In the West, we often look to our bodies as indicators of health and beauty.
If someone has a flat stomach or bulging biceps, they’re perceived to be healthy. But what about the impact our mind has on our well-being and overall appearance?
Someone could spend hours in the gym, yet hate their body and bash themselves with negative self-talk, resulting in a lower state of health than someone with a few extra pounds who always looks on the bright side.
Eastern philosophy sees health and wellness much differently. The emphasis on keeping your mind healthy is just as important—if not more important—as having a physically fit body.
I was confronted with this difference head on when I moved to Thailand in 2014. And while I immersed myself in Thai culture and Buddhist texts, it was the ancient Indian system of health and wellness, Ayurveda, that had the biggest impact on me.
Somehow, in the midst of Bangkok’s chaos, I discovered a new way to approach health and wellness that allowed me to see myself in a whole new light. Rather than cutting down on carbs to slim down, or hitting the gym twice a day to look like a fitness model, I fell in love with Ayurveda’s approach to health by taking care of oneself from the inside out—and the focus on mind and soul.
It taught me that each and every thought we have has an enormous amount of power. Whatever we think, we believe. In this way, we shape the environment in which we live. As Descartes famously stated, “I think, therefore I am.” It really is that simple.
If we believe we live in abundance with everything we need, we will feel abundant. If we hold grudges, constantly look down on ourselves, and put walls up around us—our environment will mirror what we send out and give it right back.
According to Ayurveda, it all starts with our thoughts. If you can change your mind—and in turn, change your habits—you can truly change your life. In fact, the power of positivity can even change the way we look.
Don’t believe me? It’s just a matter of perception. If you tell yourself you’re ugly, full of zits, and overweight, those thoughts will creep through as physical manifestations of the words you’re feeding yourself. On the other hand, filling the mind with gratitude, acceptance, forgiveness, and love will keep spirits high even through trials and tribulations. Don’t those with a smile always seem to glow?
Here are a few Ayurvedic tips to ensure a state of harmony and balance in the mind for a happier, healthier, more beautiful you!
Eat a well-balanced diet. We all know diet has a huge impact on the health of our bodies, but it can also fuel imbalances within the mind. Many studies have shown a correlation between what we eat and how our brain functions in terms of our mood and mental health.
From the East to the West, the emphasis on eating a diet of whole foods cannot be ignored. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein provide more energy, make us feel stronger, and allow us to function at our best, fueling positive thoughts.
I had to learn this one the hard way after indulging in one too many Singha beers and street-cart pad thais! The excess alcohol and sugar fueled inflammation in my body, which broke out as clusters of blemishes all over my cheeks. Even in my teenage years, zits never really ailed me, so being confronted with adult acne was a huge blow to my self-esteem. It wasn’t until I found balance within my diet, by following advice from an Ayurvedic doctor, that my skin started to clear and I felt like my happy-go-lucky self again.
Repeat affirmations and mantras. Keeping an optimistic mindset is the number one way to ensure harmony and balance within our lives. We can harness our thoughts as a healing force through affirmations and mantras. Even though we may not believe the meanings of our affirmations at first, the subconscious will eventually accept them as the truth, allowing the thoughts and ideas to manifest freely.
Following a gnarly breakup far away from home, affirmations were the only thing that kept me going. I was feeling rejected and low, but luckily had already started infusing Ayurveda’s teachings of self-love and mindfulness into my life. I let myself grieve the loss, but made sure to look at myself every day in the mirror and repeat: I am a goddess and I’m worthy of love.
Cheesy, I know. But it made me instantly feel a little bit better, and eventually, I fully started to believe it. Instead of pointing out all my flaws and bashing myself in the search to figure out why he dumped me, I started to see the goddess I am and felt sorry for him that he let her get away.
Create a sacred space. While it may sound strange that our surroundings can impact the way we feel about ourselves, consider the influence the environment has on our mood and behavior. It can facilitate or discourage interactions with others, depending on how comfortable we feel, and also has the power to create or reduce stress.
Sometimes, I get overwhelmed and down on myself when walking into a nice bar or restaurant with guests dressed to the nines. It’s far too easy for the nagging inner voice to take over with, “You’re too underdressed, why would anyone want to talk to you?”
Rather than leaving and going somewhere more comfortable, Ayurveda encourages us to look inward and create that sacred space within our own minds. Ask if the thoughts arising are real or if they’ve simply surfaced out of fear. Once you’ve made that distinction, it’s much easier to bounce back with, “Of course everyone wants to talk to me, I’m fabulous.”
Author: Amanda Boleman
Image: Polly Cannella
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina