Turn your mind to the Himalayas to help turn it into a happy place.

Have smiling thoughts. Make your mind a happy place. Fill it continually with “What a beautiful life!” and “The day's going so well” kind of thoughts. Smile at strangers, laugh through a sitcom, absorb a spiritual chapter drenched in love. Most important: prevent even a twinge of irritation from settling in. If somebody passes a nasty remark, never agonise over it. Ask yourself, “What have I learnt from this situation?”

Post this question into your being, then move your mind to a happy place — to the Himalayas, those unique silent, snow-clad mountains which hold the glorious treasures and secrets of yogic wisdom in their slopes and streams. Roam those pristine ranges, cross singing mountain-rivers, walk through the icy passes, gaze at the radiant lilies nestling in the valleys… No anger, no sadness, no pangs of any kind, just you and your breath in a duet of serenity.

Don't wait to exhale. Ah yes, our breath holds the key to our mood, as you might already know. The trick is to focus solely on exhaling. Exhale to a count of 20 through your mouth. Extend the exhalation. When your body begins to demand air, allow it to inhale. When you do this a few times, you'll get a sensation of ‘being breathed' rather than that you are breathing. The dark mood lifts. By consciously exhaling, you release all cares and wounds of the last moment and come fully into the present moment peacefully and fully, with either no memory or an extremely faded one. It's amazing — this enhanced ability to quickly forget a slight. Try it. And remember: it works only if you truly want to forget and move on.

Exercise away dark demons. To awaken or strengthen your positive disposition and not slide easily into the I-wish-I-could-die pit, get fit. Don't look for the results of a slimmer body, train your eye on the positive up-rush of feelings generated in the working-out.

If you're high-strung, do stationary cycling at 80 left-rising-foot-rotations per minute. It balances the emotions and things appear more manageable.

If fiery in temperament, walk briskly in the open outdoors. The fieriness comes from a highly developed ability to discriminate between true and false issues. Indoors, you could feel repressed, the outdoors are literally your doors to freedom.

If lethargic in mind and body, run in the morning sun. Running whips up adrenaline. Sunlight lowers the sleep hormone melatonin and energises the system.

Being out of sorts, moody, jittery, angry, low are symptoms of being out of sync with the workings of the universe. Exercise is a great tool to return to the harmonious state. The sages say three basic principles harmonised to create our universe — movement, transformation and cohesion; in practice, it's living-energy, lighting the darkness of ignorance with the luminosity of knowledge, and the bringing together of all forces with love.

Food and love. Food is intricately connected to self-love. There's the indulgent love that leads us to pamper ourselves with toxin-creating foods. And there's the greater love that exhorts us to eat healing foods. While it's ideal to go consistently on the latter path, sometimes we need to stray into indulgence as an impetus to keep rolling through life and appreciating being alive. For example, recently, an arthritic senior citizen was alternating between aggression and depression even as her sugar levels, blood pressure and temperature shot up. She announced she was going to die and her daughters panicked. The doctor was so sensitively tuned to her feelings that he told the daughters not to give her insulin for one day and “let her eat whatever she wants.” The patient ordered crunchies, vadas, noodles et al from a local take-away. One hour later, she was perfectly normal. The next day, she was on her feet. Autonomy does play a subtle but important role in good health. Health is not a state of perfection but a state of wholeness. That's why it is so individual.

The trick is to foster a sense of integrity that does not allow the inevitable moments of self-indulgence to become permanent parts of our character. Please decide not to hanker after forbidden foods. Move gradually, gracefully towards love-foods, foods that nurture health and help create a feeling of well-being. To name a few:

Eggs are a wonderful treasure-house of zinc that acts as a sweet awakener where you feel serenely satisfied and in a ready rolled-up-sleeves mode. Paneer settles a queasy mood and puts resolve in place of uncertainty. It's rich in calcium, protein and vitamin B12. Bananas are great energy-boosters. They prevent muscle-fatigue and raise calming serotonin levels. Rich in potassium, they help balance blood pressure.

Spinach enriches the blood with iron and wards off that low don't-feel-like-doing-anything dispiritedness. Its folate and vitamin B6 stores boost the mood.

Above all, learn to be content.

The writer is co-author of the book Fitness for Life.

(This article was published on January 26, 2012)
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