Health is not just about the absence of disease, but rather the presence of youthful enthusiasm and an ability to learn at every stage in life. It encourages one to be on – and stay on – a path of happiness and fulfilment.
Let’s start with the Upanishads, a collection of texts central to many beliefs of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The Upanishads describe sukha, or happiness, as a state where all our senses – sight, smell, touch, sound and taste – are all aligned with one another. Dukha, on the other hand, is a state where the senses are not aligned and is, naturally, the lack of happiness. Each of us has experienced this: the body in one place, the mind in another and the senses distraught. This lack of alignment is what the modern world calls ‘stress’.
In Ayurvedic terms, ‘health’ can be translated as swasthya, a state where the swa (the self), is stha (centred). In other words, health is synonymous with the state of being centred, with all senses aligned – or as Mahatma Gandhi described it, a confluence of thought, speech and action, and no conflict between them. Yoga, for one, guides us to health on the path of shanti, or peace, and the yoga texts teach us that swasthya is step one to both inner and outer peace.
Food For Thought – And Everything Else
But first things first: everybody’s gotta eat. Not just any food will do, however – it has to be nutritious, and nutritious food comes devoid of labels. Food that is both local and seasonal, and is cooked using regional recipes, is infinitely healthier than a meal in a box that comes labelled as free of gluten, dairy or the latest weight-loss villain. Food must make us feel connected first and foremost to ourselves, so that health may return to our bodies and our minds.
Moreover, seasonal, local and fresh food deserves your attention, so switch off that phone, TV or tablet, and eat with all your senses. This way, nutritious food will make you happy, and you won’t need a pastry to uplift you momentarily, only to cause a crash landing later.
I Like To Move It, Move It
A well-fuelled system is naturally active. It allows you to take the stairs instead of the lift, use public transport (or a bike) instead of the car, and stand instead of sit. Essentially, it keeps the body the way it was meant to be: full of movement.
Exercise is the ultimate happiness drug that you could ever lay your hands on; it actually puts the brain into a euphoric state without the dangers of hitting a low later on. To repeat a wise saying I once heard: there are bad days, and then there are days when you exercise.
From A To Zzzz
“What counts cannot be counted,” Einstein once said, and he could well be referring to sleep. A sustained lack of undisturbed sleep puts us not just at risk of losing physical vitality, but is also associated with a risk of depression; if the senses are unable to withdraw themselves, then the body and mind can’t recharge. When seen in such a way, this yogic view on catching some shut-eye is the same as the modern view of linking sleep disorders to many major ‘lifestyle diseases’ including obesity, diabetes and heart diseases.
In the end, health is personal and, like love, each one of us must make our own choices and follow our own paths that lead to the wealth of health and happiness. Physical health, which starts at its most basic level with nutritious food, fitness and plenty of sleep, is the first step on this path of wellness. Eat well, move a lot, get plenty of sleep, and you’ll be on your way to aligning your senses and finding inner peace.
Rujuta Diwekar has earned a reputation as one of India’s most respected and inspirational wellness and nutrition experts. She advises India’s elite on nutrition, yoga and Ayurveda. Her next book Indian Super Foods (out in April) will be about the inherent wisdom and power in India’s traditional food and eating practices. Rujuta is a regular contributor to this website as one of our special American Express Essentials Global Citizens. Discover more at rujutadiwekar.com and her Facebook page.
More sunlight, more chance to get outdoors, less comfort eating… Do you feel healthier in summer?