Tag Archives: holistic health

Physical Health—From Basic Needs to Body Language

(Taken from Chapter 3 of Soul Health: Aligning with Spirit for Radiant Living)

You don’t have a soul.  You are a soul.  You have a body.  ~ C.S. Lewis

07 July picHealth is a deeply personal thing. From the common cold to chronic illness, every physical ailment has an impact on how we experience the human condition. Any indication that we are not well threatens the quality or duration of our existence, and, more seriously, it affects the core of our being—our soul. Our health is multidimensional; it involves each and every aspect of our lives, which, cannot help but suffer along with the body. When we are ill, we often feel down emotionally. Our relationships suffer, and in some cases we lose them. Our jobs may be jeopardized, we neglect our surroundings, struggle to find or maintain inner peace (which may go out the window altogether), lose sexual interest, perhaps lose money as well, and certainly are not in the right frame of mind for good fun and leisure.

In 1955, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit priest and philosopher, wrote in Le Phénomène Humain (The Human Phenomenon) that “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” And there is nothing more human than our physical bodies. They may be finished evolving, but they are necessary to the soul’s continued evolution.

People spend an inordinate amount of money each year not only on health and physical fitness products, but on beauty products as well, which demonstrates the value they place on the state and appearance of their bodies. However, this focus on the physical body often ignores other aspects of overall well-being. This chapter explains the complex effects that our physical health can have on all branches of our vitality and illustrates how our body’s health reflects the health of our soul.

(To read further, purchase Soul Health: Aligning With Spirit for Radiant Living at www.drkatherinetkelly.com, www.amazon.com, or www.barnesandnoble.com)

Joyful Soul

(Taken from Chapter 12 of Soul Health:  Aligning with Spirit for Radiant Living)

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. ~ Norman Cousins

06 June picI have long lost track of how many people have entered my psychotherapy office bringing with them their sorrows, but leaving behind any sense of joy. They have lost their enjoyment and feel as if their zest for life has completely disappeared. When asked, few can say what used to make them smile, let alone remember the last time they really laughed. When I ask what they do for fun, the all-too-common answer is “nothing.” Certainly, when people are anxious, depressed, grief-stricken, stressed, or in any other state of turmoil, their experiences of joy are rare. But reacquainting with what brings them joy is guaranteed to free them from the gravity of any challenging circumstance or situation.

Our soul is nothing without joy. Without joy we are void of all light that reminds us why we live. In times when the human condition has us in its darkened grip, our experience of joy is less tangible, and so is our connection with our soul. We cannot see as clearly how to make decisions that suit our wisest ally, and we often go further off track rather than closer to our inner wisdom. Consequently, it’s not unusual for people who are distressed to report that they no longer know who they are, as their despair further disconnects them from their soul.

Our sense of joy—or lack of one—, thus, serves as another measure of our soul health. Our sense of joy is much like the pilot light for our inner ally—as long as it is lit we are still experiencing at least some pleasure in life and are able to tolerate the darker sides of the human condition. However, when that light is dim or snuffed out, nothing seems to matter—not even oneself. Therefore, awareness of what brings us joy is of utmost importance to our overall health. Essayist Logan Smith notes, “If you are losing your leisure, look out; you may be losing your soul.” Indeed, our souls do define us; and if we don’t listen to them, we will never find our way back home to this inner ally. More tragic is the risk of losing who we really are.

Joy stems both from the fun and leisure we create06 June pic2 in our lives and from the meaning we place on the activities we choose for recreation. Individual recreational needs may differ as widely as the people on the planet do. What we all have in common, though, is that fun and leisure not only buffers the unpleasant aspects of our human condition, but also fortifies or feeds the soul.

The recreational branch of soul health relates to both the fun and the leisure we allow, invite, or create in our lives. There is a difference between the two, though. We experience fun through “acting playfully”—reacting in a light-hearted, humorous, or jesting manner —at home, work, or social situations. Leisure time, however, allows us to find respite from our responsibilities—personal and professional—which usually represent the heavier aspects of our human condition. Both fun and leisure are necessary in fortifying our soul and promoting its evolution.

