What is Mental Health Awareness?
Manas (Mental Health) is the closest translation of the word mind that we have in Sanskrit and the ancient Ayurveda texts. However, Manas is a lot broader than the mind. It is hard to condense into human terms what Manas truly encompasses.
In the briefest way, Manas is a combination of the neuro-vascular system's functional aspect, the mind, and beyond.
This beyond is unknown, yet there are understood aspects of this beautiful and complex mystery that allow us to control and heal it.
The Manas has three subcategories or dosha
- Satwa - peacefulness/calmness
- Rajas - mania/anger
- Tamas - depression/laziness
A healthy balanced meal needs a good ratio-combination of the 6 tastes; namely sweet, spicy, salty, sour, astringent, and bitter to fully nourish the body.
Likewise, a healthy balanced mind needs a good ratio-combination of Satwa, Rajas, and Tamas to fully nourish the Manas.
Satwa is pure. The more it increases, the higher level of being you achieve. Worldly pressures like material things, emotional attachments and money will have less hold on you when you are more Saatvik.
This is good for people whose only life purpose is peace. Although, for people with duties to family, society, or themselves, Satva needs to be balanced with the other two doshas to upkeep drive and motivation to a healthy degree to fulfill these duties.
Rajas in essence are your driving force. The go-getter in you. The part of you that makes you do things. Rajas bring your motivation, but when in excess it brings your anxiety, overly self-critical notions, and tendencies to drive yourself to burnout.
Rajasic people may not be able to take a healthy break and feelings of guilt and worthlessness may overcome them if for some reason they must stop working.
Rajasic people may also express this trait by looking for an adventure to an extreme, throwing caution to the wind as their main goal becomes an adrenaline rush; as stated before, in excess these emotions are dangerous.
Tamas is your relaxation. The part of you that lets you unwind and sleep. Tamas lets you regulate yourself and it makes you lethargic.
Tamasic people are susceptible to depression and feeling worthless, but they will not be motivated to change even when they have the desire to.
Some people are both Taamsic and Raajsic, which means even existing for them is a constant battle as the two active components of their Manas are constantly at battle.
What does Ayurveda say about Mental Health?
The main gift of Ayurvedic treatment of mental health is to increase Satwa and create the required balance of Rajas and Tamas according to an individual's life and needs.
For example, a sannyasi/sage will have and need a higher level Satwa than a grihast/householder who in turn may need more Rajas in comparison to a sage.
Now let's look at the relation between the three Dhatu and Dosha
- Vata- Raajsic
- Pitta- Saatvik
- Kapha- Taamsic
In this route of treatment, it is important to remember that while no food is good or bad, every food is either going to increase or decrease your Vata, Pitta, and Kapha in some way.
Every bite of food in this treatment should be seen as medicine and should be as healthy and balanced as possible.
A great way to achieve healthy eating without going on extremely restrictive diets is to limit food that works opposite to your needs to social gatherings like going out with family or friends and eating balanced and homely food at all other times.
As per Ayurveda, "ahara" or food has three levels of division once consumed
- Sthool (waste)- excreted by the body
- Madhyam (medium)- nourishes the physical body
- Sooksham (minute)- nourishes the mind
Whenever food is considered, the rasa dhatu as mentioned in the previous post is the most directly affected.
Here are some medicinal herbs according to the Ayurveda
- Mandukaparni - Cantella asiatica
- Yashtimadhu - Glycyrrhiza glabra
- Guduchi - Tinosppra cordifolia
- Shankhapushpi - Convolvulus pleuricaulis
- Bhrami - Bacopa monnierri
- Amla - Phyllanthus Emblica
- Vacha - Acorus calamus
- Sarpagandha - Rauvolfia serpentia
- Gokshura - Tribulus terretris
- Jyotishmati - Celastrus paniculatus
These medicines can all be used for balancing the 2 mano doshas (rajas and tamas) and increasing mano guna (satva). Start with small doses of any one of them (one teaspoon, twice a day) to figure out which suits you best.
Method of Consumption
The best way would be to mix a teaspoon of the powdered form of the medicine with milk or ghee.
For a vegan approach, coconut milk/ cold pressed coconut oil/sesame seed milk/cold pressed sesame oil can be used. If these are all unavailable, you can try these medicines with water as infused teas or tonics.
(Vaidya Tip!) If both your Rajas and Tamas are high, you need to increase Satva to balance them out.
Mental Health with Dietary Changes
For Low Rajas/High Tamas
Spicy and Astringent foods like garlic and chilies will increase Rajas. Say you're feeling low/lazy, a spicy bowl of hot khichdi will charge you right up.
For Low Tamas/High Rajas
Heavy and sweet foods like onion and sugar increase Tamas.
Say you're feeling anxious, your mind won't calm down, you can't sleep or you're feeling unexplained aggression, a warm glass of milk with poppy seeds and palm sugar/cane sugar might help you.
For Increasing Satva
Avoid spicy, astringent, oily, sugary, and heavy foods whenever possible. This makes your food Saatvik.
Eat ASHGOURD, pumpkin, gourd family, in general, is very saatvik. Fruits are another delicious option. Try incorporating them into your diet as much as possible.
Desi cow milk/ghee/coconut (in all forms) are also great sources of Saatvik food. Eating seasonal and locally grown food (native to your area) food is also great. Mother nature knows exactly what you need to be properly nourished within the conditions she has put you in.
Additionally, there are lifestyle changes that will help you along.
For Low Rajas/High Tamas
Exercise, even light movement (if you're primarily sedentary) will help. Playing loud upbeat music with soulful (positive or inspirational) lyrics that get your heart pumping, energetic dancing, sun meditation, and limiting sleep time to a comfortable 8 hours will also aid you greatly.
For Low Tamas/High Rajas
Calming activities that switch your mind off, rhythmic hobbies like painting (without aiming for a specific level of perfection), calm classical music and melody with minimal or no lyrics to make sure your mind doesn't wonder too much and of possible, sleeping it off are some things that help with these issues. And full moon meditation is the way to go.
For Increasing Satva
Avoid smoking and drinking even occasionally. Learn to exist within nature, go on barefoot walks on wet mud/grass, bask in early morning sunlight (until 2.5 hours after sunrise, sun exposure gets harsh beyond that) and moonlight (if you're able to sleep under the moonlight, you should surely do it).
Take saltwater baths. Meditate in ways that connect you to yourself and to nature. Surrounding yourself with the right people; gentle, warm, comforting people. Exercise and a good sleep cycle also increase your Satva greatly.
As with anything, consistency of these habits is key. Ayurveda is a slow process that works at the natural pace of your body. The pace is unique to you.
Finally, overthinking is a big cause of vitiating rasa. Finding the correct ways to distract yourself, keeping yourself engaged in desirable activities, and making sure not to get stressfully caught up and that things don't affect you will really help.
Pick your battles in all situations. For extreme cases or if you feel like you don't have the tools to recognize your needs and patterns, seeking professional aid is your safest route.
I, Vaidya Dr. Mohika Gupta sincerely hope these tips helped you the way they help me.
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*Disclaimer - These are universal guidelines for people considered generally healthy, please consult an ayurvedic doctor before consumption of any recommended medicine and patch test every new type of application, keep your allergens in mind.