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The Six Factors

(6) Effect of Emotions on Health

    The changing states of mind are part of what is called nafs in Unani. Nafs is an Arabic word that generally refers to all of the appetites of the body and ego--for food, sex, fame, money and many related things.

    The changing of the states of mind produces swings in mood, and these are known by the signs of the breath. If the breath is kept completely controlled and measured equally between in and out breaths, there will be stability of mind and balanced emotions. Unbalanced emotions are the result of disturbances of the balance of the breath. These changes are summarized in the following table.

    The inhalation of breath is the cycle of contraction, while the exhalation is the cycle of expansion. The degree of expansion and contraction of breath affects the health. Mental events such as dreams also relate to health. For example, a person dreaming of fiery red things may he experiencing an imbalance or a great increase in the blood humor. There is a well-evolved science of dream analysis and interpretation in Unani, although it is practiced by religious savants more than by physicians.

Breath And Emotions


Quality of Breath


Anger Sudden and forced Exhalation
Delight, Joy Gentle and gradual Exhalation
Fear, Terror Sudden and forced Inhalation
Gloom, Depression Gentle and gradual Inhalation

    According to Unani, conditions of the mind, mental "diseases" in particular, are not the cause of physical ailments, but rather the result of disturbance of balance in the humors. A person muddled in his mental processes, for example, might appear to have an intellectual deficiency or some other "psychological" ailment. However, imbalance of the phlegm humor would account for the sluggishness of mental faculties and would be treated by resolving the excess phlegm humor so as to restore fluidity of mental processes. Such imbalances can be caused by thoughts, sounds, foods, and other factors, and they can be corrected with the same, or their opposites. Anyone who truly seeks the truth about health and wellness will not ignore these points.

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