You don’t need a guru to tell you that physical and mental health share an unbreakable bond. From what you eat and the way you exercise to the fragrances you choose, taking good care of one means doing the same for the other… which actually makes life a little easier, when you think about it. Happy days.
The coronavirus pandemic is enough to rattle even the most zen of individuals, so whether the ‘new normal’ has you feeling anxious, or you’re fighting an ongoing battle against low moods and waning motivation, Ayurvedic science can offer solutions and tools to help you.
Here are our five steps, marrying tried-and-tested ancient traditions with proven modern science to bring your mental health back into balance.
1. Heal from within using Ayurvedic herbal supplements
In an ideal world, we’d get everything we need from diet alone, but it’s not so easy in today’s pre-picked, pre-packaged era. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and science, we can carefully craft supplements that tick all the right boxes in one simple step. We’ve developed a new Mind Tonic supplement which blends eleven natural Ayurvedic ingredients scientifically proven to bring balance to busy minds. Here are three key ingredients that it includes that we think everyone should have on their radar.
For calm: Ashwagandha
Referred to as “nature’s Xanax”, Ashwagandha is a herb proven to increase the body’s ability to cope with stress and therefore reduce anxiety. The science is undeniable — in a clinical study, 88% of adults who suffered from chronic stress felt calmer as a result of using the supplement. It’s believed to work by blocking the pathways in the brain that lead to stress receptors, and does so without the need for any synthesised chemicals.
For focus: BrahmiSometimes called Bacopa, this ingredient has been used for centuries to help steady a restless mind. Researchers have found it to be effective in reducing symptoms in up to 85% of children with ADHD, and is prescribed to improve memory for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. So if you’re lacking in motivation or stuck in a vicious-procrastination-cycle (it happens to the best of us) introducing brahmi into your routine could help ramp up your productivity levels.
For neurological health: AmlaThe ‘Indian gooseberry’ is positively bursting with nutrition, fiber and antioxidants that offer a banquet for the brain. Amla helps to fight free radicals (unstable atoms that contribute to damaged and ageing cells) and has a high citric acid content that counteracts accumulations of iron, a phenomenon linked to many neurological conditions including Alzheimers and strokes.
2. Practice mindfulness
We don’t need to tell you about the many benefits of regular meditation: everyone from yoga gurus to hot-shot CEOs wax lyrical about the immensely positive impacts it can have for your mental and physical health. But if you’re new to it, the prospect of sitting still and silent for any period of time could feel a bit daunting… and that’s OK. We love the Calm app for those who are new to practicing mindfulness, and to help you get the zen-ball rolling, we’re curating our favourite wellness events and guided meditations here, so you won’t feel quite so alone with your thoughts when you start out.
Another way to be mindful in your day-to-day life beyond the act of meditation is to introduce intentional practices, like journaling (think less ‘Dear Diary’ and more satisfying lists) or any activities that involve tracking and reflecting on your thoughts. It might sound like a superficial act, but positivepsychology.com lists a whopping 83 benefits of journaling, from reducing stress to boosting your mood. Start by noting down thoughts and moods that have been on your mind at the end of each day, and see where it takes you.
3. Work out which workout is best for you
All forms of exercise are good for you, but not all exercise was created equal. Just like different people need different nutrients in their diets to get the most out of what they eat, the type of exercise you do can hugely influence how good you feel inside and out. Ayurveda teaches that each person has a unique ‘Dosha’ make-up which influences our body type and personality among other things.
Understanding your Dosha can help you to learn which type of workout is going to best balance your body and mind. For example, if your primary Dosha is the fiery Pitta force, you’ll feel great after swimming, because the calm, water-based activity brings balance… but competitive team sports might leave you feeling wound-up and agitated. Airy, changeable Vata should take up yoga to help them slow down and ground themselves, but avoid high-intensity activity that will tire them quickly. For grounded, earth-and-water-centered Kapha, sustained exercises like jogging will invigorate, while slow-moving ones like golf will only slow you down.
Not sure what your Dosha type is? Take our quiz to find out.
4. Teach yourself to form positive habits
Habits get a bad wrap: the word is often used to describe undesirable traits and behaviours, but a habit is nothing more than a learned behaviour, and with the help of a little mindful magic we can form new ones that enrich our lives almost automatically. Mental health charity mind.org.uk says that building a routine can help us curb stress and anxiety levels day-to-day, and Ayurveda offers all sorts of tools and tricks for building a daily structure that will balance your inner forces for an enduring sense of happiness and harmony.
This again comes down to the Doshas, which peak and trough at various times throughout the day. First thing in the morning, slow Kapha tends to dominate, making this a great time to exercise. During the middle of the day, fiery Pitta allows for the logical aspects of your brain to flourish, resulting in productivity and focus. As the day winds down, your focus will wane as airy Vata takes over and offers a brilliant window for creative tasks and inspiration-seeking.
5. Feed your Dosha
There’s no such thing as a universally ‘good diet’ — each of our unique selves needs something different to be at its best physically and mentally. One of the most interesting lessons Ayurveda teaches us is that our gut’s health can influence the way we feel throughout the rest of our body and mind, so keeping a happy, healthy gut can fast-track your route to holistic health.
Pitta is the governing force for all of our digestion and metabolism, so if your dominant Dosha is Pitta you’ll need to pay special attention to keeping it in-balance in other areas of your life. Start by taking our Dosha quiz for an overview of your dominant Dosha and the foods that help to balance it, and if you’d like a personalised recommendation, you can book a one-to-one consultation with Colette, Deja’s Ayurvedic Consultant, for an in-depth discussion with an expert.
These are just five of the many ways that introducing Ayurvedic products and practices into your life can help you manage your mental health… but the key is to remember one of the basic teachings of the ancient science: to always strive for balance, and not perfection.
We’re in a constant state of flux and the more we can learn to shift and adapt along with these natural forces at work in our bodies, the calmer and more in control we’ll feel. Watch out for our all-natural, vegan Deja Mind Tonic capsules launching soon, which blend 11 Ayurvedic herbs to help calm and balance the mind.