Ayurveda and Your Mental Health: The… | Counseling | Therapy

Ayurveda and Your Mental Health: The Seasons

Ayurveda (A-yur-ved-a): India’s traditional medical system which is based on the idea of balance bodily systems for whole body health

In my Ayurveda and Your Mental Health: An Introduction, we learned the different ways Ayurveda and your mental health are related. Ayurveda not only helps explain why you might be experiencing some mental health issues, it can also support you in finding a plan to resolve them. What makes Ayurveda so helpful is that this plan is unique to you and your needs. Ayurveda views everyone as whole and complete with nothing lacking, nothing broken, and therefore anything is possible. You might just have forgotten, and that is where the practices and techniques of Ayurveda and your mental health come in.

To find out which Ayurvedic practices work best for you, it is important to find your elemental makeup, or your dosha. Ayurveda argues that when you were created, the elements of ether/space, air, fire, water, and earth bound to you in a very individual, particular, and perfect way. Your original elemental makeup is what makes you balanced and whole. Disease, distress, and dysfunction occur when you forget that you are whole and complete and live in ways that create elemental imbalance and agitation in your physical, mental, and emotional life.

To find out what your dosha is, you can take an online dosha quiz by googling “dosha quiz” and picking the one that works best for you. The doshas and their elemental compositions are:

Vata (vha-ta)= Ether/Space + Air

Pitta (ph-it-ta)= Fire + Water

Kapha (kha-fa)= Water + Earth

Finding out your dosha is the first step in developing Ayurvedic practices to maintain and re-establish balance in your life.

The Seasons, their Dosha, and your Mental Health

People are not the only ones who have a dosha. Emotions, colors, times of day, times of our lives, and seasons have their own elemental makeup that balance, agitate, enhance, or diminish the expression and reflection of our elemental makeup. Therefore it is important to be mindful of how our mental health can be impacted by the seasons and also how we should adjust our daily routines and self-care practices to align with the seasons. The seasonal dosha breakdown is:

Fall - Vata (space and air)

Winter - Kapha (water and earth)

Spring - Kapha and Pitta (fire, water, and earth)

Summer - Pitta (fire and water)

A helpful way to conceptualize this Ayurvedic concept is to consider the New Years resolution. Have you ever made a resolution to work out more or lose weight only for your motivation to fizzle out in a week or two? Either you didn’t see any results or your motivation waned? If we consider that winter time is the time of water and earth (kapha), these elements have the attributes of heavy, cold, slow, dense, cloudy, and static. There is a reason bears hibernate in the winter. To go up to a hibernating bear and say “hey you! lazy bear! you need to go do a high intensity work out and lose weight” is both unwise and unsafe...when you have a clear sense of not only your dosha, but the seasonal doshas, you can make more informed decisions of how to spend your energy and time. You can also fortify yourself against societal and cultural values that might not be aligned with your very individual and personal actual wants and needs and therefore be empowered to live a life that is more aligned with your authentic self.

Consider that this is the same for you. In a season as cold as winter, your body needs to be heavy, slow, dense, cloudy, and static to rest, restore, and rejuvenate for the warming of the Spring and heat of Summer. The practices of Ayurveda help you tap into your physical, mental, and emotional intuition. When you get that sudden urge to do some Spring cleaning, when a little fire (or Pitta) gets you motivated to shed what you no longer need, that is the sign that it is time to start getting a little bit more mobile, bring some heat, and get out into the light.

The seasons can impact your mental health by balancing or exacerbating certain tendencies that you may struggle with. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is also called seasonal or winter depression, usually happens in the winter, a season of cold, heavy, static, slow, and dense where it can be easy to get stuck in thoughts of the past. Yet depression is not the only mental health disorder that can be exacerbated in the seasons. Anxiety can be exacerbated in the Fall, the seasons of space, air, mobility, and change. Anger and anger related disorders can be exacerbated in the Summer, the season of fire, heat, movement, and sharpness.

