Do hotter temperatures equal hotter tempers?
All signs point to yes. There’s evidence that football players rack up more aggressive penalties during games played in the heat. And the the connection between hot weather and violence appears to extend way beyond sports. In compiling a comprehensive review titled “Quantifying the Influence of Climate on Human Conflict” in 2013, researchers examined more than 60 studies and data sets on the topic, culled from a range of disciplines including psychology, criminology, archeology. What they found: violence and conflict appears to rise by more than 14 percent in warmer climates.
What the report didn’t cover was why—scientists have observed the phenomenon of aggression during heat, but aren’t sure why it happens. Ayurvedic Indian healers have one theory: our energies are out of whack.
The Ayurvedic system of natural medicine has been practiced for over 5,000 years. Compared to Western medicine, which focuses on treating issues individually, Ayurveda is centered around the idea that healing any ailment requires harmony among the mental, spiritual, and physical bodies. If you see an Ayurvedic healer to treat migraines, they might recommend a combination of dietary changes, specific meditation mantras, and Ayurvedic herbs.
It’s a complex discipline, but at the core, Ayurveda is based on three different types of energy known as “doshas”—pitta (fire), kapha (water), and vata (air). Doshas dictate everything from personality to metabolism, and the belief is that while every person has some elements of all three, one is usually predominant. And when the weather heats up, Pitta can take over, causing hot flashes, exhaustion, acne, diarrhea, anger, jealousy, and impatience.
If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms as the mercury rises, relief could be as easy as re-balancing your doshas through diet and lifestyle choices. Follow these tips, and you should be on your way to feeling cooler—temperature- and temper-wise.
Eat sweet, bitter, and astringent foods
Cooling that internal fire is really important to balancing pitta. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re limited to eating ice cream and popsicles all summer, but it does mean avoiding sour, salty, and spicy foods. Instead, stick to more foods like these:
- Starchy vegetables
- Green leafy vegetables
Drink cooling beverages
Hot drinks are pretty much off-limits during pitta-dominant summer months. Caffeine can be a trigger, too, because it’s overstimulating to anxious pitta energies. Try switching to iced herbal teas, which are much more refreshing and hydrating:
If you’re already drinking plenty of water throughout the day, try adding a few slices of cooling cucumber for bonus points.
Don’t forget to moisturize
A crucial aspect of Indian medicine is massage and self-care. It’s recommended that nearly each day begins with dry brushing and an oil massage— but if that sounds too involved, just focus on moisturizing. A blend of coconut oil and castor oil is ideal for the body on hot, humid days because it’s natural, and penetrates skin and dries quickly. Combine a little of each (about a 1:1 ratio) in your palm, and then apply all over torso and limbs.
Take time to relax
When pitta is out of sorts, exhaustion, anger, and impatience can take hold—all three together is a pretty dangerous combo. And in the throes of an overactive pitta, you find yourself working a lot more. It’s important to slow down and be a little more gentle in thought and action—when you’re in the office, take breaks regularly. When you’re home, disconnect from work emails as often as possible. Plan vacations, schedule in free time, and get enough rest during this time, too.
If it’s hard for you to unwind after a stressful day, or you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, indulge in a little aromatherapy. Cedar, pine, vetiver, sandalwood, and rose are all soothing essential oils> that work especially well for pitta types.
Have a more relaxing summer break by taking these ancient Ayurvedic practices to heart. And if all else fails, hop in the pool for a surefire cooldown.
Photo credit: Paul Delmont