Our faith teaches that body and soul cannot be separated. They are both good. Our bodies and minds point us to and help us to understand the physical and emotional and spiritual intimacy we are made for. And feeding our souls deeply enriches those intimacies and connections. Feeding on God, His Word, and the Eucharist helps us to see the incredible love we are made for and called to. If we ignore or neglect our body, it negatively impacts the soul; if we ignore the soul, our body suffers. As a therapist, I admire those who recognize their mind or soul is starving and go about learning how to heal and feed these integral parts of themselves.

If our soul or mind or body is left unattended, it affects everything. As a nurse practitioner, I have spent my life encouraging people to eat well, make healthy choices, be moderate. Eating fast food, refined foods, junk food will cause inflammation in our bodies, decrease our immune response, put us at risk for cancer and heart disease. We also know that our physical bodies need movement and exercise, stretching and toning to keep “the machine” well-oiled and running smoothly.

Not giving good physical fuel to our bodies can negatively impact our spiritual and emotional wellbeing. Studies show that physical exercise boosts the brain chemicals that improve our mood.

In the same manner, if we feed on all that is going wrong in our world, listen to a constant negative spin, forget to be grateful, our mind and spirit will be depressed, dull, irritable and our body and soul will likewise be dull and listless.

If we starve our soul or feed it superficial junk, we will feel disconnected from the transcendent, lose sight of the fact that we are made for love and connection. God invites us to come to Him, to sit with Him, to let Him love and feed us. The peace that He gives us is a powerful antidote to the unsettling world around us. We know that spiritual perspective and peace in turn make for stronger and healthier mind and body.

We are to cherish ourselves, care for ourselves, on every level. We know that we owe our children more than food and a roof over their head; they need security, hugs, understanding, listening; if we are really wise, we realize that they need an overarching framework for their world, on where they came from, why they are here, where are they going. We owe this integrated care for ourselves as well. When we withhold feeding our soul, it shrivels. And our bodies and minds suffer.

We usually try to feed our physical bodies several times a day, and our souls deserve that kind of daily attention as well. When we feed on the Eucharist, read Scripture, talk to our Lord, inform ourselves about Him and His love and plan for us, we flourish on every level. The healthiest and happiest people are those who evaluate and take care of their body, mind, and soul and integrate them.

—Sharon Trani, a nurse practitioner, is a marriage and family therapist with Vermont Catholic Charities Inc.

—Originally published in the Summer 2023 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.