Getting the Emotional Nourishment You Need

Many people struggling with emotional distress starve themselves of the emotional nourishment that can come from truly appreciating their daily achievements. Though they are often taken for granted, these daily efforts are as vital, and arguably more vital, to emotional health than major life accomplishments.

Unfortunately, clients often believe a fulfilling life won’t be theirs until they reach the major goals they strive for, or worse, only wish for. It is a formula for unhappiness, even depression. What if we took the same approach to physical nourishment? What if we were to go without eating for days, believing we need no food to sustain us until we sit down to a full and lavish banquet two weeks from now? We wouldn’t think of depriving ourselves of daily meals, yet we readily, and often unconsciously, deprive ourselves the intake of daily emotional enrichment that is vital to wellbeing and life fulfillment.

I recommend an exercise I’ve borrowed from the great psychologist and therapist Martin Seligman, PhD, at the University of Pennsylvania. At bedtime, write down three things that worked out that day. Then write down what made them work out. Consider what personal strengths, qualities, talents and skills were required. Trust me, these don’t have to be big achievements. I have in mind for myself how I managed to clear a clog in a bathroom sink and save the hundreds of dollars that I would have spent on the plumber that I was beginning to believe I needed. Without doubt, persistence was one quality involved.

The point of the exercise is to acquaint, or reacquaint, ourselves each day with who we are and what we possess internally that permits us to affect our world in ways we want or need. This fits with an old saying I’ve heard: “Good things have permanent causes.” The permanent causes lie within you, which means you are always capable of bringing about good things.

In doing this exercise daily, we begin to shed any sense of helplessness or hopelessness or just plain boredom or existential despair we might have in regard to life. It is an exercise that can provide daily emotional nourishment and sustain us until we achieve our major goals, and even if we don’t.


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