Zest. Effervescence. Gusto. Sparkle. We all want them, but occasionally we wake up feeling flat and blah. The good news? There are some surefire ways to lift your spirits and zip through the day.
Know that each time you step onto your yoga mat you are doing something not only for your body but for your mind and your emotional wellbeing.
You may have noticed that when you’re happy or in a good mood it’s accompanied by a sense of lightness and expansion, and when you’re feeling sad or depressed there’s a sense of heaviness or contraction. Sometimes, we feel down for no apparent reason. What causes a heavy mood and how can you boost your mood when you’re feeling down?
Recent studies have shown that the practice of yoga — including breathing techniques, postures, meditation and chanting — have beneficial effects on the emotional wellbeing and mental acuity of depression sufferers; it also enhances the mood and overall sense of wellbeing in people without depression. The great news is that yogic practices offer some of the same benefits as antidepressants but without any the side-effects.
A study conducted jointly by the Philadelphia-based Jefferson Medical College and Yoga Research Society found that yoga practitioners experienced a significant drop in cortisol levels after a single yoga class. High cortisol levels is a characteristic of stress and serious depression.
Meditation teacher Sangeeta Jani says, “Depression or feelings of sadness happen when the prana (life force) in our system is low. Just as there are particular rhythms in nature — day follows night, spring follows winter, etc — our nervous system also has a particular rhythm. When we accumulate stress, the nervous system is thrown off balance and the level of prana is reduced. Also, the mind has positive and negative tendencies. When prana is low, the mind expresses the negative tendencies.”
The four sources of energy
You can enhance your mood by gaining a deeper understanding of prana and how it can be increased. The four main ways in which you can increase your prana are through:
- The food you eat
- Getting enough sleep
- Being aware of your state of mind
- Focusing on your breath
Food: Foods high in prana include fresh vegetables (especially the green leafy ones), nuts, pulses and fresh fruit. Increasing these in your diet raises your prana. Being aware of foods that reduce your prana and eating less of those will also make a difference. Foods low in prana include tinned foods, microwaved foods, meat (including fish), frozen foods and food cooked more than three hours beforehand. Achieving balance is not just about eliminating from your diet foods that are low in prana, but if you’re eating these, make sure you include high-prana foods as well.
Sleep: If you’re not getting enough sleep your prana will definitely be reduced and your mood will be adversely affected. If you’re sleeping too much, your prana will also not be at its optimum and you’re likely to feel dull and unenthusiastic. Through trial and error, find out for yourself what amount of sleep works for you.
State of mind:A person who meditates and takes care of their mind will automatically have more prana. Meditation eliminates negative impressions from the mind, inducing a mind state that leans towards the positive. When you’re in a positive frame of mind, your prana is naturally high. Similarly, when you get stuck in complaints or spend a lot of time listening to someone else complaining, it reduces your pranic level and adversely affects your mood.
Alternatively, being praised, praising others or listening to something inspiring and uplifting enhances your level of prana and your mood.