Unfortunately, most people don’t make or take time for fun and leisure. In a 2010 survey, an online travel agency found that only 38 percent of Americans use all of the vacation time they were allotted. This may not be surprising, given the standards for long hours of work in this country; however, the physical and emotional cost may outweigh the praise we get for the long hours worked. In fact, there is often a direct impact on physical health when people don’t take time to relax. One researcher found that people who don’t take time to slow down from daily life may find it harder to relax in the future since the neural pathways that produce feelings of calm and peacefulness become weaker, making it increasingly more difficult to shift to less stressful states of being. This demonstrates that our bodies are indeed restored when we are at rest or at play—and that this is necessary in sustaining our well-being.

(To read further, purchase Soul Health: Aligning With Spirit for Radiant Living at www.drkatherinetkelly.com, www.amazon.com, or www.barnesandnoble.com)


Cultural and ‘Emotional’ Environment of Soul Health

(Taken from Chapter 8 of Soul Health: Aligning with Spirit for Radiant Living)

It is a common habit to blame life upon the environment.  Environment modifies life but does not govern life.  The soul is stronger than its surroundings. ~~ William James


William James’ quote shows us that our environment doesn’t define us, but it does influence us, particularly if it is not suited to our soul’s needs and health.  For the sake of our soul health, we must become more aware of how well our environment affirms us and helps our soul to grow.  This is true of our immediate surroundings and our broader needs of culture, our lifestyle, and the values by which we live.   Because each soul differs in its environmental needs, each of us must consciously assess how our surroundings reflect who we are and whether we can thrive in them.   Take, for example, a move to a different part of the country, or another country altogether.  Each region or country has its own set of characteristics that may or not match our own soul.  Our preferences for climate, country- or city-living, proximity to mountains or the sea, and many other factors all influence whether our souls can thrive.  Just because we move to another part of a state or country does not mean our new location will offer the same perspectives on everyday life; in fact, it mostly likely will not.  Without this advance awareness, soul health can suffer greatly if we attempt to blend into the culture of a new region despite its ill fit for our soul.

In the United States, endless factors influence the cultural impact of our environment.  These include everyday beliefs, traditions, moral values, laws and unwritten rules of behavior, languages spoken, religious observances, customs (including religious ideas about marriage and family), acceptance of gender roles, dietary practices, artistic, intellectual and leisure-time pursuits, ethnic diversity and related customs and beliefs, conceptualization of family, as well as ideas about forms of dress, social mores and overall interpersonal etiquette.  All of these subtle—and not so subtle—differences may influence our contentment and thus our environmental soul health.

DSCF6069In other words, we must truly know our soul in order to decipher its complex needs regarding our environmental branch of health.  This awareness plays an important role in guiding our soul’s evolution.  Some value cultural diversity as an opening for growth, while others need a culture they can more readily identify with.  Some are hungry to expand their views beyond what is familiar to them; others are content with what they have always known.  Neither approach is wrong as long as it fits for our soul at the time.

As a psychologist, I am forever aware of the “emotional” environment in which we work and live.  This may be the most influential quality of our environmental health.  If our work, home, community or even global environments raise unsettling emotions, these will have a detrimental effect on us.  Corporate culture, family tension, environmental disaster, tragic events, and any other emotional element of an environment can drastically alter our sense of comfort or safety.  Everyone senses tension or other emotions that can significantly affect their overall ability to function.  By creating an emotionally healthy environment we can secure and promote our soul health.

  • Does your cultural environment in which you live reflect who you are? How has this influenced you?
  • Does the culture in which you live help you grow?
  • What sort of emotional environment would be most conducive to your soul’s health? (Both work and home.)

                (To read further, purchase Soul Health: Aligning With Spirit for Radiant Living at www.drkatherinetkelly.com, www.amazon.com, or www.barnesandnoble.com)

I left my Soul in Vegas

Las VegasThis title can have all sorts of meanings if you let your mind wander too far, especially when it comes to thoughts of Las Vegas.  Few likely pair the word “soul” with the city of sin, but as many know, I’m not like most people.

