This saying from the label on Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap impressed me when I first saw it decades ago and remains a touchstone for me to this day. No matter what our external circumstances, our physical condition profoundly influences our day-to-day experience of life. Feeling poorly detracts from the enjoyment of good fortune, and conversely, physical vitality and well-being can promote awareness of the special wonders and satisfactions available in the most mundane situations.
Young children wear their hearts on their sleeves and their caregivers can usually tell when they are hungry or tired by their irritability and moodiness. Providing a well-timed snack or nap can transform a challenging toddler into a delightful child. As we mature and learn to manage our feelings on our own, the connection between our physical needs and our emotional struggles may become obscured. Many people can work for hours without a break or skip meals, overeat or under-sleep without having a tantrum, but is it wise? Skimping on basic self-care does have consequences, both emotional and physical. Perhaps the signals are not as immediately obvious to ourselves as they are when we observe children, but the body’s unmet needs subtly influence mood, outlook, task performance, relationship interactions and eventually health.
Although I have devoted my career to psychotherapy and helping people with the emotional and psychological aspects of individual development and relationship dynamics, I know from my own experience that one of the most effective things one can do to improve one’s state of mind is to invest in better care of the body. Whether preparing a home cooked meal, taking a walk, yoga or exercise class, making a doctor’s appointment, getting a massage or getting more sleep, I encourage everyone to consider what they could do to enhance their physical well-being.
We often know what to do but encounter a variety of inner and outer obstacles to fulfilling our intentions to take good care of ourselves. This is where the support of a friend, a class, a therapist or even an app can make a real difference. Doing what we can to enhance the body’s wellness not only provides a feeling of effectiveness but better health puts us in a stronger position to face and address whatever challenges life brings our way.