If you told someone they had “good kokoro,” you’d be paying them a compliment in Japanese culture. According to Yoshikawa Sakiko, director of a research centre in Japan, kokoro is difficult to explain using English words but can best be described as a unity of the heart, mind, and spirit.
Body, mind, and soul are often thought of as separate or even competing aspects of humanity in Western culture. However, to experience a life that is genuinely fulfilling and satisfactory, it’s important that these three sides work in tandem. If you ask me, assessing how balanced we are in these domains might be a better indication of “wellness” than many of the metrics we’ve been using up until now that revolve around achieving a “perfect” body, cutting foods out of our diet, or living according to a set of rigid nutritional rules.
In today’s post, I’ll suggest six ways to evaluate your own approach to wellness and provide suggestions on how you might be able to bring more balance to your mind, body, and soul.
1. Exercise mindfully.
One of the most positive things we can do for our bodies is move mindfully and in a way that makes us feel good. Many of us choose workouts based on if they'll help us achieve our body image goals rather than seeing it as a spiritual practice. But purely physical aims like building muscle or losing fat may ultimately leave us feeling unfulfilled if there’s no deeper meaning attached to movement. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t break a sweat in the gym or avoid having goals, it just may be helpful to think about how and why you exercise. A great way to meaningfully evaluate your approach is to slow things down. Try tai chi or a calming yoga flow. Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice and a powerful exercise that helps us keep the athletic body in balance. When we build physical strength through yoga, we also build mental stamina that improves our health in a more holistic way.
2. Eat a nutritious and balanced diet.
Eating a diet high in processed or unhealthy foods is not only bad for our physical health, but it can disrupt our mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. If you find yourself frequently craving comfort foods or eating to sooth difficult emotions, it could be helpful to explore what might be fuelling this behaviour. After all, the body reaches a state of energy balance when it is properly nourished in both body and soul. In other words, eating a meal that’s high in sugar, fat, and salt might feel physically satiating in the moment but emotionally depleting later on if you wind up feeling guilty and regretful.
Eating only disguises our problems temporarily. To assess the emotional reasons for a poor diet, we must become introspective and examine the emotional processes that drive our behaviours.
3. Give your brain some quiet time.
Meditation is a form of introspective practice that can help us analyze and evaluate our mental, spiritual, and body balance. With its focus on deep breathing, meditation calms the body and mind and stimulates the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to organs of the digestive, respiratory, and urinary systems. As malfunctions of the vagus nerve have been scientifically associated with many forms of mental and physical distress—such as microbial overgrowth in the gut and anxiety disorders—it’s important that we engage in practices that maintain its health whenever we can. Meditation, defined as any practice that trains our attention and awareness, can activate this nerve and contribute to the natural balance of whole-body health. Beyond that, it allows our minds a quiet break from the hectic pace of modern life and a space to reflect deeply on our spiritual and emotional state.
4. Spend time in nature.
Time spent in nature is good for the soul, and what’s good for the soul benefits the body and mind. Spending time in nature has a calming effect on the nervous system and is scientifically proven to boost mood and improve overall positivity. Quiet your mind by taking a long walk in the countryside or through a nearby hiking trail. Enjoy a bike ride or run outside rather than doing this on a treadmill or stationary bike when possible. Walk barefoot on grass and open your windows during the day. The physical exercise, time to think and reflect, and pleasant natural stimulus around you can be an accessible and effective way to soothe the body and balance physical therapy with mental stress relief.
5. Challenge yourself mentally.
Although it’s tempting to veg out in front of the TV after a long week, you may reap more benefits if you choose to do something mentally challenging instead. Of course, your mind needs time to recharge, but zoning out completely can leave you feeling less rested and more lethargic than anticipated. Instead, try to add one mentally challenging activity into your downtime. Reading a chapter of an engaging book, doing a crossword puzzle, or playing a mentally stimulating board game like Ghost Blitz is a great way to boost brain health and liven up your everyday routine.
Remember, your mind is also located in your body. Feeding your brain healthy foods like healthy fats from nuts and oily fish and other nutrient-dense foods can also help bring balance to your body, mind, and spirit.
6. Consider what feeds your soul.
Participating in activities that make your soul feel fed can reduce negative feelings of hopelessness or depression. If you’re not sure what fulfills you, try some new hobbies and listen to your intuition—and know that sometimes this involves a bit of trial and error. Consider asking yourself what you’ve enjoyed in the past and what you specifically liked about it. If you enjoyed painting in high school thanks to its ability to take your mind off of things, try another hands-on hobby that will require your full attention.
If you already have a passion, dedicate some time to this throughout the week. You’d be amazed at how far a little creativity can go in helping you achieve a feeling of body balance for mind, body, and soul.
The Bottom Line
So many of our habits in Western society inadvertently create a separation between our mind, body, and soul. We might do an intense Crossfit workout that bulks up our muscles but dread every workout. We might eat chips as a way of "treating ourselves" after a long week only to feel lethargic and regretful afterwards. When we start using a definition of wellness that's mindful of the interconnectedness between our mind, body, and soul, we may find ourselves feeling more holistically healthy and calm.
How do you strike a balance between body, mind, and soul? Are there any areas you struggle with? What tips do you have for a great mind, body, and soul connection? Let us know in the comments!
Today's post is written by Adam Reeve, who has been a person trainer and fitness instruction for more than 10 years. He is also a life coach and wellness writer on Keto Supplement Reviewed.