I’m in the midst of expanding my work to spread the word about Soul Health.  So, in mid-August, I took a trip out west to explore various retreat and workshop sites which might be good venues for the personal development and soul evolution work I do.  My plan was to fly into Phoenix to pick up a rental car and check out sites in Sedona, around the Grand Canyon, and in the southwest corner of Utah, then fly out of Las Vegas, which was the closest large airport at that point of the trip.  It would be a lot of driving, but I had several meetings scheduled along the way and I also thought the drive would provide both a time to clear my head but also time to envision the layout of the trip (or trips) that would evolve from my scouting tour.


Having rented several cars in my many travels, I showed up ready to take custody of whatever vehicle the company chose to give me (which has been anything from a small sports car to a  HMMWV/Humvee—both fun to drive as well!).  Once the paperwork was complete and keys were in hand, I made my way to the parking space number the attendant provided.  Much to my pleasure I arrived to find that they had assigned a Kia Soul as my transportation for the week.  What a good omen!!!  Here I was doing a scouting trip for Soul Health Travel, the newest arm of my work, and here I was also about to drive through the west in a nifty new Kia Soul.  Accident?  I don’t think so…..

Since publishing Soul Health, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to drive a Kia Soul.  The book is about aligning the various aspects of the human condition in order to reach your most radiant and pleasurable life, as well as set the stage for your soul’s evolution.  The commercials for the Kia are not only cool and funky, but the most recent ones also promote health and wellness as those once chubby rats turned themselves into quite the svelte dudes.  The thought of driving a Soul seemed appropriate given the evolution of the commercials as well as my work… and here I was….

And I have to say… I wasn’t disappointed.  I had a blast driving from site to site, envisioning a personalized license plate, custom colors to match the Soul Health Model.  I posted a picture on Facebook of me in the car with southern Utah’s Snow Mountain State Park’s beautiful red rock formations in the background.  A fan wrote in that I needed to get a “wrap” job (as opposed to “rap 000 Soul Health Modeljob”) done on the car with my holistic health model as the graphic/logo.    A friend and I texted back and forth about becoming a Kia corporate health spokesperson using Soul Health as the newest slant for advertising.  And I, of course, fantasized about Kia putting a nice big bow on a new Soul and delivering it to my driveway—free of charge.

Given that I had an 8:05 a.m. flight on the day of departure, I had to return the car around 6:00 a.m. to catch the shuttle to the airport.  As I unloaded the car, the attendant greeted me, finalized the paperwork, and told me to meet him at the kiosk to pick up my receipt.  No sooner had I arrived at the window and turned to look back, had my Soul disappeared.  It was nowhere to be found.  The cleanup crew swept it away before I could do a final glance and say goodbye to my soulful wheels.  The funny thing is, I actually felt an emotional loss, both at no longer being carried around by the Soul, but also because I hadn’t made my final farewell.  As I walked to the shuttle, I shook my head both laughing and exploring the multitude of metaphors about the Kia Soul and my trip out west.

It is true that when we lose sight of the needs of our soul that we feel sad or depressed.  It is true that we miss ourselves when we are misaligned in one or more of the dimensions of the human condition. On the other hand, it is also true that our soul is playful and fun.  It is undoubtedly true that we feel joyful and secure when our soul is well balanced and content.  I could go on and on with various metaphors and clever statements about our soul—or “Soul” according to Kia.  All I know is that it felt strangely aligned to be driving through the west on a “Soul Health” journey driving none other than a Kia Soul.  No coincidence in that one….

So, if any of you know the folks at Kia, tell them I have a whole new slant on “Soul” Health for them.  I’m ready to do all of their corporate health programs, endorse their product, and become their poster child for their car.  I’m also ready to whip those rats into a state of conscious evolution that they’ve never imagined possible…

I do plan to contact Kia just to say I did.  I will keep you posted on any results and post a picture of my “Soul Health” wrapped Kia Soul once it arrives.

Showing Up Through Accountability

“No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.”
~~ Regina Brett

We all want to be who we are. We want to feel accepted, live authentically, and enjoy a radiant life. But what is our responsibility in having all of this?

To “show up” in life means to hold yourself accountable in each moment for living your truth, sharing your thoughts and feelings, and remaining present enough to embrace each moment. It also means holding yourself accountable to take the actions you know will help you reach optimal health— soul health.

