Ayurveda for Managing Sadness and Uplifting Mood
As we discussed in our articles on managing anxiety with Ayurveda and improving energy, within Ayurveda, all matter is believed to be made up of five elements – Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Ether. They manifest in the human body as three basic principles: Vata (Ether and Air), Pitta (Fire and Water) and Kapha (Earth and Water). It follows that physical or mental afflictions – including depression and mood swings – are created from an imbalance in these principles.
While depression is typically attributed to a Kapha imbalance, Pitta and Vata based depression can occur, too. Kapha depression is often characterized by a lack of energy, while Pitta manifests as agitation, and Vata as anxiety. Pitta depression is often linked to self-destructive behavior, and requires close management. Despite these subtleties, here are some broadly relevant practices you can implement to combat depression and anxiety, regardless of principle type:
Routine: Create a sense of routine by waking up early and exposing yourself to bright sunlight first thing in the morning (a sense of routine is especially important for keeping vata in balance. However, vata types should try to sleep in a little longer than kapha or pitta types). Aim to eat meals at the same time each day, and make sure your surroundings are tidy and serene, as cleanliness is a powerful tool to manage depressive feelings. For other simple practices that will help in establishing a routine, Ayurveda recommends morning exercise (especially sun salutations), breakfast before eight, lunch before noon and dinner before sundown. Additional lifestyle additions to create balance in the elements are: drinking warm water in the morning, cleaning the tongue, and oil massages prior to the morning shower.
Rest: Deep rest is fundamental to mental recovery and hormone regulation. Try going to bed before 10-11 p.m. (recommended snooze time varies by dosha - vata types should go to bed the earliest), and avoid sleeping on your belly. Abhyanga (oil massages) and Shirodhara (pouring herbal oil on the forehead) are two Ayurvedic practices that will also promote restful sleep.
Exercise and Yoga: Brisk walks and a regular yoga practice are very helpful with managing all types of depression. These and other forms of non-competitive exercise that are focused on repetitive movement can have a stabilizing effect on the mind.
The Plough, Palm Tree, Lotus, Cobra, Yoga Mudra and Corpse poses are especially beneficial for those suffering from depression. Half Bow and Shoulder Stand should be incorporated by those suffering from an excess of pitta, which can be characterized by feelings of anger or hatred. Backward bends can also be helpful in promoting restful sleep. Consider practicing Pranayama, as well. For Pitta types, use left nostril breathing (i.e. inhale through the left nostril, and exhale through the right). Kapha types should use right nostril breathing, and Vata types should alternate between the two.
Foods to Avoid: In general, overeating – or even eating to full capacity – should be avoided. While specific foods relate to managing specific types of depression, oily, spicy and pungent foods should be avoided across the board. Make sure to integrate fresh fruits and vegetables into every meal, as well.
Hydration: A glass of raw, warm milk with ginger before bedtime nourishes the mind and relaxes the body – but be cautious when drinking raw milk, and ensure it is bacteria free and safe! Avoid ice water, and store water in a copper vessel to aid liver and spleen function, which are believed to regulate the body’s natural toxin elimination functions. Limit coffee and tea intake – and avoid alcohol entirely!
Eat Seasonally: Adjust your diet according to the time of year, by consuming cooling foods like goat’s milk, beans, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, spinach, bananas, and melons after summer has ended. Increase fat and protein intake prior to winter, to help the mind combat the depressive feelings associated with changing seasons.
Herbal Treatments: Withania Somnifera and Bacopa Monnieri are widely used in Ayurveda to relax the mind and manage mood. They can be used topically in oil form, or with food. Recommended dosages vary from 300-600 mg, and are typically taken with clarified butter, per Ayurvedic tradition. As always, make sure to verify source purity before consuming! Nardostachys Jatamnsi and Commiphora Mukul can also help promote positivity when used with controlled herbal fumigation. Finally, turmeric can be taken with food or in milk to help manage the depressive feelings associated with seasonal changes.
Essential Oils: Essential oils of Rose, Ylang Ylang, Cedarwood, Marjoram and Calamus have excellent therapeutic properties that address sadness, lethargy, and other moods associated with depression. Uma Oils’ Pure Bliss Wellness Oil combines potent essential oils in centuries-old, highly efficacious formulations to promote positivity. Uma’s Pure Rest Wellness Oil uses generous amounts of Bacopa Monnieri and Calamus to promote rest and mental rejuvenation.
Although depression can feel debilitating, the first step toward its management is its recognition. These Ayurvedic solutions are easy-to-integrate, and can be effective tools to promote positive well-being, and help you manage your feelings of sadness. Most importantly - remember that you’re not alone, and that you’re stronger than an emotional imbalance – feelings of anxiety and depression can be overcome!
This content is not intended to diagnose, treat or prevent any disease, or affect the structure or function of the body. The information herein does not constitute medical advice. Anyone suffering from a medical condition should consult with a physician. User reviews do not constitute a guarantee that you will achieve the same results -- what works for one may not work for another.