Nourishing the 8 Bodies

Nourishing the body does not only mean getting the food and water you need to live. There is more than just the physical body to be wholly well nourished. To be completely well nourished you have to think about the other “bodies” you have. These other “bodies have to be taken care of the same way your physical body needs to be taken care of. They are emotional, psychological, social, intellectual, creative, and spiritual. Each part requires nourishment in a different way, but they are all connected. Find out more on how to nourish each of the 8 bodies below from Well Nourished, out now!

Physical Body

A simple drawing of a person sitting with leafs coming off their head and hands.

Our physical body needs the proper balance of food, water, sleep, exercise, movement, and rest and relaxation in order to thrive. If one or more of these components are missing or lacking, we may have a general feeling of malaise, stress, unease, fatigue, tension, anxiety, or depression. We might try to overcome these feelings by eating more than our body requires or eating the kinds of highly processed foods that are full of sugar, fat, salt, and/or refined carbohydrates—common go-to foods when things are out of balance. Or we might overwork or drink too much to try to feel better.

Let’s look at a more specific example: It has been a week since you last went to the gym, walked briskly for half an hour or so, or took your regular yoga class. You have a lot going on with work, managing your kids’ after-school activities and homework, as well as dealing with household chores like cooking, cleaning, and laundry. You’ve postponed your nourishing social engagements and feel a general buildup of tension in your body. The refrigerator has your name on it and has become your friend after dinner. But eating doesn’t fix the problem. Self-judging thoughts and guilt can immediately follow as well as feeling physically uncomfortably full. Nourishing the body through exercise, which increases feelings of well-being and discharges tension, could have been helpful here, as could have keeping a few social engagements that were fun, supportive, or stress-relieving.

Keeping your physical body well nourished establishes a foundation of wellness and wellbeing that can help you stay balanced in your eating and lifestyle habits and impacts all the other bodies. It helps you to receive and give nourishment in all aspects of your life. Exercise is just one example of physical nourishment that can affect the way we eat and live. Diet, of course, is another. We will visit the role of social nourishment shortly, which can actually impact physical health as well.

Emotional Body

A simple drawing of a person sitting, with their arms out

How would you describe your general emotional tone? Do your moods swing up and down, or do you tend to be steady or have particular emotions that predominate? How do you typically feel when you are under stress? Some people experience anxiety, others depression or anger. We all have our predispositions and individual temperaments. When we are well nourished and have many resources, we tend to be more even and experience more positive emotion. We can draw on these resources when we are under stress and thus find equilibrium more quickly. One such resource to nourish our emotional body is mindfulness. Mindfulness can not only help us manage difficult emotions and situations with a sense of peace and control but also help us cultivate more of the pleasant emotions and positive qualities of mind, such as kindness, appreciation, gratitude, and joy. Cultivating nourishment in all the bodies will support our emotional body as well.

Let’s say you had a hard day at work. Nothing seemed to go right. You skipped lunch because of a deadline. When you got home, you were so tired from the stress of the day and not eating enough that you skipped your evening walk as well. You made a healthy dinner but snacked during the preparation because you were so hungry you couldn’t wait. You ate more overall than you wanted to and weren’t happy about that. Dinner is over, and now you are feeling sad and lonely. You have your eye on the cupcakes you bought for the work potluck tomorrow.

How could you nourish the emotional body in that moment? You might automatically go for the cupcakes. Or you might decide to nourish your heart. Just a few examples might be engaging in a mindful, heart-centered practice where you become your own compassionate best friend, calling a buddy, cuddling with your cat or partner, or engaging in a creative or intellectual pursuit to help nourish the emotional body. It may be that in this instance, a need to feel love and connection with yourself or others after a challenging day is behind the desire for the cupcakes. You also may notice that attending to the physical body that evening or earlier in the day by doing some gentle stretching or walking or eating a good lunch may have helped your emotional body later on.

Psychological Body

Same style drawing as the other two, a person sitting

Our psychological body includes not only our thoughts but our feelings as well as our awareness. Since there is an overlap here with the other bodies, we will explore this area particularly as it pertains to the realm of mindfulness and being present in our moment-to-moment experience with kindness, compassion, and nonjudgmental. We will consider our relationship to what is happening in our thoughts, feelings, and awareness. Are you on automatic pilot, habitually going through your days without attention or care to the nourishment of your different bodies except to get the next deadline, errand, or project done? Do you approach yourself and your experiences with kindness and compassion, or do you tend to judge yourself frequently?

In the example of the day where you are eyeing the cupcakes, you might decide to eat the cupcakes without much thought to what else you may really need in the moment. After eating one cupcake, the judging mind might set in: “Why did I eat that cupcake? I wanted to lose weight. I’m a bad person with no willpower. I’ve ruined my diet today, so I may as well eat more.” And you end up eating the whole package.

With mindful awareness, you might pause before or after eating one cupcake and notice how tired you are, and that the loneliness you are experiencing is a result of feeling disconnected from yourself after a hard day with little rest or other nourishment. You notice you aren’t hungry anymore and feel overfull from dinner and all the pre-dinner snacking. What might truly nourish you in this moment rather than eating the cupcakes? How might bring kindness to the thoughts that are beating you up stop the cycle of mindlessly eating? You may then choose to nourish yourself after your long day with a bubble bath, a heart-based practice, or curling up with your favorite book or movie.

What if you had a toolbox of powerful mindful eating practices that would help you savor and enjoy what you do choose to eat—but help you eat only the amounts that you can feel good about? Mindfulness will help you identify what you really need on an ongoing basis. Your awareness, intentions, and toolbox will help guide you and support your choices.

Social Body

Simple outline drawing of a person sitting with arms in the air.


