Mental Health Promotion Through Ayurveda
By Naalir Jamaldeen
A person with a weak psyche may see their daily routine affected by fear, stress, anxiety and various other related causes.
With the outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 virus, the Government imposed a long curfew throughout the country, and some physically and mentally weak persons might have passed the days with panic, said Dr. M.W. Saumya Jankanthi Kumari, Senior Lecturer at the University of Colombo’s Institute of Indigenous Medicine.
She recommended regular exercise, including breathing exercises, listening to music, reading books that calm the mind, engaging in religious activities and meditation to improve mental health. Practising yoga can also be useful, as it helps increase lung volume effectively.
Ayurveda also lays out some universal ethics for mental health promotion. These include the need to perform actions at the proper times, avoid undertaking any action thoughtlessly, avoid becoming a slave to the sense organs, avoid allowing the mind to wander, prevent overstimulation of sense organs, avoid thinking too far in all matters, refrain from doing things in a fit of joy or anger, avoid habouring sorrow for a long time, and to avoid being too elated by success or being too dejected by failure.
In addition to these guidelines, Dr. Saumya Kumari stated, one should maintain friendships with those bearing good qualities.
She opined that one must develop associations with well-mannered people, disassociate from cruel people, treat those less fortunate with respect, and to be helpful and kind, even to our enemies.
Dr. Saumya Kumari said that concentration should be maintained; natural urges should not be suppressed, but psychological urges like fear and anger should be controlled; sensory fulfilment may be carried on without abstinence, but should not be nurtured too much; and that one must never be a surety to anybody, nor a witness or middle-man.
Ayurveda advises people to prohibit sinful conduct, speech and mind, such as back-biters, those of a quarrelsome nature, those indulging in sarcastic remarks about others, the greedy, those who envy the prosperity of others, those who indulge in defaming others, the fickle-minded, those devoid of companions, and those not following a virtuous course of life, she said.
People who display maturity, those acquainted with human nature and devoid of anxiety, those that remain well-behaved with everybody and follow a righteous course of action and those that advocate good conduct are recommended companions, according to Dr. Saumya Kumari.
She said that maintaining one’s physical and mental strength, decreasing bad qualities of mind, avoiding intellectual blasphemy, following a code of conduct, eating compatible food to augment the mental faculty, living according to natural law (trivarga anvavekshana) and having self-realisation are recommended for the promotion of mental health.
Dr. Saumya Kumari said that specially gotukola (centrella asiatica), lunuwila (baccopa monnieri), amukkara (withania somnifera), vadakaha (acorus calamus) are some mental health-promoting herbs. They reduce stress and strain, and improve memory power, but have to be use with proper medical guidance.
Misuse of sense organs such as touch, hearing, vision, taste and smell, as well as intellectual abuse and wasting time, are an act of insufficiency. As an example for intellectual abuse, she pointed to how people know that smoking is bad for health, and yet knowingly continue the habit. They are more easily vulnerable to Acute Respiratory Disease Syndrome, which is a severe condition in the novel Coronavirus infection. Therefore, we must put an end to wilful misconduct in our daily routines, Dr. Saumya Kumari added.