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The Story of 9 Emotions of Navarasa

Navarasas ‘Navrasa’ as it also spelt, at times, are the 9 emotions that define our daily life. Our association with others depends a lot on what emotion or mood we are in that particular moment. In his book ‘Mood and Temperament’, published in 2000, David Watson clearly states the mood patterns of a person during the course of a week. 

  • People tend to be in their worst moods earlier in the week and in their best moods later in the week. 
  • We are generally in a bad mood early in the morning. 
  • During the course of the day, our mood tends to improve and decline by evening. 

Btw, 9 emotions of navarasa is a vast topic and can not be explained completely in this basic article. Please consult a related expert around you. 

What does this study imply for all of us at the corporate workplace? If you want a raise or a leave, you should ask on the weekends. If you have a crucial meeting, you should not fix it early in the day. Neither should it be planned later in the evening.

Emotions ‘Nav Rasas’ chalked out
what are the  9 emotions of navarasas 'navrasa'

Adoration, amusement, amazement, anger, anxiety, contempt, disgust, distress, ecstasy, embarrassment, envy, fear, guilt, humiliation, interest, jealousy, joy, loathing, rage, reverence, sadness, shame, sorrow, surprise, terror-the list of emotions known to us is endless. The difference between many of the emotions is a matter of degree rather than of kind. For instance, reverence and adoration share many of the defining characteristics.

For a layman, moods or emotions don’t need an explanation. From being on cloud nine to being down in the dumps, we would have experienced the entire gamut of emotions in our lifetime. Even during the course of a day, our emotions fluctuate between bliss and grief and respect and disregard.

Robert Plutchik, the famous psychologist, proposed that there are eight primary human emotions. He felt that these basic emotions consist of four pairs of opposites: ‘acceptance and disgust’, ‘fear and anger’, ‘surprise and anticipation’ and ‘sadness and joy’. He further proposed that all the emotions apart from the basic ones are a combination of various primary emotions. 

We all go through emotions and fluctuating moods, please acknowledge them. Unfortunately, a whole lot of expert suggest to keep up a ‘positive’ outlook, always. There is no point bypassing your issues, moods and emotions. You can’t outrun them…

Ancient Indian scriptures especially Natya Shastra have written and talked about these emotions as 9 emotions of navarasa; the nine moods that define the human personality. The scriptures go onto to talk about how important it is to embrace these nav rasas, these 9 emotions are like the 9 spices that give life to the basic human personality and also make us conscious if any of these nav rasas is out of balance. These nine emotions ‘nav rasas’ are…

  • Shringara/ Love
  • Hasya/ Joy
  • Adbhuta/ Wonder
  • Shanta/ peace
  • Raudra/ anger
  • Veera/ courage
  • Karuna/ sadness
  • Bhayanaka/ fear
  • Vibhatsa/ disgust

Natya Shastra, the ancient Indian dance text, describes the nine moods or the 9 emotions of navarasas which form the basis of all human emotions.

The Chemistry behind Emotions
navarasas 'navrasa'. the chemistry behind emotions

Brain is an intricate network that processes massive quantities of information every second. Neurones, or cells that transmit signals throughout the brain, is one significant part of the brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals which help the neurons to communicate with each other. 

The three most commonly studied neurotransmitters are:

  • Dopamine-associated with pleasure
  • Serotonin-associated with memory, learning and regeneration of cells
  • Norepinephrine-associated with stress and anxiety

Abnormalities in processing and receiving these neurotransmitters have a big influence on our emotional state. An imbalance in serotonin leads to depression and anxiety. Similarly, an imbalance in dopamine leads to sadness.

On a physical plane, the reasons for a mood can be numerous and can vary from person-to-person. Promotion at workplace might make you elated but your competitor at work could be sad over the development. Similarly, your kid winning a race at school should make you proud. But the same award needn’t mean anything to your neighbour.

Researcher Roy Baumeister feels that it is the depletion of the ego which leads one to a bad mood. However, a bad mood can be also due to an acute stress reaction.

Physiological reaction to bad moods…

  • Heart rate goes up
  • Blood vessels dilate
  • Breathing increases
  • Sweat production increases 
  • Metabolism slows down
  • Muscles become tense
  • Pupils enlarge

Science has proved that our mood determines the way we look at the world. Researchers at the University of Toronto feel that people with a bad mood have a tunnel vision whereas those having a good mood have a wider perspective of things.

Are emotions good or bad?
navarasas. are emotions good or bad?

Though emotions are broadly categorised as ‘good and bad’, we require all the emotions in the right proportion for a fruitful life. An absence of fear can make us take harmful decisions. Similarly, lack of courage leads to blind acceptance of fate.

