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Ayurveda to Increase Saatva and Ease Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

We are living beings, nourished by the sun, moving in rhythms with Mother Earth. As the seasons change and whatever corner of the world we inhabit turns its face from the sun, humans may experience mood shifts and even sadness. This phenomenon is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD. It's often experienced by people at the juncture of seasonal change into winter, as light begins to change, reduce, lessen and fade.


Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedanta, and all the Vedic sciences pointed to three qualities within the mind — Rajas, Tamas, and Saatva. Rajas energizes the mind, tamas quietens the mind, and saatva enlightens the mind. Those with an intrinsic excess of the tamas quality, which is the RESTful quality, the quieter quality — a quality that even somewhat induce dullness or depression or sadness — may be particularly sensitive to SAD.


The sun represents saatva — the enlightened part of our mind that is one with the Divine, the cosmic truth. As the seasons change and the sunrays diminish in their reach, it can be an intense experience for those with a predisposition to tamas. The teachings of Ayurveda can guide us in how to balance these qualities, and prepare for the coming darker days.


If, for example, in preparation of winter, one cultivates more rajas and saatva to balance the tamas, the impact of the darkness would be less severe. In my book, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom, I have shared methods to enhance saatva through food; through Trataka, a flame-watching meditation; through leading sun worship, rituals, and exercises. There are similar guides for activities and exercises that can also build rajas in the mind.


It's important to note that Tamas in and of itself is not an evil quality; in healthy supply we are able to find rest and deeper sleep. Like most Ayurvedic wisdom, it's about finding balance. When we don't have balance between the tamas, rajas, and saatva qualities of our mind, it's easier to slip into a depressed state. Through these Ayurvedic teachings and more, those experiencing SAD — or wishing to address it — may bolster themselves so that the tamas qualities of darkness and heaviness don't weigh as heavily even as winter sets in.


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