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Mindful Serenity: Navigating the Path to Mental Wellness with Buddhism

Updated: Apr 30

Many think of Buddhism as a religion but it is the great Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama who said

Psychology can be explained through psychoanalysis or any other therapeutic approach. However, how is it that Buddhism can provide a “non-religious” view from a psychological perspective that helps us achieve a better understanding of our thoughts, emotions, and coping? Further, how do we apply it to our mental health to achieve balance and optimal health? 

Many first thoughts of Buddhism include meditation. Many of us think, “I don’t have time or ability to focus, let alone LEARN meditation.”  Am I right?  Although meditation is one key aspect of living more holistically. I’d like to share a few thoughts and ideas from Buddhism and how it can apply in a psychological or even therapeutic approach.  

Let’s look and see if we can scratch the surface of what aspects of Buddhism can help us with our mental health practically, even for those of us who don’t necessarily want to dedicate ourselves to Buddhist practice or study. With mindfulness, impermanence, compassion and meditation, you can embark on a journey towards greater mental well-being and a deeper understanding of yourself.

First - Some terms defined:

Buddhism (as defined by Western thinking): Some in the West practice a form of secular Buddhism, emphasizing mindfulness and meditation without necessarily incorporating traditional religious aspects. This approach may resonate with individuals seeking practical benefits for well-being.

Buddhism (Eastern Traditional Approach): While there may not be a single "official" definition, the Dalai Lama often highlights the following core concepts:

  • Compassion: Emphasizing the cultivation of compassion and altruism towards all living beings.

  • Wisdom: Focusing on the development of wisdom through understanding the nature of reality and the interconnectedness of all things.

  • Mindfulness: Encouraging the practice of mindfulness and awareness in everyday life.

  • Ethics: Advocating for ethical conduct and the practice of virtuous actions that contribute to the well-being of oneself and others.

  • Non-violence: Promoting non-violence and peaceful resolution of conflicts.

Psychology: The scientific study of the mind and behavior. It encompasses a wide range of topics and approaches aimed at understanding and explaining how individuals think, feel, and behave.


Western Viewpoint (in general): Psychologists like Sigmund Freud explored the nature of suffering within the framework of psychoanalysis. Concepts like repression, unconscious conflicts, and behavioral defense mechanisms are used to understand the psychological aspects of human suffering.

Buddhist Viewpoint: The Buddhist psychological perspective starts with and claims that all people experience at various moments in life certain inherent levels of suffering, whether it be the loss of a loved one, dissatisfaction with one’s job, or simply feeling annoyed getting cut off in traffic. 

The following overview of Buddhist psychology, known to Buddhists as the Four Noble Truths, can offer us a framework of self-understanding coupled with moving through it:

1) understanding the nature of one’s suffering 

2) identifying the causes of suffering 

3) exploring the possibility of the end of suffering

4) the path leading to the end of suffering

The four noble truths provide us with an overview and a roadmap to better understand the truth of our own suffering (struggle, maladaptation, lack of coping) from a Buddhist perspective. This can help us to find peace and build the skills to help us cope, accept, and minimize our suffering to some degree. Sounds like therapy huh?

Where suffering meets change?

One common aspect of why one would suffer in life is dealing with change and how it affects one’s level of stress day to day, especially the unexpected changes one can experience. Coping with change is a common area to focus on in therapy to help one live a more fulfilling life. Given that change is constant even from moment to moment, being more mindful of these changes and developing methods of accepting the change is a key aspect that Buddhist psychology attempts to address and can be a great help in alleviating a sense of chronic suffering such as with an illness or minor/major everyday stress. 

Further discussion of change involves the Buddhist idea that one’s sense of self is not permanent which can allow one to accept their current circumstances, however difficult they may be, or be more open to personal growth and the development of life skills intended to help problem-solve through life’s inherent challenges. I think you can agree that at age 40 we have more wisdom (we hope) and better life skills than when we did when we were age 6 or 18 for example, which can illustrate that the self, to some degree, can change throughout one’s lifetime.

Suffering and Self Awareness - Alleviation through Meditation?

Another important aspect of Buddhist psychology is how meditation fosters self-awareness and emotional regulation. There are many methods and schools of different ways to meditate and each has its strengths and weaknesses but the important thing to remember is that with self-compassion, another Buddhist aspect, one can learn and grow without any amount of self-criticism or self-judgment on how one meditates or for how long we sit, lie down or walk to meditate. I encourage you to seek ways to meditate for even small periods of your day for five minutes here and there. This is why meditation is called a “practice” because it is developed constantly and over time with no goal of perfection in mind. 

What do you think?

There is a genuinely deep and rich history of Buddhism practiced by millions of people worldwide. Some spend a lifetime attempting to understand and develop skills and techniques for better health and a more peaceful approach to life’s challenges.

Buddhist psychology provides a rich tapestry of concepts and practices that offer profound insights into the nature of the mind and human experience. By exploring the Four Noble Truths you can foster self awareness and build a framework to explore ways of coping and develop new ways to incorporate a more satisfactory and fulfilling mental well being.

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