The soul can be described as the spirit or the incorporeal essence of a person. Whether one is spiritual or not, I am sure we can unanimously agree that there is something more to a human being than his or her body and mind. A balanced diet nourishes the body while crossword puzzles or arithmetic stimulate the brain. But we often neglect the soul or, in other words, the part of us that aspires to be better, to grow and be more. Being aware and consciously working on the growth of this innate human spirit is extremely fulfilling. So how exactly can one nourish their soul?
A better you
Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a good way to understand the concept of soul nourishment. While the first
two stages mostly cover bodily needs, and the next two cover the intellectual and emotional aspects, the final stage, called self-actualisation, pertains to the self or the soul. Maslow stated, “Human life will never be understood unless its highest aspirations are taken into account.” After all, if you look at the most inspiring personalities from diverse fields over the ages, they were all ordinary people who drove themselves to do extraordinary work. When we set a higher set of standards, we initiate the transformation into better versions of ourselves.
So assuming that basic needs like health and fitness, career, and relationships are taken care of, we could focus on what makes us better, not in the eyes of others but our own.
This is very personal and varies from individual to individual. Few examples would be
- If you like running, push yourself to train for a mini-marathon.
- If you have not been finding time to read, ensure that you read just a single page every day.
- You might be happy with your career but still work on further developing your skills, like joining a part-time course to enhance your capabilities.
- If you like gardening and cannot commit to having a full-fledged garden, get a single potted plant.
- Consciously plan to spend time with friends and family who mean the most to you.
- Reduce time spent on electronic devices.
- Go to bed an hour earlier because a good night’s sleep makes a big difference.
- Don’t neglect the ‘me-time’, be it a spa session or just a post-dinner stroll listening to your favourite music.
- Make the effort to dress well and look well-groomed on a daily basis.
- Try learning something new, like a new language or even something small, like learning to eat with chopsticks.
Make a list
Women have a tendency to pile up guilt. Working mothers feel guilty for not spending enough time with their children, the homemaker feels guilty about neglecting her career, and somebody who is doing a good job balancing both often finds something else to be guilty about, like not spending enough time with her ageing parents.
Being a hard-core list maker, I swear by its benefits. Along with the things-to-do list, and groceries-to-be-bought list, make a list of things that have been worrying you. Look at the list as neutrally as possible and decide first if the reasons that are making you feel guilty or unhappy are valid or not. If they are, work towards tackling each of the reasons. If you feel you have been busy with work and are not spending enough time with your family, plan a vacation three months later and book your tickets immediately. Even if you are not getting time with your family now, just knowing that you have made plans will make you feel better.
Had a bad day and feeling drained and upset at the end of the day? In the Harry Potter series, the spell that dispels dementors (monstrous creatures that suck out happiness) is cast by concentrating on a happy thought. This actually is a great idea for us ‘muggles’ too! Before you go to sleep, spend 10 minutes in a quiet spot in your home, ideally a balcony. Do not have any electronic devices around, not even a MP3 player. Now switch off the lights and focus on a happy memory. It can be a fun outing with friends, or the cute baby talk of your child or even a childhood memory. Other thoughts will come intruding, push those back and focus on this one till you have a smile on your face. This way you can go to bed happy and are likely to sleep better and wake up feeling good.
This is something that most of us overlook. What with air-conditioned offices, and commutes by bus and car, people hardly spend time out in the sun. Sunlight is a good source of Vitamin D, which improves immunity and gives protection from the common cold. Sunlight also endows a feeling of well-being and just 10 minutes out in the sun everyday can help. Drinking enough water is equally important.
Do something for a cause, be it for the environment, like planting saplings, participating in a local cleanliness drive or recycling, or consider donating things for the underprivileged or volunteering at a school for special children. Doing something like this is called charity but charity really is a misnomer. What really happens is a give and take, you do something for those in need and bring back a huge amount of positivity and richness in spirit for yourself.
It often happens that when you are happy and your self-esteem is high, people compliment you on how good you are looking even though you are dressed in an ordinary outfit. This is because when you feel good about yourself, it is like having a light within you which makes you glow and gives a vibrancy to your persona. As Ray Charles said, “The soul is like electricity – we don’t really know what it is, but it’s a force that can light a room.”