Factors of Wellbeing
A popular buzzword in recent times, wellness is a subtle, poorly defined, all-encompassing term for everything from mental health to physical health and fitness to nutrition. Yes, it is all those things, but more importantly, it is a lack of stress. Therefore, an individual can only attain a state of wellness if she is free of stressors in all those areas. So while it’s difficult to eliminate chronic stressors such as diabetes or hypertension, immediate insults to health are more quickly handled.
One of the ills of the developed world is that, despite living in an environment of excess and abundance, most of us have very poor nutrition. Few people in America today regularly consume foods that are truly nourishing to their bodies. For example, the majority of Americans eat processed food on an almost daily basis. This includes canned, frozen or prepackaged foods, food from vending machines, fast food or food from local restaurants.
This is because most people do not have the means to buy all organic foods and cook them fresh for every meal of the day. Therefore, we nourish our bodies with suboptimal, sub edible “foods” but still expect them to function perfectly. However, nature, in its infinite wisdom, has provided herbs that help us absorb the best of any food we ingest, and herbs that optimize out digestive health. Ayurveda mobilizes this natural wisdom, with the use of herbs like turmeric, ginger, black pepper and cloves.
The fast-paced nature of western society all but ensures that plentiful, restful, regular, uninterrupted sleep is unattainable. In the evening, as it gets dark outside, the pineal gland produces melatonin to signal the body to sleep. In the morning, the body’s cortisol level peaks to provide energy to start the day. According to Ayurveda, the amount of sleep required varies by body type, but it is the time that one awakens and rests for the night that is especially important. It is recommended that one arise before dawn, between 5 and 6am, and then go to bed by 10pm. For many of us, especially those with children, the getting up early part is not an option but a necessity. However, most of us find it difficult to get to bed early enough.
Mental stressors include emotional concerns having to do with family, relationships and home life; financial problems and career pressures. Any major changes in one’s circumstances can cause stress, such as moving, changing jobs, getting divorced. However, even positive changes such as getting married, having a baby, etc can have the same effects. Moreover, even small, daily occurrences such as having an argument, arriving late to an appointment, or needing to multitask are repetitive low-level stressors. As a result, all of these combined stressors cause the body’s defenses to weaken and thus shift one away from the wellness state. Ayurveda supports the body in achieving and maintaining this ideal state.
The paucity of the basic necessities combined with stress of all kinds leads to a decline in one’s overall immunity. Ayurveda teaches of a slew of herbs that function as rejuvenatives or adaptogens, which help regulate the body’s response to stress by providing adrenal support and balancing hormone levels. Therefore. the regular use of these herbs reduces the incidence of adrenal fatigue, allowing the body to cope with daily insults without engaging the adrenal glands or taxing the immune system.
Perfect health may be as simple as getting enough sleep, eating the right foods and having a positive attitude. However, simple is not always easy. Ayurveda provides ways to support the body when one is unable to take care of one’s health optimally. For example, adaptogens support general immunity by modulating the body’s response to stressors. Therefore, specific Ayurvedic preparations are recommended to be regularly consumed to promote general health and wellness.