YogMantra | New Year, New You: In 2024, Start by Keeping Your Nerves Calm

We start each year hoping that it would be transformative in some way. As 2024 dawns upon us, let’s start this year by first creating the right premise for transformation i.e. peace.

Today, the average person is agitated and restless. Irritability, attention-deficit-ness, syndromes bordering on Conduct Disorder, flaking, and other kinds of antisocial behaviour are the new normal.

We can’t change the external environment, but we can save ourselves while in the situation. Let’s begin by first recognising the issue. If you or those close to you are experiencing agitation, exhaustion, insomnia, anxiety or loneliness, it is the nervous system crying for care.

Nervous and psychological disorders have their genesis in imbalance of Vata dosha — one of Ayurveda’s three doshas (governing energies for our body and mind).

This Vata dosha is challenged quite a bit in “our fast-moving information-technology era compounded by the pandemic”, says Vedacharya and Ayurveda scholar David Frawley. He points out that bombardment of disturbing electrical stimulation from devices, a panic-oriented media, and taking pharmaceutical and recreational drugs can be taxing to our nervous systems.

“We are frequently on the go, moving, changing residences, jobs or even partners….have irregular diets, don’t practise Yoga or meditation…This results in a situation for Vata dosha to increase on physical and psychological levels,” he explains.

The good news is that the nervous system can be rescued and here, we talk about six changes in lifestyle that can help. Do these for your nerves’ well-being, because that is often the starting point of good health of our other systems.


Stop sugar, and not for the sake of preventing weight gain, diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Studies have linked sugar consumption with restlessness and damage to the brain. Do not substitute with equal amount of jaggery or honey. On the occasional ‘cheat day’, satisfy sugar cravings, but preferably with a dessert that is syrupy i.e. where sugar has been boiled in water.

Reduce intake of chillies, which create heat and dryness in the system. Say no to refined flour, maida, a hard-to-digest fiber, and khoya or mawa, which is super-condensed milk and very difficult to digest.

Prefer warm, moist and easily digestible nutritious food, topped with a little ghee. Ghee nourishes nerve tissues and the brain and is also a coolant.


For nerves, Yoga and Ayurveda suggest calm walking, rather than vigorous forms of activity, including cycling and running.

An early-morning walk for 30-60 minutes can counter restlessness and increase circulation. Early morning air also has more pollution-free oxygen. A half-hour walk slipped into the routine at 4-5 pm is good relief from work. More importantly, it helps the cause of vitamin-D absorption from the Sun, which is crucial for nerve health.


We replenish energy by ordering-in rich foods that indulge the palate but weigh down the system. Instead, energise the body with a regular supply of soups and warm beverages.

A body massage in the morning with warm Sesame oil, and again before going to bed at night, provides warmth and relaxation to nerves. Do apply oil in each joint and the ears. In dry weather, a tiny drop of oil can be massaged at the tip and inside edge of the nose.


“Good sleep is very important. Without it, your nervous system would break down and madness can set in. Take it very seriously. I would say, maximum three nights without sleep, then seek help,” cautions veteran Yoga guru Dr Hansaji Yogendra.

Sleeping at 10.30pm is recommended. Yoga does not support afternoon naps. Instead, do a conscious relaxation technique after lunch.


A study* by SVYASA Yoga University mentions that smartphone addiction is associated with social anxiety and cognitive disorders: “A high level of gamma‐aminobutyric acid has been found in the brains of those who use smartphones excessively, causing impaired attention….may affect the connectivity in brain regions that control emotions, decision‐making, inhibition, and impulse control.”

Adhering to a ‘dincharya’ — daily routine — is a time-tested way in Ayurveda that keeps us sane, not just for now but well into old age.

If making a full-day time-table seems daunting, keep a fixed time for a task, and set an alarm. This ‘same time each day’ works magically to calm the brain

Your list could include any of the following:

‘Water plants at sharp 4.15p.m.’;

‘Light a lamp at 6.25pm followed by a group singing session’;

‘Feed birds at 8.05am’;

‘Tea-time with family at 6.45pm’;

‘Yoga at 8.15am or pm’

Include calming things like painting, nature walks, as group activities.

Remember to keep the phone out of sight at such times, and definitely place it far away from the dining area.


We’re specifically talking about the nervous system, and studies have shown the healing effect of Indian classical music here. Experts say the impact is through absorption into the spinal column of the special structure of the Ragas’ notes.

Listening to a variety of ragas, at the designated time of each, is one way to derive full benefit of the entire range. Whether rendered vocally or on an instrumental piece, each raga has a distinct emotion. Indian music can thus help culture emotions.

Play the early-morning ragas in the background as you exercise, late-morning ragas on your way to work, afternoon ragas at work, evening ragas on your way back home, and night ragas as you cook or spend time with family.

Remember, though, this is a calming tool, a remedy, and you don’t need to do it obsessively!

*Reference: Putchavayala KC, Sasidharan KR, Krishna D, Deepeshwar S. Correlation between excessive smartphone usage, basic psychological needs, and mental health of university students. J Mental Health Hum Behav 2023;28:65-71.

The author is a journalist, cancer survivor and certified yoga teacher. She can be reached at [email protected].

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