It's Time for a 3-Day Mental and Emotional Cleanse
When it comes to the components of health, Ayurveda is an all-encompassing system. Ayurveda recognizes that our health isn’t only a measure of how we feel physically, but that our mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being must also be considered. In fact, our thoughts, feelings, and behavioral patterns are some of the strongest identifiers of our dosha.
At the same time, and perhaps a reflection of our Western culture, much attention is paid to the way we feel in our bodies. This includes the tangible means through which we address physical health, such as diet, exercise, daily routine, and seasonal cleanses.
Without a doubt, these methods have a major impact on how we feel on the inside. But given we are as often afflicted by conditions of our mind as we are our body, it only makes sense we have practices at the ready to help balance our mental and emotional states, such as through a mental and emotional cleanse.
The aim of a mental cleanse isn’t all that different than the seasonal Ayurvedic cleanse you might be familiar with, insofar as it’s meant to aid in bringing the doshas back to balance, to nourish your tissues, and to clear your channels.
Specifically, this type of cleanse nourishes majja dhatu, the nervous tissue, and helps build ojas, our inherent immunity. It also clears mano vaha srotas, the channel of the mind. Perhaps most important, it’s meant to aid in mental processing, or the digestion within your mind.
This type of process can also set the foundation for physical healing, as having better awareness and strength in your mind can prove to be essential when bouncing back from an imbalance, no matter how big or small.
This cleanse is meant to be used for someone who is healthy and well, or someone who is generally well but may be experiencing a very minor bump in the road, like worry over an upcoming project, a few nights of interrupted sleep due to an active mind, a bout of brain fog, or some irritability related to a couple of challenging days.
This cleanse can be repeated seasonally and done either independently or alongside a traditional Ayurvedic cleanse. It might be more attractive and approachable for those less adept at changing their diet, exercise, or daily routines. This is not for anyone who has more serious concerns or diagnosed conditions—please reach out to your mental health professional for this type of support.
Three-Day Mental and Emotional Cleanse
For your mental and emotional cleanse, choose a time when your calendar is free from extra activities and obligations. You’ll want to devote 20–30 minutes a day—for three days—to yourself, in a space that’s quiet and free from distraction and clutter.
If possible, be consistent with the timing of your sessions, as this rhythm can act as a source of calm and grounding. Sit comfortably, take a few deep breaths, and with a good old-fashioned pen and paper in hand, begin!
Day 1: Do a Mental Download
The first step is to clear your thoughts through a brain dump. Whether it’s a to-do list, conversations or events from the past days or weeks, or emotions that have taken up residence, write down all that’s occupying your headspace.
This is important for getting things off your mind (and your mind off the hamster wheel!), decreasing vata, cleansing mano vaha srota, and preparing for the processing of thoughts.
As you would expect to have difficulty digesting a heavy meal, the same is true when you have much weighing on your mind. The more thoughts you’re working with, the more difficult the mental digestion.
Notice and feel any emotions and sensations that come up as you do this—you can write those down, too. When you are finished, take three deep breaths and sit quietly for 3–5 minutes.
Note: You may find this process to be a helpful ongoing daily practice, as putting our thoughts on paper is cleansing in and of itself!
Day 2: Recognize Patterns and Identify Accumulation
Revisit your journal from the prior day and take note of any recurring themes. For example, do you notice that worry, fear, anger, or sadness is a common thread? Are all of your thoughts related to your work or other responsibilities? Is it possible that certain emotions only come up at specific times of day?
If there aren’t any shared themes, find the topic or emotion that is the biggest priority for you. After you’ve identified and circled or highlighted your main patterns, reflect on the circumstances in your life where these feelings might be accumulating, with or without your knowing.
For example, is your lack of control in a work situation causing anger that rears its head when a child or family member does something you don’t approve of? Does anxiousness creep in during the afternoon? Are your feelings of loneliness amplified every time you check your social media feed and see others seemingly enjoying the life you dream of having?
This process helps you organize your emotions (which pleases pitta) and see any possible places of mental accumulation (decreases kapha). Without judgment, write down all that comes to mind. Close your journal and your eyes. Remain seated, letting your thoughts simmer for 3–5 minutes.
Day 3: Develop Your Unique Action Plan
Using what you’ve learned from the first two days, develop an action plan that’s specific to you for further processing your thoughts and emotions.
It could be that simply heightening your awareness of scenarios or circumstances that are causing emotional strife is enough to begin to create a shift. Now that you know they exist, you may find yourself pausing before reacting, making a clean break from the situation, or having a conversation with someone to smooth things over.
Knowing it’s often more complicated, you may want to consider one or more of the following:
Write a letter, but don’t send it. Sometimes when there is someone else involved, saying what you need to say without saying it to them is the best way to move forward. In many cases, this is all you need to do. In others, a letter can serve as a dress rehearsal for a conversation you need to have.
Practice visualizations. For those instances that provoke unwanted thoughts or undesirable feelings, picture them going as well as possible.
As you would a meditation practice, sit comfortably and relaxed, breathing in a way that feels both slow and natural. Visualize the presentation going off without a hitch, getting offered a better job than the one that just turned you down, or responding with compassion or patience when someone seems to know exactly how to get under your skin. Consider it a choose-your-own-adventure, and watch it play out with you thriving no matter the outcome.
- Get ahead of your feelings. About that afternoon anxiousness—if it’s predictable in its timing, why not try to prevent it? Try to get ahead of those emotional hiccups that always arrive as scheduled by planning certain activities—or no activities—at that time of day. Use the 10–20 minutes leading up to that time for a seated meditation or a breathing exercise, or a walk in nature.
- Release emotions through movement. Reflecting back on the mental musings in your journal from days 1 and 2, where do you feel these emotions in your body? Imagine the space these emotions take up in your body, then choose a gentle movement practice, restorative yoga posture, or stretch that helps to touch and release this area. Be sure to allow yourself time for Savasana.
As with all cleanses, some willpower and resilience may be required, but as you work with this process again and again, you’ll become more aware of your thoughts and the best way to process them.
Like with all things Ayurveda, start slowly so that you can observe and adjust depending on how you feel and what you need from day to day.