It is important to note that there is nothing wrong with any of the above diagnoses or exacerbations. Ayurveda is not about fixing anything, but bringing awareness to what is happening and putting in, and keeping present, the practices that will bring you back into balance. Knowing how the seasons may impact your dosha, and your mental health needs, only gives you more knowledge and power to develop a plan that will bring balance and ease back into your lif

The Ayurvedic Calendar

To help get a better sense of how the seasons impact your dosha, here is an example of an Ayurvedic Calendar. You can see that each dosha is not only associated with a season, but a month, an attribute, a feeling, a color, an element, and even a time of day. This means that you could be a Pitta living in a Vata season, and this can impact your ability to stay balanced. This Ayurvedic Calendar brings forward the reason you might feel out of balance or agitated during certain times of your day or seasons. You can’t heal what you don’t know exists, and when you become aware of your dosha, and how your dosha is impacted by the seasons and times of day, you can create a plan.

Ayurvedic Calendar

Lad, V. (1984). Ayurveda : the science of self-healing : a practical guide. First edition. Santa Fe, N.M.: Lotus Press.

Creating a Daily Mental Health Routine that Evolves with the Seasons

Creating a dinacharya (di-na-char-e-ya) or a daily routine, is the most impactful Ayurvedic practice you can develop to improve and maintain your holistic health and well-being. The daily routine is the heart of the Ayurvedic lifestyle because it allows you to deeply nurture and care for your most foundational elemental needs. Establishing a daily routine is a great way to set yourself up for success for the day and or for a rest filled night. What can be so helpful about developing a daily routine is it can add structure and support to your day. The balance that is needed to make an Ayruvedically focused daily routine is not only making one, but making one that you allow to change with the seasons.

The best place to start in creating your daily routine is focusing on creating your morning routine. Here are some things you will want to consider when creating your daily routine that are based on the different doshas:

When to wake up

For Vatas, Pittas, and Kaphas it is recommended to wake up and start your day anywhere between 3-6am. This time of the morning is considered the Vata time of day, and a great time to do meditation, journaling, and physical movement that involves linking breath to movement (such as asana). This time of the morning is to nurture your spiritual self before you get too caught up in the day. It is thought that in this time of the morning the veil between the natural and supernatural is at its thinnest, so you can more easily access your spiritual self.

  • Vatas or those working to balance the elements of Vata: you are ready now, wake up at 3am or 4am and focus on all the creative projects you have planned like your mood board, poetry writing, or mantra singing

  • Pittas or those working to balance the elements of Pitta: wake up closer to the 4am side of the morning so you can seize the auspicious hour of creativity! Commit to doing the spiritual practices on your checklist (as opposed to some of your work practices) as a way to set yourself up for success for the day. This is the time to work on your being as opposed to your doing.

  • Kaphas or those looking to balance the elements of Kapha: wake up before 6am (this could even mean waking up at 5:58am…) to head off feelings of lethargy and heaviness that can occur when you miss the opportunity to be spiritual and spend time in the ether of your mind.

Activities to do when your experiencing low energy during the day

  • Vatas or those working to balance the elements of Vata: do a short yoga nidra. Yoga Nidras are a type of sleep/relaxation meditation that can leave you restored and rejuvenated. There are a lot of Yoga Nidra options on the internet which guide you through a slow and steady body scan. The goal is to bring you to a state of consciousness between being asleep and awake. It is like a grounding power nap, but instead of waking up groggy you are more likely to wake up restored.

  • Pittas or those working to balance the elements of Pitta: step away from your work and focus on a creative non-work activity. This could be coloring in a mandala coloring book, crochet, or making your vision board. Working too hard past your limit will eventually burn out your fire. Creative activities can be cooling and restorative and give you the opportunity to step back, look at the big picture, and give you the perspective you need.

