Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Nourish to Flourish

When we hear the word "nourish", we often think of food. More specifically, when I hear the word, it conjures an image of feeding a young child in a such a way to promote health and growth. However, we can also use the word "nourish" more broadly. We can nourish our bodies, our minds, our spirits. I believe that how we nourish ourselves makes a difference in our health, growth, contentment, and joy.

I have not always been very good at nourishing myself. My focus for many years was on how to nourish my own children as they grew and on nourishing my students. I remember a day at work, quite a few years ago, that had been very challenging for me. A co-worker walked up to my desk at the end of the day, and in a voice filled with kindness and empathy, she said to me, "Go home, and do something really nice for yourself." She was suggesting that I find a way to nourish myself. I appreciated both her kindness and her suggestion, but after she left, I remember thinking, "Well, how do I do that?" I was not used to purposefully and intentionally finding ways to nourish myself. Asking myself that question was the beginning of taking better care of my own needs, of finding intentional nourishment.

Now that I am retired, I am finding that once again, I am questioning how to best nourish myself. I have realized that my mind was nourished by my career--in teaching children (where I was a learner as well) and by belonging to groups that provided intellectual stimulation. I certainly have more time now, as a retiree, to pursue hobbies such as sewing and quilting. 

Creative activities, such as these, have always nourished me. I find time falling away as I enter into the "flow", a state in which a person performing an activity is  immersed in a feeling of full involvement and enjoyment of the process of the activity. (Click here to read more about "flow" and about a leader in this field of positive psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.) But how do I find a balance of nourishing my body, my mind, and my spirit now that I'm retired?

Recently, I heard a podcast which recommended not setting particular long-term goals but to instead ask the question "Will I...?" or "How will I...?" followed by a short term goal. It seems that research supports this questioning method as a more successful way to ultimately reach one's goals. After thinking about that podcast and putting that information together with my question about nourishment, I came up with an idea. Each morning, I will ask myself, "How will I nourish myself today?" 

Even though I just recently began this daily questioning, I will have to say that it is working well so far. I have been more mindful about eating healthy foods with an added intention of eating more vegetables daily. Since my husband is an avid gardener, I am looking forward to the upcoming growing season where we will have an abundance of those veggies in our backyard. It will be much easier to answer my nourishment question each morning when I can walk outside and pick from a variety of vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, collards, and kale among others. 

spinach and parsley, 2016 garden

broccoli, 2016 garden

I am now paying closer attention to activities and events that feed both my mind and spirit. Recently, along with my friend, Debbie, I attended an event at a local bookstore. We listened to the author, Helen Simonson, tell her story about how she started to write later in life. It was a delightful evening learning from an author whose work has brought literary pleasure to so many. (You can read more about our experience here at Debbie's blog.) 

Then just a few days ago, my husband and I attended a WORD! event at the main branch of our county's library system. For two hours, we were immersed in the talents and skills of artists as they told their own stories through poetry, storytelling, and song.  

Raymond Christian, champion storyteller

Attending these cultural events certainly fed both my mind and spirit, but part of that nourishment included being able to share the experiences with special people in my life.

So as I move further into retirement, I plan to continue to pay attention to what I need to nourish myself in body, mind, and spirit. Stay tuned to see how my daily question leads to new experiences as I pursue a balanced and flourishing life in retirement.

Please leave a comment and share what nourishes you.


  1. Such a wonderful reminder, Sharon, that we need to nourish not just our bodies, but our souls on a daily basis. Reading is very much a way that I nourish myself and I can easily find myself immersed in a great book. Writing is another way I nourish myself. Thanks for such a thoughtful post that will continue to provoke my thinking.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Debbie. I agree that reading can be very nourishing.


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