In the last several blog posts, I’ve discussed the importance of the first four of the five pillars of nourishment: diet, movement, sleep, and the mind’s diet. These four things are a critical part of nourishing yourself, but there is one final, important pillar, which is finding ways to nourish your soul.
To really nourish your soul, you need to take some time to do something that is introspective, that allows you to look inward and process your thoughts and emotions. There are so many ways to do this, but some introspective practices that I recommend are meditation, being among nature, journaling, and coloring.
Meditation is the practice of focusing your mind, finding awareness, and achieving a sense of calm and peace. There is no right or wrong way to meditate, but it can feel awkward when you first get started because it is so unusual to be so aware of your thoughts. However, numerous studies have shown that there are tangible benefits to meditation, including lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety, and improved sleep.
Being Among Nature
Spending time in nature has been shown to improve mood, cognition, and even productivity. Studies have shown boosts in test scores after a walk in nature as opposed to others who walked around urban areas. One particular study even showed that a simple nature film was able to reduce the heart rate and skin temperature of a group of participants who had just seen a horror movie. This shows that even just being exposed to nature visually can improve physiologic parameters of anxiety.
Journaling has numerous benefits, including a reduction in anxiety and depression and an enhancement of emotional regulation. Keeping a journal allows an opportunity to dump all of the thoughts in your head out onto paper. This gives you the chance to process the emotions and experiences related to those thoughts and reduces the brooding and ruminations that humans are so prone to. It has even been shown to have physiologic benefits, such as an improved ability to tolerate difficult therapies like chemotherapy and improved pain scores.
Note: those in the midst of extremely distressing situations or struggling with severe anxiety or depression may find that journaling can trigger thoughts and feelings they are incapable of handling on their own. If you are in that place, please seek the help of trained mental professionals.
Any kind of creative practice can improve mood and enhance cognition, and coloring is one practice that is associated with emotional well-being. It also has some interesting cognitive benefits. It increases the amount of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is associated with memory. It also results in neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to change its neural networks through growth and reorganization. It has even been shown to improve the dendritic connections, which are important for normal neuronal function and the prevention of neurological disorders. So coloring is an amazing practice that not only enhances mood and cognition but can also prevent cognitive decline.
Using any of these introspective practices will help enhance your emotional well-being. And from a nutrition perspective, remember that your emotions can hijack your hunger hormones, resulting in emotional eating even when you’re not hungry, so it’s important to nourish your soul and be mindful of your thought processes and emotions.