How often do you fail to “show up” in your own life? What keeps you from staying present and facing the decisions, choices, and actions that will enhance your life?

Maya Angelou

In thinking about this, I’m reminded of two events from this past month which may seem like a complete contrast, but in reality are fantastic examples of two people who were committed to show their true colors and simply— or not so simply-— be who they are. The first was the death of Maya Angelou, who spent her entire life facing adversity through her activism, advocacy, and her gifts of acting, singing, writing, and speaking. As I watched a news special about her life, I realized that to make a difference in the world, sometimes you have to stir up some dust and make people uncomfortable to think and act differently. Despite the discomfort of doing so, she led a life of integrity, grace, and wisdom.

Cher PicMy other example stems from a recent visit to Vancouver, B.C. with my long-time friend from youth. We met there to both check out the city but also to attend a Cher concert. (Yes, I said Cher concert….) This may not seem like a spiritual experience for a holistic psychologist who talks about soul health, but it became one as I watched her perform and listened to her speak. Everyone knows that Cher leads a pretty outrageous life— big hair, colorful, bling- laden, and often risqué costumes, and outlandish dances and songs. Many people are put off by all of this, but frankly, I was impressed by her willingness to get out there and just be who she was— regardless of the critics (and they are always out there).

This world wouldn’t be the same if neither Maya Angelou nor Cher hadn’t “shown up”. We wouldn’t have these examples to shift our thinking, challenge our ideas, and be inspired to be who we are. To many, these will be extreme examples. But for me, it makes me wonder how much else would change if everyone chose to show up in their lives. What would be different if all of us could live authentically, be ourselves, and simply honor ourselves in each moment?

How else do you need to show up in your life to create optimal health?

The Perfectly Imperfect Soul

“The essence of being human is that one does not

seek perfection.”  ~~ George Orwell

 We’ve all tried to be perfect in one way or another— and in crooked treedoing so, we have made ourselves miserable over and over again.  It is always easier to just be who we are rather than to try to be something that we are not.  Yet, we continue to fall into the endless trap of trying to achieve a concept that doesn’t really exist.

I will never forget the day that someone else’s need for perfection actually reversed my own.  Morton, my older dog, (so named because he had kennel cough when I first got him and I jokingly called him “Snortin’ Morton”… and it stuck) was due for his annual exam a few months after I moved to North Carolina.  I adopted him from a shelter prior to the move, and like most rescue animals there was little history available for how his life had gone in that first 6-9 months of his life.  All I knew was that he had a 5-inch scar on his lower spine which looked like either a chemical burn or perhaps a heat burn from a hot tail pipe that he might have crawled under.   To me the scar only endeared him to me more, but to his new veterinarian it was a very different story.

MortyWhile doing his exam she made note of the scar and said that the first chance she got for a teeth cleaning or other procedure, she would simply make an incision and repair the scar so it would no longer be visible.  I was struck by her need to perfect my “imperfect” dog, despite the fact that I hadn’t shown concern for his appearance at all.  It told me a lot about this young vet, but it also proved to me that our imperfections are actually what make us unique and, in an ironic sort of way, “whole” as well.

Soul health is all about feeling balanced, complete, whole, and aligned— just the way you are.  When we strive for perfection we feel tense, unsettled, frustrated, and fragmented.  We dissect our minds, bodies, and souls all in our quest to somehow be something that we are not and come away feeling worse than when we first began. And in each attempt to “repair” our flaws we tend to move further and further away from that sense of inner peace that we all long for.

Because each of us is unique, our soul is perfect in its own way.  To try to falsely alter oneself creates a burden, and to reject our perfect soul is the ultimate tragedy.

The “year of you” is all about embracing the entirety of who you are— each “branch” that you struggle with in your human condition, every “flaw” that makes you cringe, and every imperfection that you wish you could change. Unfortunately, though, it is somehow our preference to struggle with these futile attempts rather than simply accept that we are beautiful and perfect just as we are.

How different would your life be if you let go of your need for perfection?  How much less would you struggle with your appearance, your intellect, your emotions, your thoughts?  How much more would you enjoy life— basking in the differences, rather than trying to mimic or mirror someone else?

