Menanteau Serfontein – 29 December 2020. Updated 10 February 2021
We all know people who are physically extremely healthy and strong, but whose thought processes, and spiritual character are underdeveloped. Similarly, there are people who might have a strong mind and reasoning skills, but who are morally deficient as a result of being spiritually shallow. The ideal is that there should be a healthy balance between Body, Soul and Spirit.
This write-up covers a high level, simplistic overview based on my own understanding of Body, Soul and Spirit, without dealing with the intricate complexities of these entities. We will also deal with the inter-connectedness of the Body, Soul and Spirit and make suggestions about ways and means of keeping all three healthy and how to strengthen each of them.
There are various descriptions of the composition of a living person. Most believe that, broadly speaking, a human being consists of three parts, however different terminology is being used for these parts. The most common descriptions are “Mind, Body and Soul”, “Mind, Body and Spirit” and “Body, Soul and Spirit”. Some people use Soul and Spirit interchangeably and others use Soul and Mind interchangeably. My own preference is the term “Body, Soul and Spirit”, with the Mind forming part of the Soul.
The Body consists of flesh, bone, nerves, veins, organs, cells, tissues, biological systems, 5 senses, etc. The brain is the physical place where the mind resides. The brain is an organ but the mind isn’t.
The Soul encompasses the mind, desire, memory and personality. The Mind (which is part of the soul) controls our thinking, reasoning, choices/decisions, the will, beliefs, attitudes, feelings and emotions. The Mind provides us with the ability to understand, to control what we do, and to know what we are doing and why. This means that we are responsible for our behaviour.
The mind and body communicate constantly. What the mind thinks, perceives, and experiences is sent from our brain to the rest of the body. What and how we think, play a key role in our decision-making and how we behave.
I believe that in our search for meaning and purpose in life, our Spirit plays a major role, because the type of spirit that we allow to reside in us, could potentially have a profound impact on our life at the deepest level. In the case of Christians, the Holy Spirit of God resides within those who desire and allow it to do so and their lives are then lived in accordance with the leadership and wisdom provided by the Spirit. This enables a committed Christian to supernaturally have close fellowship with God and to find true meaning and purpose in life. Our spirit also gives us clarity about right and wrong.
Please note that people with illnesses and other health related conditions and problems must consult their doctor before they embark on any of the concepts and proposals that are contained in this write-up.
In his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen R. Covey says that Habit 7, which is to “Sharpen the Saw”, surrounds the other six Habits, because it is the habit that makes the others possible. To Sharpen the Saw involves regular, balanced renewal of the physical, spiritual, mental and social emotional dimensions of our nature.
Inter-connectedness between Body, Soul (including the Mind) and Spirit
Our Body, Soul and Spirit are inter-connected. A key factor in living an extraordinary daily life, is the extent of the health and strength of our Body, Soul and Spirit and whether they are in balance. If any of the three is neglected, weak or “sick”, it will inevitably have a detrimental impact on one’s quality of life, sense of well-being, personal effectiveness, productivity, relationships, physical health and mental health.
Below are some suggestions for maintaining and strengthening your Body, Soul and Spirit.
Soul (including the Mind)
In my experience, what and how we think, probably has the most dramatic impact on most aspects of our lives such as our goals, priorities, behaviour, the choices and decisions that we make, our relationships, physical health, mental health and the extent to which we exert self-control/discipline.
Margaret Thatcher and various other high profile leaders have been quoted saying the following:
“Watch your thoughts for they become words.
Watch your words for they become actions.
Watch your actions for they become habits.
Watch your habits for they become your character.
And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
What we think, we become.”
Roy T. Bennett said “Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”
I agree fully with Bennett. We need to be aware of what and how we think and if it is not aligned with what and how we ought to be thinking, or what/how we would prefer to think, then we can and should choose to take corrective action.
When we think constructively and with a positive mindset, it is empowering and results in meaningful purpose in one’s life, because constructive thinking provides purpose and direction. It also creates a positive belief in what’s possible and in one’s ability to set and achieve goals. It helps us to improve all the facets of our life, including our body and spirit. It helps us to get out of our comfort zone, to tackle tough challenges/obstacles and to become more effective. Constructive thinking also helps us to realise the importance of contributing to the common good and to meaningful causes that are bigger than ourselves.
Wendy Mass, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life: “A fight is going on inside me,” said an old man to his son. “It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other wolf is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on inside you.”
The son thought about it for a minute and then asked, “Which wolf will win?”
The old man replied simply, “The one you feed.”
When we embark on destructive and negative thinking, and allow our emotions to have too much free reign, it usually results in disempowerment, ineffectiveness, dysfunctional inter-personal relationships, personal “hang-ups”, physical illness and mental health/psychological problems.
