There has been much talk in the last two years of “social distancing” instead of physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID. Social distancing creates further isolation…a place humans were getting to with their heads in their phones, game consoles, computers and televisions already without the pandemic to assist them. Social isolation is one of the root causes for depression, anxiety, addiction, despair and suicide, and illness. My dream for all of us is to implement these measures to make 2022 the year of social connection with self and others and the building of strong communities.
1. Eat “Happy” Foods
You not only are what you eat, but you act like what you eat, too. Food affects mood, behavior and relationships. If you eat foods that create bliss, your relationships will be happier, too.
Foods that support happy moods are fresh, whole, and organic. The more fresh and digestible the foods, the more they create ojas, the biochemical equivalent to bliss and happiness. Foods that are cooked fresh each day by yourself with love or by someone who loves you are considered the most ojas-producing.
A school in Appleton, Wisconsin, banned all fast food chains, candy machines and soft drinks from their premises. They fed the children and teenagers well-rounded meals cooked with old-fashioned recipes. Since instituting the program, the principal and teachers report that violence, fighting, and truancy are markedly down, while grades and attention spans have soared. Other area schools are adopting a similar program as a result.
2. Prevent Relationship Meltdown
Almost everyone wants to be loving, kind, considerate and supportive. The trouble comes when the stress of daily living becomes too great, and then tempers flare, anxiety surfaces, and you find yourself saying or doing something you later regret.
To prevent this type of relationship meltdown, plan your day to prevent stress from building up. Exercising every day, for instance, is extremely helpful in keeping the emotions balanced. Breathing deep and inhaling fresh oxygen while outdoors is especially helpful in banishing fatigue, depression and anxiety.
3. Give Yourself a Break
Getting enough sleep is another key to preventing relationship meltdown. Lack of sleep can cause anxiety, anger and depression-and certainly doesn’t help relationships. Research shows that most adults need 8-8 1/2 hours a night, and children need up to 12 hours.
4. Practice Unconditional Forgiveness
It’s important to forgive unconditionally. Saying you forgive a person if they changes their behavior is conditional forgiveness. This creates a hidden slow poison that later manifests in the relationship as a dangerous, deadly sickness called resentment.
The heart craves unconditional forgiveness. The mind is always trying to set some conditions, but if you forgive someone unconditionally it will be more healing for yourself. If you practice this over time, your overall attitude and behavior will become more nourishing — and that helps build and maintain relationships. Unconditional forgiveness keeps the mind under the influence of the heart. Remember you can forgive without reconciling if the relationship in question is harmful.
5. Look to Yourself First
Problems in relationships are often caused by an imbalance in the Pitta dosha.
When pitta is out of balance, the first symptom is to think, ‘I am right and my friend is wrong”. At a time when you should look to yourself to correct the situation, you end up blaming others.
The ancient poet Kabir said that when he started to look honestly at his life, he found that he had to rectify his own behavior more than others did theirs.
Whenever your heart tells you to blame your spouse, your partner, or your friend, take that as an opportunity to scan your own behavior, to see what you might have done to create that difficult situation. If you are honest, most of the time you will find that that you have done something to create the crisis-and maybe the other person has also made a mistake, but not as big an error as you first may have thought. This sort of attitude goes a long way in preventing a fight.
To keep pitta in balance, eat plenty organic vegetables and a balanced diet that does not include caffeine, alcohol, sugar, or fried foods.
6. Know Your Limitations
It helps to know your own strengths and weaknesses. If you tend to get cranky when you delay or skip meals, do yourself and your loved ones a favor and organize your life so you can regularly eat your meals before you get too hungry. Keep a juicy pear or other healthy snack handy for those times when you really can’t eat on time.
For anyone with strong pitta, eating three regular meals is important, and you may need to plan a late-afternoon snack as well. Eat your main meal at noon to pacify pitta, and lighter meals in the morning.
For kapha body types, you may find that lethargy gets in the way of healthy relationships. Take care to wake up early, before 6:00 a.m.; eat light, Kapha-pacifying foods; exercise every day. The invigoration you’ll feel from balancing Kapha dosha will infuse new life into your relationships as well.
Vata types should be careful not to let excessive worries or anxieties cloud perceptions. Be sure to get plenty of rest, meditate regularly, do a daily ayurvedic oil massage, and eat a nourishing, warm Vata-pacifying diet.
7. Understand the Needs of Others
Paying attention to the influence of the doshas can also help you understand the behavior of others. While you may be able to process disappointments quickly, for instance, your partner may take much longer to get over a negative situation. Rather than criticizing them, it’s best to recognize that they need more time to recover, and to give them the love and space they need.
8. Practice Harmonizing Behaviors
It helps to make a habit of harmonizing. Positive behaviors not only help relationships, research shows that they also make us feel healthier and live longer. The ancient ayurvedic texts emphasize this connection between behavior and health and offer guidelines for health-producing behaviors called achara rasayana. These behaviors are considered longevity-enhancing.
Achara rasayana includes being truthful, calm, free of anger, nonviolent, charitable, simple, well-behaved, positive, self-controlled, unconceited, devoted to love and compassion, and having control of the senses.
Achara rasayana doesn’t mean forcing yourself to think positively-it means cultivating a state of health in which it’s natural to act harmoniously. These choices include the ayurvedic diet and daily routine, and in particular abstaining from alcohol, engaging in meditation, staying balanced in sleep and wakefulness, eating sattvic foods such as organic, high plant to meat ratios, ghee, knowing the measure of time and place, and keeping the company of the wise.
9. Plan Quiet Time Together
Sometimes the sheer noise of our busy lives can get in the way of relationships. Try infusing some soothing scents and sounds into your home environment. Try creating “noise free” zone each evening in which you turn off the TV, turn down the lights, and spend a half hour listening to music, talking, or reading a book out loud. Spending quiet time together before bed can be as nourishing to adults as children.
10. Make Blissful Choices
By now you may be thinking: “How am I going to find time to cook healthy foods, follow an ayurvedic routine, work my job and still take care of my family?”
This is where your power of choice comes in. Will you feel happier watching the latest episode of The Bachelor or getting an extra hour of sleep? Is your time better spent preparing a loving and healthy meal for your family or poring over work you have brought home?
Eating the right foods and following an ayurvedic routine does take time, but it is time well spent. The good thing is that taking care of your own physical, mental, and emotional health will nurture your relationships too. And that is a win-win situation you deserve to cultivate.