Mental Health is a concept that refers to the psychological and emotional well-being of a person. Being mentally healthy generally means that we are able to use our emotional capabilities to function well in society and go through everyday life with little or no difficulty. Some factors that can affect our mental health are our family life, social life, and life at work. Having negative experiences in any of the said areas can deteriorate the condition of our mental health.
Mental illnesses, on the other hand, refer to health-related conditions where a person’s mood or thinking affects his ability to work well or relate to other people. Two of the most common mental health concerns in our society are depression & anxiety. They are often experienced as a complex set of emotional and functional challenges.
According to Ayurveda, depression is categorized by the suppression of one’s prana – or life force energy. Prana plays the most important role in One’s life by providing the will to live. When it is diminished much of our life force is lost, including:
- Loss of desire to participate in activities
- Increase in anxiety
- Loss of interest and pleasure
- Fatigue, irritability
- Social withdrawal
- Acting out behavior
- Family conflict
- Loss of appetite or weight gain
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Poor concentration
Prana may become diminished for a variety of the reasons above, but what people with reduced prana have in common are low ojas and the inability to remain stable under stress.
The science of mind-body medicine helps us understand the ongoing connection between the mind and body and see how anxiety and depression may be triggered by a variety of factors. From the ayurvedic perspective, stress & anxiety are caused by lack of coordination of our individual’s senses, emotions and thoughts. The heart and mind are intimately connected, because the heart is the “seat” of consciousness. In the Charaka Samhita, a main Ayurveda text, it is said “hridaye chetana sthanam” which means, “the seat of consciousness is in the heart.”
According to Ayurveda, these conditions occur mainly due to the imbalance of the three doshas (Biological Humors) mainly vata, which maintains the equilibrium of the body. The vata dosha controls the whole sensory and motor activities of the body in which brain is the center of all these activities.
Let’s count our steps to make everything balanced with Ayurveda:
- Go to bed before 10:00 p.m, the Kapha time of night. This time generates a deep, restful sleep that truly refreshes mind and body. Falling asleep after 10:00 p.m. produces a more restless sleep and you will be more likely to wake up in the night with restlessness & emotional distress.
- Wake up before sunrise which is BRAHMAMUHURTA (GOD’s Time). Brahmamuhurta is the morning period an hour and a half before sunrise. After a good night’s sleep, the mind is refreshed, calm and serene. There is a preponderance of sattva or purity in the mind at this time, as well as in the atmosphere. Sleeping during the later than 6:00 a.m. causes the channels of communication to be clogged with impurities, leading to a dull mind, depressed moods and slow communication between heart, soul & mind.
- Walk outdoors when the sun is rising & experience the mornings first rays while practicing pranayama Incorporate a yoga sequence as yoga is essential to combat depression. Yoga helps move blocked emotions and hormones out of the body. It increases the power of digestive fire and helps improve processing power. Exercise also releases positive neuro hormones, elevating mood and positive thoughts.
- Aahrara (food) is the necessary issue of all the living beings. It is stated that “Praninam Punarmoolamaaharam” – the route of all beings is nothing but food itself. In Ayurvedic classics it is mentioned foremost among the three Upasthambas (Sub pillars) which support the three main Sthambas (Pillars) of the body viz. Tridosha. It shows the credibility of food. Only proper food is not sufficient to be healthy. The time, place, quantity and manner of food intake are also necessary. ‘Aahar sambhava Vastu Rogashcha Aahar sambhava’ –Food taken in proper manner helps in the proper growth of the body on contrary if taken in improper manner leads to various diseases. The mental factor of a man is reflected by the type of food he takes – “Ahara Shuddhou Satwa Shudhihi”. In Bhagavatgeeta also we find the references regarding the three types of food like Satvika, Rajasika and Tamasika .Eat Pure, sattvic Foods that are natural and unprocessed are digested quickly by the body and create ojas which creates bliss, balanced & stable emotions while promoting good health within the body. Pure sattvic foods are milk, Ghee (clarified butter) and honey. They are, medhya, supporting the physical brain, and enhancing the coordination of mental functions, such as Dhi, Dhriti and Smriti (learning, retention and recall). When the mind remains strong, it is able to effortlessly command the senses. Lessen the intake of foods that are processed, pre-prepared, preserved, fermented, canned, packaged, frozen, microwaved, fried, barbecued, and high in sugar or spices, and those that contain artificial flavors.
- AACHAR RASAYANA The term Aachar signifies physical and mental conduct of an individual and it has been termed as Rasayanae i.e. a vitalizing agent for the entire span of life. In Rasayanadhya our Aacharya has introduced a unique concept of codes and conducts for day to day implementation along with wholesome food habits. Achara Rasayana, told in the classics has a direct influence in maintaining the mental and spiritual well-being. An individual has to follow some rules and regulations to maintain both personal and social health. These directly affect the mental level of a person and have their role in both health and disease.
- There is a saying from the Vedic literature that goes, Satyam Bruyat, Priyam Bruyat, which means, “Speak the sweet truth. Speaking truth creates Ojas in the body, the biochemical correlate of bliss and health. Speaking lies, on the other hand, leads to mental disturbances.
- Neurotonic herbs of Ayurveda: Brahmi, Ashwagandha, licorice, Calamus, Turmeric & Guduchi. All these herbs help restore mental balance and are a specific set of herbs utilized in this 5,000-year-old practice. They can help boost memory, reduce cognitive impairment, and even significantly help create feelings of well-being while lessening anxiety and depression.