The pandemic has affected everyone’s health in one way or another – mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Globally, anxiety and depression have risen by 26% compared to pre-pandemic reports. The genesis of anxiety and depression affects people differently depending on their primary dosha. In general, causes such as excess Vata from the colon, Pitta from the small intestine, and Kapha from the stomach enter the body’s circulatory system and become lodged in the nervous system, thereby creating an imbalance between the mind and nervous system.
Studies have found that regular meditation lowers anxiety and depression. In fact, research suggests that meditation actually changes how the brain responds to stress and anxiety, both of which are major triggers of depression. It does this by altering your reaction to feelings of stress or anxiety.
A person’s dosha is a very helpful tool for predicting certain tendencies, ailments, and preferences that they might have. With knowledge of your dosha, you can use herbs, diet, nutrition, and exercise to improve your mental health, emotional health, physical health, maintain your ideal weight, have better sleep, reduce stress, and be happier overall.
To find out your unique dosha, take the quiz.
The Power of a Daily Routine
A healthy daily routine is crucial to achieving optimal mental health. It is well-established in the medical literature that inadequate sleep can increase depression and anxiety, and impair cognition and mental focus.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, at our core we are healthy, whole, and happy. It is important to engage in practices that support our essential nature and bring balance to our mind, body, and spirit.
Ayurveda teaches that peace can be found in the connections between living beings and the cycles of life found in nature. As you begin to live in harmony with your environment, you will naturally become more self-aware and feel empowered to overcome any obstacles, fears, insecurities, and imbalances in your life.
Here are some key areas to focus on when creating a daily routine:
- Go to bed before 10pm. That is the time when Kapha dominates and a person is most likely to naturally feel sleepy. Levels of melatonin, a hormone released by the pineal gland that regulates the sleep–wake cycle, are highest for most people at this time. Getting enough rest is essential for emotional health, and falling asleep during theKapha time of night generates a deep, restful sleep that truly refreshes mind and body. Falling asleep after 10pm produces a more restless sleep, and you will be more likely to wake up during the night with emotional distress.
- Wake up with the rising sun. Waking up early is critical to preventing depression, because sleeping past 6am leads to a dull mind, depressed moods, and slow communication between the heart and the mind.
- There is something deeply healing about watching the sunrise and shifting our brain from tamas (the pitch darkness of the night) to rajas (the changing of darkness into light) to full-blown sattva (the risen sun). In Sanskrit, beholding a spiritual act through our human eyes, and being blessed in return, is called darshan. Through witnessing this cycle of change, from darkness to light, an inner wisdom can be evoked. This external metamorphosis from darkness to light is a powerful reminder that so, too, can the darkness of our depression be transformed into light. Darkness is simply a passing phase and nothing – whether good or bad – lasts forever.
- Walk outdoors when the sun is rising and breathe deeply. Daily exercise is essential to combatting depression because it increases positive states and helps move blocked emotions out of the body. Walking in the early morning sun helps open the body’s energy channels, stimulates digestion and elimination, and clears impurities.
- Make sure you eliminate each morning. Constipation can cause headache, dullness, fatigue, and depression. If your elimination is sluggish or blocked, start your day with warm lemon water or warm cumin water. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Eat your meals at the same time each day, with the largest meal between 10am and 2pm, and a lighter meal in the evening.
- Eat sattvic foods because they nourish the mind, and promote intelligence and balance. Foods that are fresh, natural, unprocessed, and contain more of nature’s intelligence are digested quickly by the body and create Ojas is the sweet, vital nectar that is the essence of vitality and immunity. It is the product of good digestion and creates bliss, stable emotions, and good health in the body.
Opening Up to Self-Love
Self-love is integral to healing anxiety and depression. If you are willing to open your heart to your own pain and fear and make compassionate space for them, you are on your way to healing.
By committing ourselves to a healthy daily routine, we are able to increase our self-love and self-awareness. From this place of knowledge and acceptance, we can observe our behaviors and begin to notice our fear before it takes control of us and prevents us from living our life to the fullest.
When we surrender to fear, loss, or sadness, it is because we have lost trust. We have lost trust in the Divine. We have lost trust in our choices. We have lost trust in our ability to make the right choices. There is an ongoing struggle within each one of us where the worst possible scenario battles the best possible scenario for our attention. But when we are mindful, we are able to remember that we have the ability to choose the best possible outcome over the worst possible outcome. In any given moment, we have the power to choose. And if we’ve made a mistake, then we have the freedom to choose differently the next time around.
Life is filled with peaks and valleys, highs and lows, crossroads, dead ends, rabbit holes, and long climbs. Throughout any day, we will be at a point where we are at the low part of our emotional capacity. But when we find ourselves in one of those valleys, when we find ourselves at a dead end, when we receive news that darkens our heart, brings tears to our eyes, or makes us want to give up, we can remember the wisdom of the ancient teaching, “This too shall pass.”
This mantra is deeply reassuring when we find ourselves stuck, unwilling to go on, fearful that the next moment will be worse than this one, when we find ourselves ruminating in a space regretting, blaming, pointing at the past for what is now our current situation.
As you move throughout your life, know that you are always stronger in your vulnerability. You are always more courageous in your trust. And you are always more empowered in your ability to choose.
If you need help journeying through your anxiety or depression, contact me for support.
* Please note that depression is a serious medical condition, which needs to be supervised by a doctor. Although Ayurveda can treat mild or pre-clinical cases, these recommendations are not a substitute for consulting a physician.