Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

The Indian Concepts of Lifestyle and Mental Health in Old Age

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

The Indian Concepts of Lifestyle and Mental Health in Old Age

Article excerpt

Byline: S. Tiwari, Nisha. Pandey

Lifestyle is the perception of a particular person or entire society towards life and it is the way people live, think and behave. In Indian lifestyle, principles of Karma (action) and dharma (the righteous way to perform the work) are given significant value. In India, earlier, the life of an individual was being regulated harmoniously according to the stages (Ashrams) of life, i.e., studentship (Brahmcharya); householder (Grihstha); forest dweller (Vanprasth); ascetic (Sanyas) and was meant to maintain the discipline, peace and harmony in the family and society. However, revolution in the social milieu and political scenario changed the patterns of religious beliefs and lifestyle of individuals. And thus, the Indian lifestyle got colored with shadows of cults and cultures. The lifestyle affects the longevity and health in old age. Lifestyles also have role in developing cognitive disorders like Alzheimer's disease (AD). AD found to be more common in socially isolated older adults. Deteriorations in health (especially mental health) are often the results of faulty lifestyles like smoking, alcohol intake, improper diet and lack of exercise as well as an adverse psycho-social milieu. Adopting the advocated principles of Indian concepts of lifestyle and paying proper attention to mental illnesses of older adults and recognizing their problems may preserve mental health in old age.


India, one of the oldest civilizations around the world, is the country with a long history of almost 5000 years and extremely complex social structure. Most of the religious groups around the world like Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, etc., are present here and in addition, there are a variety of cultures and sections with different belief and rituals under the same constitution. Thus, Indian social matrix and cultural pattern is characterized by " Unity in diversity. "

Indian Concepts of Lifestyle

Lifestyle is the perception of a particular society towards life and the way its people live, think and behave. It includes dietary practices, physical-mental activities, cognitive exposure as well as cultural and environmental revelation. The "Vedantic" literature says that life is sacred and eternal and according to this belief when the life particles interact with material elements, various events like birth, disease, old age and death result. [sup][1] In Rig Veda, desire for longevity and health (mental and eternal physical) is best exemplified in the much quoted Atharva Veda sukt : " Pashyem sharadah shatam, Jivet sharadah shatam " (let me see 100 autumns, let me live 100 autumn). [sup][2]

The Indian Lifestyle and its Basis

The Indian lifestyle is embedded in the principles of "karma" (action) and "dharma" (the righteous way to do the work). In the past and at present, both "karma" and "dharma" are given maximum importance in all Indian activities and deeds. According to the ancient scripture writers (Shastrakars), the dharma is based on four major factors i.e., (i) "Desa" (place, region); (ii) "Kal" (time); (iii) "Karma" (action, efforts, activities); and (iv) "Guna" (natural traits). It was the prevalent belief that a person should perform his "karma" as per the condition, demands, and experience of self as well as in perspective of "desa" and "kal." In this frame, only the activities carried out as per time, place and condition were considered as "Dharma." Indeed, "desa" and "kal" were significant factors contributing to dharma.

In Ayurveda, Shushruta advocates for "swasthya vritta" (positive health) recommending "dincharya" (daily routine), "ritucharya" (seasonal routine), diet, exercise and virtuous conduct for positive heath. Spiritual dimensions of personality are recommended by "Upnishads." 'Buddhism' favors to lead a well ordered life by opting middle course between self-indulgence and extreme simplicity. "Jainism" emphasized non-violence, vegetarianism, warmth and human sympathy. …

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