Sikhi encourages individuals to live a good and healthy life – mind, body, and spirit. Sikhi promotes individuals to be strong in the face of adversity, but even for the strongest Sikhs, there are times when we find challenges and even obstacles to our well-being. Guru Nanak Dev Ji explained “Nanak dukhia sab sansaar,” explaining that there is no person who does not experience suffering. Suffering or Dukh can also include our mental state. Throughout the Guru Granth Sahib, the concept of Dukh is directly addressed and a focus on the well-being of the human mind and body is presented. Guru Nanak Dev Ji further explains, “Jo jan loojheh manai siau se soore paradhaanaa” meaning humble beings who struggle with their minds are brave heroes.
It is important to note that in addition to the recognition of suffering and mental health in the Guru Granth Sahib, there is also a discussion about attending to the well-being of the mind, body, and spirit which can provide feelings of Sukh or peace . Sikhism suggests that we aspire to live in Chardi Kala, being positive even in the face of extreme hardship. Chardi Kala can translate to mean ‘ascending energy’ which includes a mental state of eternal bliss.
Below are a few suggestions on how Sikhs can attend to their mental health and strive to live in Chardi Kala.
- Aspire to live the Sikh way of life. Sikhs see themselves as students and as seekers of truth. By identifying sources of meaning, purpose, and strength in your life, you can live a more intentional life and lifestyle. Having a clear routine, including sleep (e.g., waking and sleeping early), and making healthy choices of activity and foods can help you feel grounded. For example, opening the day and ending it with prayer can help to bracket the day. If you have a babaji (designated place/room for the Guru Granth Sahib) in your home, doing parkash (awaken the Guru Granth Sahib) and sukhaasan (retire/sleep the Guru Granth Sahib), and start the day with Japji Sahib and ending it with Kirtan Sohila can be helpful.
- Pray and meditate. Scientific research suggests meditation promotes health and well-being. Sikhism teaches that although individuals will experience a range of emotions, guidance and peace can be achieved by remembering and meditating on the name of Waheguru or God (Naam Simran). Sikhs are encouraged to meditate and remember Waheguru in all doings in order to work towards becoming connected with the “essence that binds all existence (Ek Onkar)” Singing shabads (spiritual hymns) alone or with others can provide grounding and guidance on how to achieve enlightenment. For example, in a particular shabad composed by the fourth Guru, Guru Raam Das, he stated “Jeevan maran sukh hoe jinhaa gur paa-i-aa” meaning “In life and death, peace resides with those who attain their Guru”.
- Be in Sangat. Sangat (community) is an important facet of Sikhi and can be a key to well-being. There is a belief that you are who you surround yourself with and Sikhi encourages the company of others who share the values and beliefs that you have. Being in sangat while praying or singing shabads is a different experience than doing this alone. Additionally, providing and accepting support and guidance to/from family and community can promote mental health.
- Engage in Seva. Research suggests altruism is beneficial to our health and wellbeing. By engaging in seva (selfless service), and giving to others and with others, we can find purpose in our lives and receive blessings from Waheguru. The Gurus have taught us that fighting for what is right is core to being Sikh and so engaging in social justice change can be a rich way to serve the community and give us purpose.
- Connect with a trained professional. Even when trying to live a Sikh way of life, we can encounter distress and challenges that feel overwhelming. Mental health counselors, social workers, marriage and family therapists, and psychologists are trained professionals that can help when our struggles feel overwhelming or even when we need support and guidance in navigating a situation in our lives. Here is a list of a few clinical providers who specialize in the mental health needs of the Sikh Community. Websites such as Psychology Today provide more in-depth information about service providers across the U.S. including areas of specialization, languages spoken, insurance information, and ways to contact them.
Source: 5 Ways to Incorporate Sikhi into your Mental Health Wellness – SALDEF