The Table below contains examples of typical dysfunctional thought patterns that are detrimental and even destructive, as well as typical constructive thought patterns that are helpful and healthy.
|Detrimental/Destructive Thought Patterns||Constructive Thought Patterns|
|Shifting blame to everyone and everything but oneself. Thinking and acting like the victim. Complaining without seeking solutions.||Take responsibility and act accordingly. We all should have “agency” over our life. Agency is the sense of control that you feel in your life, your capacity to influence your own thoughts and behaviour, and have faith in your ability to handle a wide range of tasks and situations. Your sense of agency helps you to be psychologically stable, yet flexible in the face of conflict or change. Don’t relinquish your agency to anything or anybody else, except submission to God, in which event you are still responsible for your thoughts, words and behaviour.|
|Double-mindedness, chronic uncertainty, unwilling/unable to commit and being prone to procrastination||Think and believe that there are solutions to a problem, consider the options, decide what to do and take action/implement.|
|When anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, etc are experienced, it is allowed to dominate. This makes it extremely difficult to make an accurate, rational assessment of the situation, resulting in debilitating consequences, which could, in extreme cases, result in mental health as well as physical problems.||When anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, etc are experienced, active steps are immediately taken to conduct a rational evaluation of the extent to which it is real or exaggerated. Actively endeavour to replace such thoughts with opposite thoughts that are life-giving, positive and generating inner peace and inner victory.|
|Thoughts and expressions of “I am useless”, “I am a loser” and “I will never be able to do this”, without countering it with positive declarations of hope and belief of what is possible. A victim mentality.||What we think and speak about ourselves becomes a “self-fulfilling prophesy”, i.e. we eventually become what we think and say about ourselves. Develop the habit of thinking and believing that you can and will succeed.|
|Always expecting negative outcomes, e.g. “There is no point in applying, because I know that I’m not going to get the job anyway.” A victim mentality.||Thinking and believing that a positive outcome is indeed possible, instead of always fearing the worst.|
|Being overly critical and judgemental. Looking down upon others and even hurling insults. Thoughts of “I am better than you”. Gossiping and concentrating on the weaknesses and shortcomings of others. This is often done to make ourselves feel better.||Think about others with respect, dignity, kindness, empathy and compassion and act accordingly. Highlighting the achievements, good traits and positive words or actions of others.|
|Exaggerating the facts, problems, obstacles and difficulties. Thinking, stressing and complaining about the issue, instead of focusing on remedies/solutions. Thinking mainly about the reasons why something cannot be done.||Assess and accept the reality of the facts, confidently consider possible courses of action, choose the most appropriate option and act accordingly.|
|Jumping to irrational conclusions without explicit facts substantiating your views, e.g. you conclude that someone has something against you, without verifying it, e.g. “My friend hasn’t replied to my text in 3 hours. She hates me. Nobody likes me.”||Always gather the facts first, before coming to conclusions and before deciding what to do.|
|A propensity to be over-critical about yourself, e.g. “I can’t believe I said that. I’m such an idiot.”||Take responsibility for actions, but don’t put yourself down all the time.|
|A single negative event or failure is blown out of all proportion. You keep dwelling on it and regard it as a continuing pattern of failure (Catastrophising).||See the facts in perspective. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill and let it go. One failure or one mistake, does not mean that you are a failure and that you will always fail. In fact, train yourself to think and believe that things can be achieved and will be successful.|
|Positive experiences are disregarded and you focus entirely on one or two negative events.||Don’t adopt a victim mentality. Don’t be too hard on yourself.|
|If your performance is not perfect, you regard yourself as a failure.||Extreme perfectionism is a big disadvantage. No-one’s performance can ever be perfect. In fact, no-one is perfect at anything. Don’t be unnecessarily hard on yourself.|
|Exaggerating the importance or magnitude of events or facts, to your disadvantage (Catastrophising), e.g. “Since I can’t pay this bill, my credit rating will go down the tubes and I’ll lose the house.”||Rather focus on the facts and apply a rational perspective. Don’t accentuate and assume the worst.|
|You assume that because you have negative feelings and emotions, it has to be true, even though it might not necessarily be the way things really are, i.e. it might not be factual/correct/true: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”||In most instances it is unwise to assume that your feelings and emotions are true. Opinions and decisions should be based on objective facts and rational thought.|
|Self-blame for everything, e.g. “The boss looks mad. It must be something I did wrong.”||Take responsibility when necessary, but don’t blame yourself for everything, especially when you assume that you are to be blamed in cases where there is no indication that it was your fault.|
Habitual negative and distorted thought patterns, can become so entrenched that it becomes your default ways of thinking. Over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to recognise inappropriate thought patterns and to change it. However, it is never too late and it is indeed possible to change such destructive patterns. It is essential to recognise unhelpful, damaging ways of thinking as early as possible and to take action to replace destructive thinking and to adopt and entrench more constructive and effective thought processes.
To do this successfully, you need to know what it is that you wish to achieve, i.e. to get into the habit of having constructive thought patterns and then set a goal coupled with an action plan. It’s not easy, but it’s possible and worthwhile. Give it a try!
“It’s important what thoughts you are feeding into your mind, because your thoughts create your beliefs and experiences. You have positive thoughts and you have negative ones too. Nurture your mind with positive thoughts: kindness, empathy, compassion, peace, love, joy, humility, generosity, etc. The more you feed your mind with positive thoughts, the more you can attract great things into your life.”
