Mahatma Gandhi, is one of those immortal beings whose life reflects and justifies the above quote in every essence of it. Coming from an Indian family, to now being known as the Father of the Nation, he is a self-made man who created history. In addition to having lead the freedom struggle, he was also one of the greatest visionaries of all times. His life teaches us that self-improvement is a continuous process that is learnt with conscious effort from experience and experimentation.As a boy Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a shy, average student, with no exceptional talent, self-conscious, serious, terrified by thieves, ghosts, serpents and darkness and believed in superstitions. And as an adult he was an angry young man.
During his early life, both in India and in England he spent time imitating others and blindly adopting the British thought process which only added chaos into his life. Only later, did he realise that one should be true to self and reason out every situation with a calm mind, adopt and imbibe the positive points in every situation and ignoring the negative aspects, instead of blind imitation and that’s when the transformation to Mahatma took place!
Gandhi and Health
Gandhi believed that health is the “body and mind at ease” and a “healthy man is a person who is free from disease and can carry out daily activities without fatigue”. It is beautiful to note that Gandhi’s idea on health matches with the current WHO definition of health “State of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
Gandhi was a forward thinker and his ideas on health, which he taught nearly 100 years ago are relevant and valid even in today’s world. The irony being, even after continuous efforts, we have not been able to achieve the basics of the ideas even today!
As rightly said by Gandhi “Health is the real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver”, lets revisit and remind ourselves, some of his views on health and hope to imbibe them in our daily life.
Gandhi was of the opinion that the human body is made of 5 elements: Air, Water, Vacancy, Light and Earth, and a balance between all these elements is essential to maintain health. He also believed that western medicine was aimed at alleviating symptoms by taking mere medications without allowing the body’s self-healing. He thus believed in modern medicine, where a balance between self-healing and taking medicines when essential is to be maintained.
Don’t we all enjoy munching snacks and sweets in every little free time we get in offices and colleges while walking from one place to another? And isn’t ice-cream our to-go celebration for every tiny thing in life? The tasty pickles and chaats form a major part of our food!
Beginning with food habits, Gandhi believed that body’s unpleasant reaction to certain food and drinks, is its way of trying to prevent us from consuming such food and should be observed consciously and not by just taking medicine to supress the symptoms. Gandhi famously said: “the body was never meant to be treated as a refuse bin, holding all the food that the palate demands”.
He believed one must consume only 3 meals a day with the quantity only to satisfy the body’s needs and not to meet the demands of the palate. He said that we must exercise self-control and the elders must influence and educate the children in similar manner.
He believed that vegetarian food is the best for the body and a mixed diet is average.
He said that milk, cereals, pulses, fruits, vegetables, oils and fats should be consumed in a balance. In his opinion, a draw back in meat was violence and killing animals. He says why kill when the same nutrition can be achieved without killing!
He also believed that fasting not only promotes discipline but can also have physical benefits as it allows time for the body to detox and self-heal. He believed that one must fast at least once a week for it to be effective.
With respect to condiments, he believed:
the naturally present salt is good enough for the body and there is no absolute need for additional salt unless indicated medically.
jaggery is the best form of sweet and sugar should be not be consumed.
spicy and fried food should be avoided at all costs as it causes various ailments in the long run
Drinks and Drugs
Haven’t drinks become an essential part of our parties, weekends and shaadi’s?? Social drinking is the new way of connecting with individuals and the stress buster of the century!
Drinks and drugs in today’s world have become a great source of entertainment, income and many big business deals are made over these petty parties!
Gandhi said that drinks and drugs are 2 arms of the devil that strikes his helpless slaves into stupefaction and intoxication. While he reasons out, people might drink for various reasons like: adapting to the modern society, easy availability, ice breaking with persons of business prospects etc.
Gandhi believes that drinks and drugs lead to both moral and financial losses and adds to nuisance in the society and leads to crimes in the society due to which the country is put to shame.
