You’ve heard it: body, mind, and soul—the three necessary elements for total wellness and balance. But it’s something that few of us actually practice. Often, we have little time to take care of our bodies or minds—and even if we do, we rarely get to the soul part of the equation.
So, what exactly is the soul? Philosophers have defined it as everything beyond personality and beyond the roles with which people identify themselves (e.g., mother, student, or lawyer). Think of it as who you really are—beyond labels, titles, or positions. Or think of it as a deep sea—what’s always present and constant beneath the waves of thoughts and activity that consume your daily life.
And just like your physical body and mental well-being—your soul is important to nourish. It has a big impact on energy, mood, and overall wellness, and it’s the key to approaching life and yourself with a sense of calm and acceptance.
So how do you start tapping in to that oft-neglected part of yourself? Here are some daily activities to help feed your soul.
Set the Tone
When was the last time you woke up and focused all of your attention on what you were doing right at that moment? Do you start thinking about the email you have to send or your afternoon meeting while you’re still in the shower? Does your mind start playing out the rest of your day while you’re on your morning run?
If you jump out of bed and rush off to work every day, it’s impossible to take in your surroundings and your life as it’s happening in the moment. Living in the present is the key to connecting to your soul. And there are many ways to get there: meditation, deep breathing, or even a quick “thankfulness challenge.” First thing in the morning, challenge yourself to take a few minutes to write down the things you are grateful for. There are few better pick-me-ups than giving thanks.
Start your day with introspection, using whichever method works for you. You’ll find calm and ease in the morning—and that’ll carry you through the day.
Think about a time when you were a child and were offered some kind of reward for completing a task or chore: Perhaps you had permission to play outside a little longer after washing the dishes. Now, how much more exciting did that chore become?
As adults, we often forget to reward ourselves for our hard work—we’re too busy, or we think it’s just not important. But, just like when you were a kid, anticipating a reward can put you in good spirits and give you a natural boost of energy throughout the day.
So make a list of soul-food activities to reward yourself with—things that help you feel calm or re-connected with life—and starting plugging them into your calendar. They don’t have to be extravagant events or costly activities—you can plan a walk with a close friend, book a manicure, or make a dinner date with a loved one. It could be a massage appointment one day, time for a relaxing movie another, or just a hot bath with some new bath salts at the end of the week. Research shows that people who engage in more frequent enjoyable leisure activities had better psychological and physical functioning. So whatever it is, consider it just as important as any other meeting or appointment.
It’s critical to wind down at the end of the day—not just for your body and mind, but for your soul, too. One of the best ways to do this is a practice called “embodiment,” or resting as yourself, without trying to change anything.
Try this exercise before you go to bed: Make sure you are comfortably seated in an upright position, with your back straight and your eyes gently closed. Take a moment to let your attention rest on your breath. Notice whether its rhythm is shallow, deep, or somewhere in between, and just allow your attention to rest there. Notice how your breathing begins to find its own deeper, more relaxed rhythm.
You may feel a grounding experience that brings you beyond your thoughts and puts your more in touch with your physical body—kind of like yoga. Then, take a moment to feel your breath moving effortlessly through each body part, starting with your feet up to your head. Allow the muscles in your body, face, jaw, and forehead to relax, and start to notice how this calms your thought process, making your mind quiet, yet naturally alert. The practice of getting out of your mind and into your body enables you to feel truly, fully present.
And if you don’t think you have time for something like this, think about it this way: Making time to fully relax and connect with your soul will end your day at peace—and get you ready for whatever the next one brings. You can spare 10 minutes for that.