Our soul health depends entirely on our willingness to understand who we are, our ability to embrace both our assets and our imperfections, and our openness to accepting our unique and perfect self.  Perhaps it is time to reverse your own need for perfection… to celebrate you as “you” rather than something you construct to fit the “perfect” picture.

Fourteen years later, I continue to be blessed by the most perfect, imperfect boy dog on this planet— scar and all.  We are both happy to say that his new vet fully appreciates his uniqueness and has no intention of altering his scar, nor any of the other bumps, lumps, and “flaws” he has accumulated along the way….

May we all lead perfectly, imperfect lives, today and always!

“The Soul’s Tempo–Part II”

Last time I wrote, it was my soul that was speaking out.  It was telling me to slow down and take a break through the action of a seasonal illness (which turned out to be the respiratory flu) that pretty much stopped me in my tracks.   At this time last week I was experiencing the vicious cycle of chills, then fever, then chills again… followed by more fever. I heeded the warning at the time, allowing myself to sleep as much as I needed, drink plenty of fluids, read both mindless and meaningful things, and just lay low in the process of healing.  That lasted about a day and a half…..

Since I didn’t have a fever on Monday morning, I got up, got showered and dressed as usual, and headed in to work.  Although I felt ok, I certainly didn’t feel great.  Luckily, I could go home and relax that night and didn’t need to be back in to the office until noon the next day when clients would start to appear on my doorstep again.  I gave myself permission to sleep in and forego my usual Tuesday morning trek to the gym, and instead spent the morning relaxing, and once again leisurely reading my way through the start of the day.  Although my soul was on the fence for whether I was up to being at work, someone else decided to pace my soul and create another slower rhythm to my week; Her name is Mother Nature.

DSCF5669 The news had been calling it the biggest storm of the decade, one that shouldn’t be ignored, and one that was clearing the shelves of all staple-type provisions.  As predicted, the snow started falling just after noon on Wednesday, starting first with small flakes, then growing bigger and more plentiful as the day went on.  My 2:00 p.m. client had already called to cancel her appointment, and my 3:30 p.m. meeting was postponed.  So, I decided to head home and settle in for the remainder of the day.  That turned out to be the best decision I had made all week, as by 2:30 p.m. the roads were already snow-packed and many of those who had started their own trek home had to turn around and go back—some staying in hotels, others spending the night in their workplace.

The snow, mixed with ice pellets and freezing rain, continued falling for over 24 hours, measuring approximately 10-11 inches in my back yard.  Had I wanted or needed to get out of my driveway, I couldn’t.  So, I just hunkered down, watched movies, read in the sunroom once again, and did whatever else that passed the time.

Mother Nature apparently decided I needed more quiet time and rest regardless of my improving physical health.  True, I hadn’t fully recovered from my illness, but even truer, was that it wouldn’t have mattered even if I had felt back to 100%.  Both my soul and the Universe said “STOP”!  I wasn’t going anywhere.  Instead, I gave in to my soul…   I gave in to Mother Nature, and I simply surrendered.

The funny thing is that I began to enjoy my captivity.  I enjoyed the fact that I was responsible to no one and no thing.  The occupational hazard about being a psychologist is that you always feel responsible, even if not in the presence of a client.  You know that you could receive a crisis call at any given time and be called to action no matter what time of day.  But in this case, even though I knew I could be called, I knew I couldn’t leave even if I tried—the incline of my driveway would have created an impassable challenge, and I would be released from the expectation of having to run out to take care of someone.


No, instead, it was once again time to take care of me… take care of my soul.  This time Mother Nature demanded the care—I just listened.  She gave me the permission to once again synchronize my soul with the cadence of life that was balanced and grounded, not one that felt more like a race to check things off the list.

The only item on the list this time?  Me—living consciously, living fully.

Why is it that we get so seduced by the human condition?  Why do we abandon our sense and need for balance when we know how much better we feel when grounded.  What is so appealing in the human rat race that we overlook or dismiss the voice of the soul?

I am not the only one who has this lesson to learn, and I likely will have to learn it again.  Although I may not enjoy the reminders, I always appreciate them.

Thank you, Mother Nature.  And thank you, soul!