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 lifeforce 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 ayurvedic 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:
1) 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.
2) 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.
3) Walk outdoors when the sun is rising & experience the mornings first rays while practicing pranayama breathing. 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 neurohormones, elevating mood and positive thoughts.
4) Eat Pure, sattvic food. 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 sattiv foods are milk, Ghee (clarified butter) and honey. 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.
5) Include the 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.