But what is of concern to an individual and society is the momentary or persistent abundance of a particular bad mood in a person. A fit of anger can lead to incidents such as road rage. According to police statistics, 78 people died in 2010 in Delhi “due to sudden provocation over trivial issues”. Likewise, stress and sadness spread over a long period of time leading to cardiovascular diseases.

Scientists from Helmholtz Zentrum München, the German Research Center for Environmental health, in a long-term observation of more than 950 people found out that healthy workers exposed to work stress had higher inflammation levels and faced twice the risk of cardiovascular diseases. 

People often think as to what should be the right combination of moods… Should I be always skeptical of happenings? Should I control my passion for getting things done instantly? 

Again, the answer will be person specific. What works for a CEO of a financial organisation might not work with an accountant in a manufacturing firm. Similarly, what seems to be apt for a pilot might not hold true for a locomotive driver. You have to search within yourself as to the qualities required to move ahead and find out the right combination of moods complementing your personal growth.

The Harvard Mental Health letter of February 2006 states that if a person is seriously depressed or anxious, the emergency response becomes constant, damaging the blood vessels and making the heart less sensitive to signals telling it to slow down or speed up as the body’s demands change.

How to overcome bad moods?

You cannot always wish them away. But try the following simple methods to reduce the magnitude of bad moods.

1/8. Laugh, laugh and laugh
navrasa. Dr. Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford, feels that the act of laughing itself promotes good health.

Mark Twain once said: “The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”

Laughter has always been proposed as the key to good health. Right from the Zen monk of yore, Hotei to laughter guru, Madan Kataria, the benefits of laughter have always been acknowledged. Dr. Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford, feels that the physical act of laughing itself promotes good health. The simple muscular exertions involved in producing the familiar “ha, ha, ha” trigger an increase in endorphins, the brain chemicals known for their feel-good effect.

  • Mental tension is linked to impairment of the endothelium, the protective barrier lining the blood vessels. This can cause a series of inflammatory reactions that results in fat and cholesterol build-up in the coronary arteries and ultimately to a heart attack. 
  • Laughter, along with an active sense of humour, may help protect you against a heart attack, according to study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. Researchers have found out that people with heart disease were 40 % less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease.
  • Laughter also relaxes muscles, relieves pain and keeps blood pressure in check
  • A good laughter helps increase oxygen absorption in the blood and increases immunity. It is also good for weight loss as it optimises oxygen levels in the system and helps burns more calories.
  • Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine.

Tips for a good laugh on a stressful day

  1. Read the jokes section of the local newspaper.
  2. Walk across to the desk of the most humorous person in your office.
  3. Watch a funny video. 

2/8. Cry
navrasa. the 9 emotions

This advice might seem odd, as most of us had been made to believe that to cry is to accept that we are fragile. However, medical science has a different story to tell. Research has revealed that tears are a medium for flushing negative chemicals out of the body.

A study by Dr William H. Frey II, a biochemist at the St Paul-Ramsey Medical Centre in Minnesota, discovered that emotional tears contained more of the protein-based hormones prolactin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and leucine enkephalin (a natural painkiller), all of which are produced by our body when under stress. It is beneficial to remove adrenocorticotropic from the body as it generates cortisol, the stress hormone.

There are three types of tears:

  • Emotional / stress related tears
  • Basal tears (protective covering for our eye balls)
  • Reflex tears, which are generated when the eye comes in contact with irritants.)

3/8. Exercise
navrasa. exercise helps better the mood

Regular exercise and good moods always go hand-in-hand.  James Blumenthal, a clinical psychologist of Duke University, explored the mood-exercise connection through a series of randomised controlled trials. His trials suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people. Exercise alleviates depression by increasing serotonin, the neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants.

  • Researchers also suggest exercise as a means to prevent and treat anxiety attacks. 
  • When we feel threatened, our nervous system sets off reactions such as sweating and an increased heart rate. 
  • A body used to regular exercise will respond calmly to panic situations.

Physical activity can provide one with a safe outlet for anger. Taking a brisk walk or running a few blocks can help us, if we feel that we are going to erupt.

4/8. Music

The concept of music helping individuals runs deep into human history. Of late, science has also established that listening to music can lead to reduction in stress hormones. 

The study by Barry Bitman along with researchers from Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Applied Biosystems published in 2005 found out that playing a musical instrument can reverse multiple components of the human stress response on the genomic level. (A genome is the complete set of genes or genetic material present in a cell or organism.) 

They further found out that stress reduction was more in individuals who participated in music lessons than in those who just relaxed or read newspapers or magazines of their choice. 

Researchers have also found that music with a strong tempo can stimulate brainwaves to resonate in sync with the beat, with faster beats bringing sharper concentration and more alert thinking, and a slower tempo encouraging a calmer state of mind.  

Anci Sandell, a music therapist of 35 years, has presented research findings, which show music therapy increases quality of life for people who are being treated for severe medical or psychosocial conditions. 

