Feed your soul with intention and awareness.
Just as so-called comfort food isn’t particularly good for our physical bodies, a steady diet of activities that are insipid or numbing can clog our spiritual arteries too. Whether we binge on TV shows and social media, or overdo work and personal commitments, we risk living a life that’s merely filled up rather than full, while we ourselves feel empty and exhausted. Maybe it’s another environmental hazard of our consumer society. Fortunately, all that’s needed to remedy this form of spiritual heart disease is a little more intention and awareness.
The 13th-century mystic Rumi wrote, "The heart eats a particular food from every companion; it receives a particular nourishment from every piece of knowledge." Why not investigate this for yourself? Take a look at your schedule and see where – and how – you spend most of your time. Then start to notice how you feel after doing those activities or being in certain environments: is your heart heavy or agitated, or does it feel light and expansive?
With that information in hand, you can start to make more conscious choices about how you spend your time. Because habits are hard to change, however, it’s more effective to use pre-commitments instead of willpower to divert yourself from the usual rabbit holes. For example, if you don’t want to spend the whole evening on your next shopping expedition, you could plan to arrive at the store only an hour before it closes. Similarly, if a weekend brunch date with friends tends to turn into complaining or gossiping, make an appointment to be somewhere else by the time the check comes.
Meanwhile, identify more nourishing activities to replace the junk you’re cutting out. Not sure which spiritual vitamins your heart needs? Here’s a short list of things most of us don’t do enough of:
- Spend time outdoors. Studies have found that being in nature for just 20 minutes a day is enough to boost feelings of wellbeing and vitality.
- Engage in joyful movement. Unlike going to the gym or gritting your teeth through an exercise class, physical activities where you are happily present in your body can lift the heart’s vibration.
- Join your voice with others. Whether you join a choir or drop into a yoga studio’s kirtan, singing in a group will make you feel more connected and harmonious from the inside out.
- Sign up for service. Many people who volunteer say they get more than they give by helping others: increased levels of gratitude are one of the first effects of service, and also one of the most lasting.
By following a life diet like this, you might start to feel your heart grow a few sizes. But when it comes to filling up on compassion, love and community, more really is better.