  • Kaphas or those looking to balance the elements of Kapha: get up and move your body for at least 10 minutes. You can go on a walk outside or find a quiet and open space to do a few sun salutations. While you might be inclined to lay down and take a nap, this will only increase your low energy. Stretch, move, and take a few big body breaths to relight the fire and get your energy moving.

Meditations

  • Vatas or those working to balance the elements of Vata: try a mantra meditation. Excess or imbalanced Vata can lead to increased worry, fear, and anxiety. Mantra meditations are grounding and help you be in the present moment. Find a phrase that speaks to you in the moment or is in line with your intentions for the day or week (e.g. I am love, I am grateful, I am enough) and repeat it over and over again in a slow and steady pace for at least 5 minutes. Whenever thoughts come up, simply let them go and bring your awareness back to the mantra.

  • Pittas or those working to balance the elements of Pitta: try a cooling breath meditation. Excess or imbalanced Pitta can result in increased irritation, impatience, and frustration. A cooling breath meditation can give you something to focus on while cooling your system down. Find a quiet place to sit, start to bring your awareness to your breath, inhale through your nose for four counts, and then exhale from your mouth for four counts pretending like you are blowing out through a straw at a slow and steady pace. Do this for at least 5 minutes or until you feel your frustration and irritation begin to subside.

  • Kaphas or those looking to balance the elements of Kapha: try a walking meditation. Excess or imbalanced Kapha can result in tiredness and lack of motivation. A walking meditation is a great way to get focused and grounded while moving your body and your energy. Find a guided meditation online or through an app and easy path to walk, preferably in nature, turn the meditation on and walk with the flow. Anytime thoughts come up, let them come up, let them go, and bring your awareness back to the meditation and the feeling of your feet on the earth beneath you.

Track your progress and what works

Here is a helpful guide to track your routine, give feedback for what worked and what didn’t, and implement the changes in real time so you can develop a morning routine that meets not only the needs of the season, but your personal needs and intentions for the month:

Month and Season_______________________________

Personal Intention for the Month:________________________________

Week 1

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Practice:





Practice:








Practice:








Practice:








Practice:








What I learned, what worked, what didn’t:


Week 2

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Practice:








Practice:








Practice:








Practice:








Practice:








What I learned, what worked, what didn’t:


Week 3

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Practice:








Practice:








Practice:








Practice:








Practice:








What I learned, what worked, what didn’t:


Week 4

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Practice:








Practice:








Practice:








Practice:








Practice:








What I learned, what worked, what didn’t:



What’s Next

Are you interested in learning more about how the practices of Ayurveda and your mental health are related? Then schedule an appointment with me or another one of the skilled and knowledgeable Center for Growth therapists.

At TCFG you can schedule directly online with a therapist or by calling (215) 922-LOVE (5683) ext 100 and speaking with our intake department. Lastly, you can call our Director, “Alex” Caroline Robboy, CAS, MSW, LCSW at (267) 324–9564 to discuss your particular situation. For your convenience, we have six physical mental health counseling / therapy offices. We provide mental health counseling and talk therapy both inperson and virtually.

    OUR GUARANTEE: you deserve the best couples counselor or marriage therapist possible. If you don't feel like the couples therapist that you met with was the right fit, then free of charge you can try out a different therapist. Being in a group practices allows for flexibility.

    The Center for Growth has offices in multiple states. We offer both Couples Counseling and Marriage Therapy inperson as well as virtual appointments.

    The Center for Growth Therapy Offices in PA, NJ, VA, RI, NM, CT

Therapy Services Offered in Philadelphia, Ocean City, Mechanicsville, Providence, Santa Fe:

InPerson Therapy & Virtual Counseling: Child, Teens, Adults, Couples, Family Therapy and Support Groups. Anxiety, OCD, Panic Attack Therapy, Depression Therapy, FND Therapy, Grief Therapy, Neurodiversity Counseling, Sex Therapy, Trauma Therapy: Therapy in Providence RI, Philadelphia PA, Ocean City NJ, Santa Fe NM, Mechanicsville VA