Indian classical ragas have been widely acknowledged as a mood enhancer, with each raga signifying a particular feeling. The raag Natabhairavi is said to cure psychological disorders and raag Sahana is considered helpful in bringing down anger.

If you are feeling stressed out after a long day at work, listen to your favourite film song. It can lift your moods instantly.

Raag Durbari is said to have been created by the legendary singer Tansen to ease the pressure off the minds of Akbar in the evening after a hectic day in the court.

I would also suggest people to attend traditional dance performances or, if possible, attend a few workshops on how deeply ancient India understood the science of 9 emotions of navarasas ‘navrasa’ and how deeply engrained they are to various traditional Indian dance forms. 

5/8. Eat
navarasa. comfort food helps uplift sadness

Are you feeling angry all of a sudden? Go out and have a bowl of your favourite ice cream. According to Belgian researchers, fatty foods ‘comfort food’ can help you overcome a bad mood. The study by Dr. Lukas Van Oudenhove of the University of Leuven published in 2011 found out that fatty acids in food works to decrease sad emotions. 

Spicy food is set to release endorphins, the natural painkillers. If you are feeling down, a plate of spicy Indian food could do wonders to your moods.

Trivia: In 2007, the Guinness World Records certified that the Ghost Pepper (Bhut Jolokia) was the world’s hottest chili pepper. Bhut Jolokia is mainly grown in the North eastern part of India.

6/8. Physical contact
simple acts of body contact releases low levels of oxytocin, which in turn help trigger body's ‘anti-stress’ hormones.

A hug or a cuddle or a handshake-what do all of these have in common? It has been found out that all these simple acts of body contact release low levels of oxytocin, which in turn release DHEA, considered to be the ‘anti-stress’ hormone of the body. DHEA hormone is important to buffer stress and to counter its negative impact on physical and mental health. 

7/8. Don’t sweat about the past

Live in the present and forget the past- You would have often heard this message from the spiritual masters. But is this message scientifically relevant? 

Brooding over the past, whether it is an argument or a defeat or even a failed relationship, makes the blood pressure rise again. It is tough to erase the bad memories of the past, but it is worthwhile to accept that you don’t have the power to change the past. However, acknowledge or try to realise the lessons it taught you in the process. Be grateful for the good things in your life-your parents, your spouse and so on. A feeling of gratitude boosts immunity, lowers blood pressure and speeds Oxytocin induced healing in the body. 

8/8. Breathing exercises and meditation
NAvarasa. the 9 emotions. Regular practice of these methods have a positive effect on immune system and is found to reduce chronic stress.

Breathing exercises such as Yogic ‘pranayama’ breathing and Dr. Buteyko’s breathing method are fast gaining acceptance as a way to reduce stress and depression. Buteyko method is based on the concept that hyperventilation or quick breathing is the cause for a number of health problems. The Buteyko technique is a method to help one bring the breathing volume back to normal. Regular practice of Buteyko method has a positive effect on immune system and is found to reduce chronic stress.

The study carried out in Departments of Physiology and Advanced Centre for Yoga Therapy Education and Research, JIPMER, Pondicherry on 90 subjects aged 18-25 years and published in the 2013 July edition of International Journal of Yoga revealed that there was a perceived decrease in perceived stress scale (PSS) after 12 weeks of pranayama practice. 

If you are feeling constantly anxious about life, try enrolling for any Breathing workshop programme.

Emotion Test

Following is a set of questions designed by Spire Healthcare, London to evaluate your current emotional state. 

Over the past 3 weeks, I have been feeling:

Not at allSeveral days More than half of the daysNearly every day
That things which I usually enjoy give me less pleasure 0123
I am having more trouble sleeping or going to sleep0123
My appetite has changed (poor appetite or overeating)0123
I am having more trouble concentrating 0123
I am worrying more than ever0123
I am finding it harder to relax0123
I feel less able to cope with everyday challenges0123
I am finding it harder to socialize 0123
I feel more low and less optimistic0123
I feel more isolated and alone0123

Assess your questionnaire score…

  •  0-10: You are rising to the challenge
  •  10-15: You are coping but things are not easy. A good chat with a friend and doing something you enjoy would be a good idea.
  •  15-20: You are not at your personal best and are finding things harder than usual. Something needs to change for you to feel better. Speak to one of our therapists for a one off review session to assess your situation and see what you can do and what would help. 
  •  20-30: You are having a difficult time. Contact your General Practitioner or a clinic so you can get help and support.

P.S.: 9 emotions of navarasas ‘navrasa’ just makes you conscious of the dance of moods, which is fine in the short run BUT if you have been experiencing constant pangs of guilt, sadness or any other mood over a long period of time, it is highly recommended that you consult a related professional for assistance. Excess can offset the fine balance. Be Mindful…

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