Good digestion, sparkling eyes, shining hair – yes, these are indicators of health and vitality. And yet, they are meaningless if your favorite expression is a scowl, or your dominant mood is one of crankiness. Health is more than just physical health. Is your mind healthy too? There are three reasons it may not be!
We talk so much about physical health and wellness, and how to balance lifestyle and nutrition to support lasting health and vitality that it is easy to forget the importance of a healthy mind. A healthy mind can affect our physical health just as much as diet and lifestyle can. So what constitutes a healthy mind? A healthy mind is one that is balanced, one that is peaceful and not prone to anxiety and/or depression. A healthy mind does not get caught up in the drama of the situation or over-react. A healthy mind does not need drugs or stimulants to feel good and lastly a healthy mind promotes contentment and joy.
Let’s look at the 3 reasons why your mind may not be healthy and they are Rajas, Tamas and Sattva.
These are qualities of the mind, characteristics if you like. We do need all three qualities but just like other areas of your life can go out of balance, so can these qualities of the mind.
Tamas will have us feeling depressed, heavy and stagnant. Tamas has the quality of dullness, darkness and inertia. Tamas brings about ignorance and delusion in the mind and promotes sleep and loss of awareness. A tamasic lifestyle is marked by lethargy, oversleeping and dullness. Digestive toxins promote tamasic qualities in the mind and the only way out of this dullness is to introduce a more rajasic lifestyle.
Rajas promotes action, change, motivation and turbulence. However, in excess, rajas leads to mental upset, selfishness and the desire to seek happiness outside of ourselves. A rajasic lifestyle is fueled by short-lived pleasures and while in the short term rajas is stimulating and provides pleasure, owing to its unbalanced nature it will inevitably result in pain and suffering. It causes distress and conflict. The key is, therefore, to keep rajas in check through nurturing sattva, something you can do through simple dietary and lifestyle changes.
Sattva promotes love, peace, fulfillment, clarity, health and stability. In nurturing a sattvic mind and lifestyle, one becomes less attached to ego and begins to recognize the underlying connection of all life. A sattvic lifestyle is a lifestyle of simplicity and honesty in which excess materialism is discarded. If you are thinking this lifestyle sounds great for a monk, but is impractical in your own world, don’t worry! Bringing more sattva into our lives is as simple as opening our eyes a little wider and being more aware. Engaging in calm and peaceful activities increases sattva. One of the greatest ways to increase sattva is through the foods we eat.
Chef Johnny in the book, Eat, Taste Heal says …”think of sattva as taking a refreshing walk through the woods or along the ocean on a clear, bright day. There is joy, purity, and lightness in the experience. Rajas, on the other hand is like taking a walk through a crowded city, with sensory impressions bombarding you from every direction. While it is exciting to be stimulated with the energy of a city it can become overwhelming or unsettling. For tamas, the walk is skipped entirely in lieu of the couch!”
Since the mind and body are interrelated, it makes sense then that we feed our mind just as we feed our body. We can categorize food in relation to how it promotes the qualities of the mind. You can increase sattva just by eating sattvic foods.
Examples of Sattvic Foods:
Think of sattvic foods as fresh, pure and vibrant. These include natural, organic ingredients that are free from chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers and preservatives. The body can easily digest sattvic foods, leading to vitality and a balanced mind. The regular consumption of these foods prevents disease and promotes physical, mental and spiritual health. Many sattvic foods are sweet in nature and thus have a rejuvenating effect on the body and a calming effect on the mind.
- Most fresh fruits, vegetables and freshly prepared grains
- Many types of beans, including black, mung, soy and fava beans
- Cow’s milk (organic)
- Sesame and sunflower seeds
- Cashews, almonds, walnuts and macadamia nuts
Examples of Rajasic Foods:
These are stimulating in nature and have the sweet, sour, bitter and pungent tastes. Many rajasic foods are only palatable after developing a taste for them. Used in moderation, these foods provide the body with vital energy and help kindle agni (digestive fire). In excess, however, these foods create imbalances within all three doshas. leading to anger, jealousy, and egotism.
- Lemon & lime
- Kidney beans
- Hot spices
Examples of Tamasic Foods:
These foods are dull and lifeless. Artificial processes such as canning, freezing and microwaving make food tamasic. Tamasic foods suppress agni (metabolism) and require large amounts of energy to digest. The consumption of these foods leads to digestive toxins. One should try to avoid tamasic foods as much as possible as they cause sluggishness, heaviness in the mind and depression.
- Stale foods
- Deep-fried foods
- Meat and fish
- Ice cream
- Frozen foods
- Microwaved foods
- White sugar
- White flour
Taking responsibility for your own wellness means making time to balance your mind too. Many of the foods in the Ayurveda Meal Plan Program are sattvic foods that help you achieve optimal health through your body and mind.