Neil Cains (Certificate in Holistic Life Coaching)
The interconnectedness of the mind, body and soul is a complex and rich area of study. The three aspects of psychological (mind), physical (body) and spiritual (soul) wellbeing work in synergy with each other and it can be argued that if one area of wellbeing is not at optimal levels, it will have a negative impact on the other aspects. As a result, it is critical for an individual to find balance and harmony between these factors and to understand that each has a symbiotic relationship to the others. This paper will detail and discuss the fundamentals behind achieving wellness in each of these areas and will examine how they are interconnected and relate to each other so that the individual can enjoy peak health and wellbeing.
Psychological wellbeing (the mind) can be divided into two aspects: cognitive wellbeing and emotional wellbeing. The cognitive aspect of psychology refers to mental processes such as “attention, language, memory, perception, problem solving, creativity, and thinking” (http://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive.html) and so for an individual to be healthy in this area, it is important that they take active responsibility for challenging their mind in positive ways of learning, being creative and problem solving. Like the physical body needs exercise to stay healthy, so does the mind.
Emotional wellbeing is focused around the ability to understand and work with feelings and how an individual relates to the world. The Mental Health Foundation says that: “A positive sense of wellbeing enables an individual to be able to function in society and meet the demands of everyday life; people in good mental health have the ability to recover effectively from illness, change or misfortune” (Rutland Wellbeing). Emotional wellbeing involves taking responsibility for our emotional health via appropriate mental health care and positive self-esteem.
Physical wellbeing (the body) relates to the organic health of the individual and is directly impacted by physical exercise, nutrition, abstaining from negative behaviours such as substance abuse, positive self-care and actively protecting ourselves from danger and injuries (Holistic Life Coaching Course [HLCC] module 1). When an individual is feeling healthy and strong they are more equipped to deal with the day to day pressures of life and have the energy and motivation to pursue their higher goals and desires. If we consider the two base levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Physiological (food, water, shelter) and Safety (protection from danger), we can see how fundamental it is that a person’s physical wellbeing is achieved before the other aspects of wellbeing can be addressed (Maslow).
Spiritual wellbeing (the soul) refers to an individual’s personal philosophy regarding themselves and the world they live in; and is made up of their guiding beliefs, values and principals. Spiritual wellbeing involves finding balance between a person’s inner nature and the external forces of the world around them (HLCC module 1). In order to have and maintain spiritual wellbeing an individual needs to seek meaning around what they may believe is the higher purpose of their existence. When spiritual wellbeing is healthy, it provides a solid foundation for the person in times of crisis. The Buddha said “Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life”.
So far, we have given an overview of the definitions around each of the areas of mind, body, soul and this paper will go on to discuss how each area works in union with the others. For example, how the mind and body work together, the mind and soul’s relationship and how the practice of a healthy spiritual life can positively impact the physical health of the individual.
If we look at the “mind/body” connection we can see how they can directly influence the health of the individual. Taking inspiration from Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese Medicine, Western science has dedicated a significant amount of research into the area of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). PNI refers to “psycho” (psychology), “neuro” (neurology/nervous system) and “immunology” (immunity) and how our psychological wellbeing directly impacts the neurological and hormonal factors that contribute to the immune system’s most efficient functioning (HLLC module 1). There is a vast body of research to support this including the work of Halbert Dunn (1961), who published “High Level Wellbeing” that argued that there was more to health than the absence of disease; and that wellbeing should refer to the healthy balance between the mind, body and spirit (HLLC module 1).
The mind/soul relationship (the Psych-Spiritual) is a concept that there is an area between where the two meet, impact and support one another. For example, in his book “Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water” Brian Luke Seaward talks about the “muscles of the soul” that help and support the individual through times of stress and crisis by providing them with a higher resource of beliefs and strengths that will allow them to transcend the difficult situation they may be presented with at that time. It could be argued that strong spiritual wellbeing underpins all of the other aspects because if we have a solid base of beliefs and positive worldview, we are better equipped to handle challenges without there being such a negative impact on psychological and physical health.
Finally, we look at how the soul/body connection. As discussed above, if an individual holds a positive worldview and belief system, they are more likely to be able to handle their emotions and the issues life can present whilst ensuring that their physical body is taken care of with adequate nutrition and exercise. Furthermore, the individual may be less inclined to partake in more damaging behaviours such as substance abuse that can be some people’s withdrawal method when they are trying to escape from their difficulties. Due to the symbiotic nature of the mind, body and soul, taking this negative approach will cause ill-health in one area that then negatively impacts the others; and a vicious cycle develops that feeds of itself. Just as the mind, body, soul connection can work to the benefit of the individual; it can also work to its detriment.
In conclusion, there is little doubt as to the links and interconnectedness of the mind, body and soul and how they must work in harmony and balance with each other in order for the individual to enjoy the greatest health and wellbeing. With a deep understanding and respect for each of the tenets and how they relate to each other, a person will be well equipped with the knowledge of how best to take care of each aspect of their holistic wellbeing. Equally, intelligence around how each of the areas directly impacts one another will allow the individual to self-manage their wellbeing to the best of their abilities.
- Abraham H. Maslow (2013) A Theory of Human Motivation, Wilder Publications
- Brian Luke Seaward (2007), Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water, Health Communications
- Halbert Dunn (1961), High Level Wellbeing, Arlington, VA: Beatty Press.
- Holistic Life Coaching Course (HLCC) module 1 “A Holistic Life Coaching Approach”
- Rutland Wellbeing