Scientists can actually measure how the brain and body positively respond to social connection, a loving touch, or a great talk with a friend. This bonding relaxes us and can produce oxytocin, a “caregiving” hormone, bonding and other health benefits. But perceived barriers of time, “too many things to do,” or an emotional body being out of balance (such as feeling overwhelmed and depressed) may prevent us from regularly tapping into the nourishment this important part of life can bring.

Going back to the earlier example of the challenging workday in our discussion of the physical body, we can consider how the day might have ended differently if you had made a positive social connection. Reaching for the phone to call a friend or spending quality time with a spouse or partner—rather than reaching for the cupcakes—probably would have left you feeling more fulfilled and in control of the circumstances.

Intellectual Body

A simple drawing of a person sitting with hands together.

The desire to learn new things is part of being human. It has helped us survive and thrive as a species. The intellect embodies our natural curiosity and quest for understanding. Some people love to learn for learning’s sake or enjoy abstract or academic ideas. Some people love to read books, go to lectures, listen to music, build model cars, or take apart computers and put them back together. The intellectual body is one that is important to nourish, as it often gets left behind when we are busy and overwhelmed with day-to-day responsibilities. For some people having regular intellectual outlets and stimulation enriches the soul, like creativity, and is very fulfilling.

Perhaps underneath the craving for ice cream at 8:00 p.m. is a desire for stimulation and engagement, but food is the habit. The sweetness and creaminess of ice cream are more immediately tangible than reading the novel lying on your coffee table, watching a documentary, or going out to a theater performance with friends. Mindfulness can help you break this habit, discern which body is hungry and what would really feed your intellect. In chapter 8 you will assess how the intellectual body applies to you and what would be particularly helpful to nourish this area.

Creative Body

Same style, a person sitting with their arms in the air and a sun behind them

When we are engaged in a creative activity, we enter a state sometimes called flow, which is the opposite of the stress response.

Creative pursuits can be fun, relaxing, and all-absorbing, thus taking our mind off other worries and helping us be completely present in the moment. For some people absorption in creative activities may feel like food for the soul. Depending on your personal interests, your creative outlet may be making beautiful art, cooking a gourmet meal, or writing a poem or short story. Perhaps you have completely let go of this facet of your life after you entered the workforce or had a family. Or maybe you have recently retired from a job that provided creative opportunities and now feel a dearth of creative activity in your life.

Reflecting on the example of the challenging day at work, think about how things would have ended differently if you had engaged in a creative activity that you enjoy. What if you had spent the evening playing an instrument you love or working on that novel you always promise yourself you are going to write? How might your creative activities have nourished you after an exhausting day? How might this have affected possible trips to the refrigerator that evening?

Spiritual Body

Simple outline drawing of a person sitting with hands folded

Another kind of hunger that is not always recognized is spiritual hunger. Being fed spiritually can be quite transformational, an important part of a fulfilling and balanced life.

We all have unique ways of relating with, understanding, and experiencing what is spiritual. For some, the sense of being connected to something greater than ourselves is experienced by spending time in nature. For others, it is experienced during a religious ritual or service. Some feel a sense of the spiritual in community, while for others it is in solitary meditation or prayer. The details of how you experience the spiritual aren’t important—only that you find the space to do so. How often do you allow yourself to contemplate the greater mystery of life or rest in a sense of great love? What lifts your soul?

Consider the earlier example of the stressful day at work. What if you were regularly reading inspirational books at bedtime or had a daily meditation or yoga practice that nourished you? What if you took a few minutes out of each day to watch the sunrise in the morning or look at the stars in the evening? Or perhaps you participated in a spiritual study group once a week or took a quiet walk in nature? Consider how cultivating a connection with a sense of something greater than yourself, however, that may look for you, could be deeply nourishing and help maintain mindful eating practices and more balanced eating.

Worldly Nourishment

Simple outline draw of a person

Feeling that you are a part of the world and making a difference in some way is another vital area of nourishment that is sometimes overlooked. When you feel you are making a meaningful contribution and have a sense of purpose in your life, it can be easier to get up in the morning. Stress and cortisol—known as the stress hormone—levels can be lower. You might notice more of a sense of energy and enthusiasm. People who have a sense of purpose are healthier in general and live longer. It seems it even helps your brain be more resilient and age better.

Everyone has his or her own unique gifts and talents. Are you aware of what yours are, and are you actively expressing them in the world? Do you feel you have a venue to share your talents and gifts through work, volunteerism, family, your community, or in some other way? Or are you using food to stuff away feelings of frustration from not manifesting this area in your life? Imagine a day where you made some meaningful contribution in work or to your family or community in some way. How did you feel afterward? How did it impact your day? You might notice it makes you feel good and mentally upbeat. You have an internal sense of well-being and energy from contributing to something you care deeply about. How might this impact your self-care choices on this day? Could it reduce stress eating? Affect the types of food you choose and their quantity? It doesn’t matter how big your contribution is. One action, however small, can make a big difference in someone’s life.

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Well Nourished, Mindful practices to heal your relationships with food, feed your whole self, and end overeating Learn how to nourish your mind, body, and spirit and have a mindful relationship to food.Many people use food to nourish themselves when what they are really hungry for is other forms of nourishment. What if we were living a life where we felt well-nourished emotionally, intellectually, physically, psychologically, spiritually, socially, and creatively? What if we were mindfully present to receive, experience, plan for and engage in nourishing activities, moments, and practices regularly that fed us on many levels. What if we were able to maintain an inner sense of balance and nourishment even when things are not perfectly in balance, and have the tools and practices to do so rather than turn to food at those times?

This book will show readers how to develop a mindful relationship to food and craft a well-nourished life with step-by-step examples, tools, and mindful practices that can be individualized to their unique needs.