The Mind and Its Health

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Just as our physical body needs a balanced and nutritious diet, the mind too needs healthy mental food.

As in the case of gross food, we are extremely careless about our mental food too. Mental food has a lot to do with the thoughts and ideas which we get from our senses, the scenes that we see, the books that we read, the company that we keep, and the thoughts that we think. Relishing crime and sex in TV channels and reading vulgar, trash literature, we cannot hope to have a healthy mind. It is better to live alone than to live in the company of people with criminal or immoral tendencies. Such people are psychologically sick, and mental sickness is more contagious than physical sickness. The remedy to this is seeking the company of sane or mentally healthy people or holy people.

Just as we need physical rest and sleep for physical health, we need mental rest, recreation and relaxation for mental health. Most people are not able to relax mentally; they are not able to get over their worries and anxieties. So they take sleeping pills or resort to alcohol. That does not solve the problem; it rather makes it more complicated Modern psychologists have suggested a number of ways for relaxing mentally. Music has a great recreational and relaxing value. Devotional music is elevating too. Rhythmic chanting a mantra has similar value. Guided practice of Yoga-nidra or Yoga induced sleep is very effective.

In the context of mental health and mental diseases, let us see what the great Indian thinker-poet, Tulsidas said in his epic work, Ramacharit Manas: Under section popularly known as, ‘Manas-Roga or ‘Mental Diseases,’ he says that ignorance is the root of all mental disease. When lust, greed and anger combine, they lead to delirium. Sense desires form a different set of ailments. Attachment is eczema, aversion is itch, elation and depression are the disease of the throat, envy at seeing some one else’s prosperity is tuberculosis. Thus as a matter of fact, evil tendencies are mental diseases and the different rules and regulations, codes of conduct, moral virtues, etc. are their remedies.

A major cause of mental ill-health is our faulty reaction to persons and situations, which is often tarnished by envy, anger, jealousy or hatred. This must be avoided by cultivating friendship towards the happy and prosperous, compassion towards those who suffer, a feeling of positive joy towards the virtuous, and indifference towards the wicked. This fourfold mental attitude conduces to mental peace and health, and is the basis for all sane social conduct.