Healing the Mind, Body, and Soul - A Holistic Approach to a Fulfilling Life
Have you ever witnessed something so beautiful–like standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, or holding a newborn child–that the moment almost felt spiritual? Conversely, maybe you have been so stressed or heartbroken that you’ve felt physically ill. Both instances are examples of your mind-body-soul connection.
This New Age-sounding phrase might raise the eyebrows of a few skeptics, but there is strong scientific support behind the term. Western medical practice in general is growing more accepting of holistic treatment that deals with the mental and emotional effects of physical trauma, and vice versa.
When it comes to taking care of yourself, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Our mind, body, and soul all determine our health together. Keeping them in harmony can bring balance to your life and aid in personal growth, or recovery when necessary.
Personal wholeness is the feeling of well-being achieved when your mind, body, and soul are in balance. The conscious act of seeking personal growth through that mind-body-soul connection is referred to as healing intent.
Mind-body practices support both well-being and recovery, tapping into this connection between your thoughts and physical responses in order to cause a positive effect. For example, try to check in with yourself throughout the day and ask, “how do I feel right now?” If you identify a negative response such as stress, consider your intent (goals and plans): “this stress is not useful right now, I want to reduce it by taking a walk outside in the sunshine.” With practice and reflection, this method can be very useful in managing your holistic health during a crisis.
We are not just machines that break down one component at a time. If something is bothering you, it is likely affecting your entire person. When you are stressed, you may have a headache, be unable to sleep at night, and get irritable with your friends and family. By building a strong network of coping methods, treatments, and strategies to promote the mind, body, and soul, you can often find that addressing one problem will help solve a cascade of others.
Finding balance is difficult, especially when it comes to becoming the best version of yourself–also known as reaching self-actualization. Everyone starts in a different place based on their environment; maybe you work short hours in a low cost-of-living area, or maybe you have family to help but are on surgical rotation with barely a moment to think for yourself. Start with some easier habits, then pick and choose what works for you. Anyone can get in touch with their mind-body-soul connection, and eventually build up to a balanced lifestyle.
Exercising Your Mind
When it comes to mental health, meditation is often the first thing mentioned–and for good reason. Meditation can reduce stress and help you recognize and address negative thought patterns. Guided meditations are very helpful for beginners, but repetitive tasks such as dancing or drawing mandalas can also be highly meditative for those who need movement to focus.
In our hustle culture, taking a break is essential. Finding a healthy work-life balance is easier said than done when there are bills to pay, but making sure you get good sleep every night is usually within our control. Doing so will not only improve your energy, but reduce the risk of burnout. Making time for loved ones and your passions provides an unmatched sense of wholeness.
The last step is to give your brain something to chew on. People who exercise their mind stay sharper later in life and generally find more fulfillment in daily challenges. Try playing puzzle and strategy games, or learn a new language or musical instrument. Learning new things creates and strengthens neural connections that keep your brain active and healthy.
Strengthening Your Body
The human body is a complex system; surprisingly resilient, but delicate enough to need constant maintenance. This means scheduling regular check-ups with your doctor to prevent or manage disease, and providing it with healthy fuel and activities.
An easy way to start focusing on your physical health is to up your water intake. Most Americans are at some level of dehydration, which can affect your mood as well as physical health. Keeping a 1-liter bottle (like that Hydro Flask you’ve seen celebrities cradling) at your side all day and refilling it multiple times will ensure you’re getting enough water–especially if you get one with a straw attachment, which studies show encourages drinking.
Proper nutrition also plays a huge role. If you’ve ever experienced a sugar crash (hypoglycemia) and become lethargic or irritable, or gone too long without food and gotten “hangry,” you know that diet can affect not just your body, but your mind as well. Luckily, there are plenty of so-called brain foods like spinach and bananas. These are not only great nutritionally, they also provide a boost of serotonin that keeps you alert and improves your sleep.
Lastly, your body is built to move. Keeping active for just 10 minutes a day drastically reduces the risk of several diseases that Americans commonly face. Even if workouts aren’t your thing and gyms can make you anxious or incredibly bored, most people enjoy a nice walk in the morning or after dinner. You might also consider activities such as yoga or tai chi, which work on your flexibility and provide additional mental benefits through breathwork.
Feeding Your Soul
Determining what warms your heart differs per individual, but there are a few things most people agree provide a sense of wholeness. If you are religious, connecting to something greater than yourself and a devoted community can provide purpose and meaning. For those who are secular, activism and volunteering are fantastic ways to provide value to your community as well as yourself–helping others is good for you, too!
Just a couple of hours outdoors each week can also be massively beneficial, according to new studies in ecopsychology. “Go touch grass” is a common modern ‘suggestion,’ but spending time in nature has been a genuine approach to well-being throughout history. The concept has recently reentered holistic medicine with the popularization of Japanese forest bathing.
Practicing gratitude, especially with the help of a gratitude journal, is another way to give your soul positive feedback. Similarly, compassion for people in your life who may otherwise be a source of irritation (maybe the person who cut you off in traffic is experiencing an emergency) protects your soul from unhelpful negative emotions–it might even lower your blood pressure. Self-compassion is also more effective at accepting and addressing your inevitable mistakes than blind self-confidence would be, so please tell yourself you’re doing the best you can.
Making the Connection
Self-actualization is a mountain of a task, but you have your whole life to figure it out. By breaking down your goals for a healthy mind, body, and soul into manageable habits, you greatly increase the likelihood of reaching a point where you reap the benefits of balance.
Take it one day at a time; achieving even one of these goals is great for you (drinking more water is an easy place to start), and may start a ripple effect that helps you take on other challenges. Any way to healthily reduce stress will work especially well in this. Best of all, you can use what you learn to fall back on in times of crisis. Now, go meet your inner self!