Mood is a complex physiological experience. It is the result of the intermingling of neurochemistry, gut health, hormonal balance and social/psychological experience. It is a moment-by-moment litmus test of how much your life is in alignment with the needs of your body, mind and spirit.
The greater internal harmony you have, the better your mood. Conversely, the greater internal disharmony within, the worse your mood.
Factors that Influence Mood
We tend to think external circumstances determine our mood. But in reality, our internal harmony determines how we perceive, interpret and respond to our external circumstances.
There are many things that can lend to a bad mood:
- Stress (day-to-day, global, etc.)
- Poor diet
- Isolation from community or family
- Not allowing the mind to rejuvenate through meditation
But one of the most important aspects of mood in Ayurveda is the way in which food and gut health impact mental health. Mind and gut are inseparable. The foods you eat and the strength of your digestion determine the quality of your thoughts and mind.
The Gut/Mind Connection
Modern medicine is just beginning to grasp this concept of the relationship between the gut and mind/brain. According to Ayurveda, the gut and brain are one functional unit. The fastest way to shift mood is by changing diet, improving gut health and shifting your microbiome.
When the gut-brain connection is disrupted—no matter what else you may add to boost your mood—you’re fighting an uphill battle with brief episodes of transient balance that are easily tipped over. Once you repair the gut-brain unit, you’re floating downstream to a more vibrant and uplifted mood spontaneously, and you’re able to walk towards your future unhindered by the past.
Mood Affects Other Areas of Your Health
Mood flavors everything; it is the spice in life.
Your perception of an event is determined by your mood. When you have a positive perspective, it changes how your body responds to a situation.
The body’s response to ongoing perceived threats results in a state of chronic tension, which overactivates the HPA axis—the internal stress master switch. This leads to chronic health problems such as asthma, eczema, diabetes, heart disease and IBS, all of which are known to be influenced by psychological factors.
A negative mood drives the body into a state where it is constantly preparing for a war that never comes. It is the distorted perception of an impending enemy created by the mind that leads us to live a life of darkness, fear and isolation.
How can you stop this? Switch your inner dialogue toward a conversation that radiates hope, compassion, patience and kindness.
An uplifted mood changes the biochemistry of the entire body towards health and happiness. When the mind is in a state of peace and mood is stable—even under tremendous external chaos—the body remains in a state of rest without exhausting its resources. When it remains in this state of rest, it becomes more resilient and it is able to repair itself efficiently.
Herbs that Support Mood
In Ayurveda, the gut and mind are always treated simultaneously.
To treat chronic mood disorders, Ayurvedic herbs for balancing the mind, such as ashwagandha, Brahmi and shankhpushpi, are used simultaneously with herbs that strengthen digestion, such as triphala, ginger and cumin.
Triphala is one of my all-time favorite herbs for the gut-mind axis. It has traditionally been used to heal the mucosal lining and the nerves in the gut to promote normal peristalsis.
Instead of forcing the colon to expel its contents, triphala helps the colon do what it is naturally supposed to do. Your gut remembers how it is supposed to work because the triphala is repairing the injury. It also gently detoxifies the gut and entire body on a regular basis, which prevents the accumulation of harmful substances that negatively impact mood.
Life can be stressful, and those stresses send a lot of signals that interfere with digestion, so triphala is a like a rescue boat for modern life.
Prime Tea to the Rescue
Along with taking these herbs, there is something you can do right in your kitchen to boost your mood.
My favorite go-to mood enhancer is Prime Tea, which has been used for thousands of years by Ayurvedic practitioners for physical and mental balance. It is a simple recipe that invigorates the gut, which then directly supports a healthy mind. Simply follow the recipe below:
- Boil 4 to 5 cups of water in the morning.
- Add ½ tsp of whole organic cumin seeds, coriander seeds and fennel seeds to the hot water and boil again for at least 10 minutes with the lid on.
- Strain out the seeds and pour the liquid into an insulated container. Sip the liquid throughout the day. Start fresh with a new batch of tea each morning.
Seeds of Wisdom
Sometimes in our pursuit of physical health, we can forget the impact that mental health has on our body, career and relationships. Mental suffering can steal the joy of life completely.
Mental health isn’t a luxury; it is as important as heart health, metabolic health, colon health, and brain health. In fact, mental health directly impacts conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and memory issues.
In Ayurveda, mood and gut health are inseparable. Without addressing gut health, you can spend years searching for mental health solutions with limited or insubstantial results. When the mind and gut are addressed simultaneously, a brighter mood not only feels feasible, it feels like a spontaneous outcome from a stronger digestive system.
The science of mental health and the gut microbiome is only now emerging. But this undeniable connection between gut and brain has been understood for thousands of years, and mental health solutions have been perfected in Ayurveda.
Sharing this seed of wisdom about coordinating treatment of the mind with the gut, from the ancient science of Ayurveda, allows us all to immediately reap the harvest of a happier today.