Effect of Diet and Lifestyle on the Mind
November 1, 2016 |Dr. Madhu
Ayurveda often demonstrates the concept of “who we are is influenced by what we eat” in the example of the elephant, the tiger and the jackal. The elephant is a sattvic animal that eats only fresh, vegetarian food. It is large, strong and gentle, and because of its intelligence, learns to work well with human beings. The tiger exemplifies rajas. He kills and eats the flesh of other animals. He has a fierce, aggressive nature but is very restless and is always on the prowl. The jackal shows the less desirable qualities of tamas. Rather than seek its own food, it eats whatever is left over after another animal has eaten. It tends to be fearful and lazy animal that is nocturnal and shuns daylight.
When people ask what they can do to get control of their minds and emotions and become more positive in their outlook, I encourage them to look to their and lifestyle. I ask them what they are doing in their daily routine to increase sattva in their minds? Are they meditating daily and doing yoga asanas and pranayama? Are they eating a sattvic diet, keeping the company of the wise, and engaging in those activities that are conducive to positivity and joy? These are things that help maintain a strong sattvic balance in the mind.
Since the behaviours and reactions that support or undermine our health, happiness and wholeness originate in manas, an ayurvedic physician will always begin his examination with an assessment of the patient’s state of mind. The patient’s attitude toward their healing process is often a good indication of the particular quality that dominates their mind.
Patients with a sattvic nature come to a physician with a cooperative and relaxed attitude. They describe their symptoms calmly and clearly and can be counted on to follow the physician’s instructions. They are curious about their illness and how their body functions and try to understand why they have fallen ill. People with sattvic minds usually take responsibility for their own health and prefer not to rely too heavily on doctors or medicines.
Patients with more rajas exaggerate their symptoms with an air of impatience and desperation. They tend to become dependent on doctors and medicines for their health and may hop from specialist to specialist seeking relief. They will often follow the physician’s advice so meticulously that they may make frequent call to clarify details.
Individuals with tamasic minds will often not be able to describe their symptoms clearly. They may show confusion or be less cooperative and may forget or somehow not be able to follow the physician’s instruction. In essence, they are too dull to effectively discern and follow the path back to health.