’m not a guru on the mountain. I’m just a regular guy. But I happen to be a guy who manages Major Depressive Disorder better using qigong than most people do with therapy or drugs.
It should not come as a shock to anyone when I say that the last few weeks have been a struggle for me. I feel silly even mentioning it because the mild depressive episode that I faced was like a category 1 tropical storm compared to the devastating category 5 episodes I’ve dealt with in the past.
I mention it now because I know that I’m not alone. Others are suffering right now. And THAT is what this article is really about.
Put Your Oxygen Mask On First
I had all sorts of cool things planned for my email subscribers — some free videos, a guided meditation, a PDF, some blog posts, etc. But if 2020 has taught me anything it’s that Mike Tyson was right when he said: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
2020 has punched billions of people in the mouth, myself included.
Flight attendants tell us to put OUR oxygen mask on first and only then try to help others with theirs. Not that any of us are doing much flying these days, but I like this imagery. First, you have to take care of yourself.
That’s what I’ve been doing the last few weeks. Although I’ve continued to teach and write, I’ve also retreated. For me, this means more qigong, more stillness, more reading, and more rest.
I’ve got my oxygen mask on and now I’m ready to help others. And just in time because people desperately need help.
There’s a lot going on in the world right now. Maybe you’ve noticed? We’re not just facing a global, once-in-a-century pandemic. In case you forgot, here are a few other things we’ve faced so far in 2020:
- wildfires in Australia (remember when those were our biggest worry?)
- a weeklong scare of a US war with Iran over the assassination of an Iranian general
- Donald Trump was impeached
- Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and 7 passengers died in a helicopter crash
- the UK withdrew from the European Union
- the stock market had its biggest crash in decades
- the Olympics were postponed
- the NBA playoffs were postponed
- Breonna Taylor was shot in her own bed by police using a no-knock warrant at the wrong address
- George Floyd was murdered
- the police are using excessive force against peaceful protesters
- the economy is in shambles
- tens of millions of Americans are unemployed
So yeah. It’s a lot. No wonder depression is on the rise. Experts warn that we’re facing a tsunami of mental-health issues, from depression to PTSD to substance abuse. Nearly 50% of Americans say that the pandemic is harming their mental health. (source)
Black Americans and Mental Health
Black Americans have it especially bad. Just as they are disproportionately suffering from the coronavirus, they’re also disproportionately suffering from mental health challenges. According to the Washington Post, depression and anxiety spiked among black Americans immediately after George Floyd’s death.
And let’s be clear — black Americans were ALREADY facing massive challenges when it comes to mental health.
I’m especially concerned because black Americans are less likely to seek treatment for depression and other mental health challenges. This is a complex issue with multiple components — lower levels of healthcare among black Americans, greater stigma associated with depression, and general fear of the medical establishment.
That fear is completely reasonable, by the way. For example, the Tuskegee Study was conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the United States Public Health Service. According to Wikipedia, this study was a major violation of ethical standards because researchers knowingly failed to treat participants appropriately after penicillin was proven to be an effective treatment for syphilis and became widely available.
This is just one of many examples. Harriet A. Washington, the author of Medical Apartheid, doesn’t even think it’s the worst example. In other words, we can hardly blame black Americans for their fear of the medical establishment. They have reason to be scared.
Depression is Treatable
The good news about depression is that it is treatable. My treatment of choice is qigong, and it has worked wonders for me and thousands of my students.
Others have had success with yoga, regular exercise, dietary changes, and meditation. And of course, there are pharmacological solutions as well.
Antidepressants are not for me, but they work for some people. On the other hand, a $35 million study showed that antidepressants fail to cure the symptoms of major depression in half of all patients, even if they receive the best possible care.
In other words, of the 18 million Americans suffering from depression (before the pandemic), 9 million were still desperate for solutions. This says nothing of the countless Americans who suffer from depression, but go undiagnosed.
In 2020, we’re talking about potentially 150 million people with mental health issues just in the US.
It breaks my heart thinking about people — millions of them — letting their depression go untreated. I know what it’s like to suffer with depression without any treatment whatsoever. I did it for years before discovering qigong. Imagine going through a Chicago winter without a coat or shoes. This is worse.
I don’t want anyone — whether you’re black, white, Asian, Latino, or indigenous — to suffer needlessly with depression. I want you to know that you have options.
Qigong is a perfect choice. Here’s why:
- Qigong is affordable. Or in this case, totally free (see below). But even my premium programs only cost what you would pay for a typical gym membership.
- Qigong can be learned online. I’ve written about this at length here and here. In short, people who say that qigong can’t be learned online shouldn’t interrupt those of us who are already doing it. My online students get remarkable results.
- There is no stigma associated with qigong. If you tell people that you’re seeing a psychiatrist, you will likely be stigmatized. If you tell them that you’re practicing qigong, they’ll have no idea what you’re talking about. Good!
- Qigong requires no athleticism. No, seriously. This is not like one of those “easy” yoga classes that kicks your ass and leaves you sore for days. Anyone can do qigong. You can even do it in a chair.
- Qigong brings fast results with minimal instruction. I’m not saying that your depression will go away after 30 days of qigong. However, I am promising that, after 30-days of my method (see below), you will feel BETTER. And this is precisely the kind of hope that people need when battling depression. They just need to know that things can get better.
How to Get Started with Qigong for Free
Maybe you think that I’m trying to sell you something. I certainly am. I’m trying to sell you on the benefits of qigong. If qigong helps to save one life, then I’ll have done my job.
But I’m a professional teacher and small business owner. So yes, I hope that some of you will eventually sign up for one of my premium programs. But let me be clear — you don’t need to spend a dime to get help.
Recently, in response to the pandemic, I opened up my online program called “Battling Depression and Anxiety with Qigong” to the public for free (reg. $79). In fact, I added more materials to that program, so it’s worth even more now.
For years, I’ve offered tons of freebies on my website, but I’ve never given away anything like this.
Start with that program because it’s the best option. Go grab it now. Seriously. Go!
But if you want more (you know you do!) then here are some of my other freebies:
Get step-by-step instruction in the qigong exercise called Lifting The Sky and learn about the many proven benefits of this art.
At present, there are over 500 research studies on qigong and over 1800 studies on tai chi. Not all of them are conclusive, but many are impressive. Here are some of the benefits with the strongest evidence.
If you’re like me and you sit too long at the computer, then this exercise makes a great break!
This mini-course will give you a simple qigong exercise that you can immediately use to start beating fatigue.
Please Help Me Spread the Word
Like I said, I’m a small business owner. I’m luckier than many of my colleagues in that I closed my brick-and-mortar studio in 2016 and took my courses online. I’m grateful for that blessing.
But the pandemic has affected my business too. For example, I had to cancel my annual summer retreat in Costa Rica.
Right now, I’m offering a ton of stuff for free because I don’t want finances to block anyone from getting the help they need with depression. But soon I’ll release some more freebies along with one of my flagship, year-long programs. Those who want to go deeper and learn more can join that paid program. (Some scholarships will also be available.)
But even if you don’t join, you’ll get a ton of free instruction along the way. So stay tuned!
Either way, I need you to help me spread the word.
If you find qigong helpful (and I’m confident that you will), then I would ask you to pay it forward by sharing this article with friends and family who you think might benefit.
Together, we can literally save lives. Remember, each year, 40,000 Americans die from depression. In the U.S., depression is the 10th leading cause of death for all ages. For comparison, homicide ranks 17th.
Let’s spread the word about qigong and save some lives, shall we? From the heart, Sifu Anthony