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The Benefits of Cultivating an Interior Life

Talking to a friend who remarked that her sister seemed to have little, if any, interior life, I realized how seldom this phrase is heard nowadays or used outside of clinical circles. Yet, having a rich “interior life” may be key to finding meaning and happiness in our existence and undoubtedly promotes emotional health and “normal” eating.

What does it mean to have a rich interior life? People who have one reflect on themselves and their place in the world with curiosity, not judgment. They engage with ideas and wonder a great deal. They spend time musing and mulling over, which is not the same as ruminating about the past or being anxious about the future. They have no stake in this process except intellectually enlightening their horizons and broadening their understanding of the world. Their inner life excites them and is a resource.

People with rich interior lives generally enjoy their own company because it brings them happiness. Spending time in their minds is a pleasurable, not a scary, activity. They enjoy going wherever their thoughts and ideas lead them—to music, art, history, current events, literature, science, sports, and find satisfaction in the pursuit of possibility. They yearn to know and learn, not to be right, and their thinking has depth and breadth. They don’t worry much about what others think of them. They enjoy social activities and engaging in external pleasures, and their joy comes from within as well as without.

Having a rich inner life means not constantly being busy doing. My friend remarked that her sister barely spent time in neutral or alone, and was always doing something and/or being with other people. How do you find out who you are and what you think if you don’t spend reflective time with yourself? How do you grow to love yourself if you barely know yourself? Without a rich interior life, people seek comfort in externals—food, people, activity, etc.—and become dependent on them to stimulate (and simulate) pleasure. I’m not saying that having an eating problem means you lack a rich interior life, only that disregulated eaters have a tendency to shy away from their internal worlds—thoughts and feelings—and are more easily lured toward external pleasures. They often want to run away from deep thinking because it makes them anxious.

Notice people whom you think have a rich interior life and what makes you believe this about them. Could you expand your inner world so that it becomes more of a resource than a hindrance? How would you go about doing so? How will having a rich interior life help you become a more “normal” eater?