We have a responsibility to take good care of our body in own interest, but also because it is the right thing to do. You need to have clarity what it is that you are after and this will vary from person to person. However, there are certain general principles that apply to us all.
Our diet is a fundamental part of caring for our body. I am not qualified to provide detailed nutritional advice, so I will merely outline the approach that has worked well for me throughout my life thus far.
You have to decide what and how much to eat and drink and this will be different for everyone. Experiment, to find out what works best for you. The key factor is that our food intake should be balanced and consist mainly of healthy foods. I personally think that it is unnecessary to take things to the extreme and that moderation is probably the most sensible and realistic approach. Your unique physical characteristics and the nature of any health issues that you might be struggling with, should obviously be taken into consideration to ensure that your eating habits are suitable to your circumstances.
I have found that what works for me, is to be aware of what and how much I eat compared to what I know is sufficient for me. When I have indulged somewhat and enjoyed some additional treats, then I will cut back on the size of my next meal. It is also a worthwhile habit to keep an eye on one’s body weight which tends to vary from day to day, which is fine, provided that one tries to ensure that it remains within self-imposed limits (which will be different for everyone). When one’s weight goes up, it is usually as a result of one’s food/drink intake and/or the lack of exercise.
It would be worthwhile for you to find practical ways and means that will suit you, to take good care of your body. There is no “one size fits all” and you need to find the best way that will work for you.
Regular exercise is another key factor in taking care of one’s body. Although I have extensive practical experience about various training regimes, I am not going to make any proposals in this regard. I prefer to merely give my view about some of the basic principles.
The main principle is to get enough exercise and there is a myriad number of ways to exercise. You need to decide what works for you. Whatever it is, the ideal is to include your exercise/training into your diary and to do your utmost to stick to it. Once it becomes part of your routine, you will start enjoying it more and more. If one is not disciplined enough about it, it is almost guaranteed that you will miss some sessions and before long, your exercise programme will fizzle out and you will most probably stop exercising, or don’t exercise nearly enough.
There are many advantages to regular exercise, especially if it goes hand in hand with a healthy diet. Your general health will improve over time, you will feel much better about yourself, it helps you to manage stress better. It also helps you to sleep better.
Nothing in life that is truly worthwhile, can be obtained or experienced without effort. The same applies to the benefits derived from exercising. To stay the course, requires self-discipline and a willingness to prioritise your exercise above other distractions and temptations. Regular exercising should ideally become a way of life. For most people, this is easier said than done, but it is indeed possible.
The importance of sleep is often overlooked or underestimated. The amount and quality of the sleep that one gets, plays a key role in achieving a healthy balance between Body, Soul and Spirit.
Ideally, one should get enough quality sleep every day to be able to function consistently at optimum levels. If you do not get enough sleep, some of the typical negative consequences include, feeling tired and sleepy, irritability, grumpiness, difficulty to concentrate, making mistakes, forgetting things, etc. The optimum amount of sleep that is required differs widely from one person to the next. You have to discover for yourself how much sleep you need.
The next challenge is to find the best way to ensure that you do indeed get the right amount and type of sleep. There is no right or wrong here, but from personal experience, one of the most effective ways for ensuring that you get the sleep you need, is to find a preferred routine. If at all possible, go to bed at the same time each night. Before going to bed, try your best to “float” to bed. This means that you calm yourself. Try to be relaxed and at peace. Avoid conflict, being stressed, upset, angry, or emotional before going to bed. Other additional factors include room temperature and blocking out light and noise (where possible).
Our spiritual life has a significant impact on our mental and emotional health (and vice versa), which in turn could affect our physical health. Our spiritual life is therefore just as important and in many ways even more important than the other two. In fact, Stephen R. Covey says that the spiritual dimension is your core, your centre, your commitment to your value system. It’s a very private area of life and a supremely important one. It draws upon sources that inspire and uplift you. To the timeless truths of all humanity. And people do it very, very differently.
Covey says that he finds renewal in daily prayerful meditation on the scriptures, because they represent his value system. As he read and meditates, he feels renewed, strengthened, centred and recommitted to serve. David O. McKay taught, “The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in silent chambers of the soul.” If you win battles there, if you settle the issues that inwardly conflict, you feel a sense of peace, a sense of knowing what you are about.
In order to experience and benefit from the advantages of a rich spiritual life, time should be set aside for it on a planned basis in your daily diary. I have found that the closer my walk with God, the better I am able to cope and deal with the issues of the day.
Unless you build it into your programme as a priority, spending time on your spiritual life will be haphazard and before long, it will fall by the wayside.
Our Body, Soul and Spirit are inter-connected; the one feeds upon the other. If any of the three is neglected, it negatively affects the other two and we miss out on the advantages and benefits of a well-balanced life. There are indeed people who are relatively content and function quite effectively without actively making an effort to prioritize taking responsible care of their Body, Soul and Spirit. However, from personal experience, I know that one can become so much more effective and content by being very aware of the importance of maximising the synergy between bodily, mental and spiritual health.
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