Although Gandhi realises and acknowledges the fact that huge amount of the government revenue comes from liquor and drugs, he was of the opinion that, if essential, even a complete prohibition on these items can be imposed so as to develop a healthy and happy India. He believed that an agitation must go on in the country against these habits!
Smoking a cigarette is used as a style statement, the “thug life” as the youngsters refer to it! Although illegal, several small pan and cigarette joints are located very close to college, hospitals and offices.
People have now begun taking smoke breaks in between work in addition to washroom breaks! Where are we heading to??
Despite the fact that the smokers are well aware of the consequences of their actions, some even suffering for various ill effects of the same, they refrain from giving up the habit of being a smoke pot!
While liquor affects the mental health of the family and society, physical health of only the consumer, smoking on the other hand, destroys the health of the non-smoking population as well. Hence both these addictions require to be controlled to have a healthy personal and social life in the county.
Gandhi believed that if every smoker stopped the dirty habit of making his mouth a chimney to foul breath and would invest his savings to a national cause, he would benefit both for himself in terms of health and the nation in way of progress.
It is rightly said that old habits die hard. How often do we see people defecating or urinating in the open despite the access to a washroom?
Gandhi always focused on hygiene and cleanliness. He explained that the most important cause of illness in India is they defective and harmful way of answering nature’s call. It is sad to note that even after the establishment of several sulab suchalya by the government, people refrain from using the same and prefer to use the age old unhygienic and open air defecation!
It is also sad to note that people are clean as individuals and not as members of the society. People bathe, wash clothes and drink water from the same stream or river not realizing that they are playing with their own health.
“I’ll begin exercise from tomorrow! Tomorrow is the day, I feel it”
This is probably one of the most used statements when it comes to exercise. Our life in the present day is sedentary. Home, car, office, eat, sleep, repeat. There is no form of exercise in the white collar routine and this is pushing us to a very unhealthy way of living.
We hear very often these days of heart attacks in young, strokes, diabetes, hypertension, obesity etc. all of which can be attributed to our lack of exercise.
Gandhi was a strong believer of regular exercise and propagated the same in various ways including his non-violent Dandi march. Walking regularly can help to maintain one’s health and confront world-wide epidemic of non-communicable diseases
“I am depressed” “I am very stressed out. I need a break” are our common conversation starters!
Did we all study for our fancy degrees and apply for great posts in the office only to be stressed? Is it really worth earning those few extra bucks at the cost of our mental health?
Mental health is an important issue that the world is facing! With the ever increasing competition, and the rat race to prove oneself has disrupted the peace of mind. Most people have issues with mental health and are unable to cope with the same. Many examples from Gandhi’s life teach us how to deal with these problems.
Gandhi throughout his life has worked in several different ways to inculcate various qualities in people so as to have a positive impact on mental health.
His efforts in decreasing unemployment through self-reliance instilled self-confidence and self-respect in addition to financial security which provided psychological support to people and significantly reduced the suicide rates.
At present we are trying to implement the same in the country so as to support our fellow Indians.
His ideas of non-violence can be applied in day to day life to resolve the conflicts by mutual understanding, cooperation and improve interpersonal relationships thereby reducing work place stresses.
He also propagated meditation. Gandhi himself had issues with dealing with anger, which he learnt to control through meditation techniques. He believes that meditation not only calms the mind, but also reduced stress and anxiety thereby positively impacts both mental and physical health.
Gandhi was a peace promoter and said ”Weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” Forgiveness also reduced the feeling of anger, depression and fatigue
He said “a man is a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.” He said setting one mind with positive thought boosts health, improves skill and thus improves the work.
In Gandhi, one can find integration of life. His ways concerning different aspects of life can be considered as a “Way of living”, a way that is relevant even today after almost 150 years.
As he would say “One must not live in order to eat, drink and be messy, but eat and drink in order to make their bodies temples of god and to use them for the services of men.”
Gandhi’s way of living if followed will definitely have a positive impact on health of individuals and of the country as a whole.