Catholics believe in the Holy Trinity. There is one being, God (CCC 200), with three components: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (CCC 237). These components are called the “persons” of God (CCC 253). Similarly, humans are one being with three components: the physical, mental, and spiritual. These components are very similar to the persons of God in that they each have a distinct purpose or direction yet still serve the whole being (CCC 254).
The three components of the human being all have their own needs. The physical side of our being has several basic needs like food, water, shelter, and clothing. The mental side of our being also has needs. We all have a need to socialize. We need meaningful work to occupy our minds. The spiritual side of our being has just two needs: to love and be loved. It is good to love others through service. Since we can’t do everything ourselves, we also need others to serve us sometimes.
When the needs of a component are not met, problems occur. This doesn’t happen with God because he is perfect (CCC 41), but humans are not perfect. Our physical problems lead to sickness or injury. Mental problems lead to sadness, anger, anxiety, depression, or many other negative feelings. Spiritual problems lead to aimlessness and despair. Each component has a different way to fix the problem or heal the damage.
When we get sick or injured, physical problems, we go to a doctor. They know all about how the body works internally whether it be bones, muscles, veins, or organs. When we have anxiety or depression, mental problems, we see a mental health therapist. They know all about feelings, what they mean, and what to change to improve them. Finally, for spiritual problems, we can see a priest. They are the experts in holiness. Nno matter which component is having trouble, we have a specialist we can ask for help.
Beyond when we are having problems, our physical, mental, and spiritual health each require a certain amount of maintenance to remain healthy. For physical health, we need to exercise regularly and eat healthy. For mental health, we need to foster our relationships and reduce stressors in our life. For spiritual health, we need to reduce our sins and make changes for holiness. To make sure we are doing the proper amount of maintenance, I think it’s important to evaluate our maintenance of our physical, mental, and spiritual health once a year. The overall question to answer is:
Are you doing the proper maintenance for each part of your being or are you missing something?
This large overarching question can be broken up into questions for each part. I have listed a few questions for each part below. These questions are just samples to give you an idea of what to think about. They are far from comprehensive. You should cater them to the maintenance you personally need to remain healthy.
For the physical check-up, look at your diet and exercise:
- Are you getting enough aerobic exercise each week?
- Do you lift weights to improve muscle strength?
- Are you eating too much junk food?
- Do you eat too many calories?
For the mental check-up, look at the state of your mind:
- Are you stressed out or depressed?
- Do you socialize regularly?
- Are you too obsessed with some part of your life?
The spiritual check-up involves looking at your sins and holiness:
- Are there any sins you seem to always be committing?
- Have you done all you can to avoid near occasions of sin?
- Am you progressing towards holiness or is there some action you need to take?
If you don’t have them already, I encourage you to create a few simple ideals based on the questions you asked. Then once a year check where you are at with your personal ideals. See if you are doing well or have more work to do. It’s perfectly fine to not be meeting the ideals. The point is to get a snapshot of where you are at. Then you have an idea of what you need to do to improve. A good time to do this is the beginning of the year, the same time you are making your New Year’s resolutions.
In my case, I put my ideals for physical, mental, and spiritual health in my Personal Catechism. Since my big focus is the Catholic faith, I devoted four whole chapters (Prayer, Study of the Faith, Teaching of Others, Service) to spiritual health. My physical health is covered in the Health chapter. My mental health is not confined to any section. Elements of it are contained in several of the chapters. For example, Ideal 5.5 to find happiness in my work is all about staying positive no matter what I have to do. Whatever the case, I know where I want to be. Since I created my ideals, I now do a yearly evaluation, which I call my Yearly Examination of Ideals.
I encourage you to write your own set of ideals to follow. I went into a lot of detail explaining my ideals, but you don’t have to do that. If you aren’t going to tell anyone your ideals, just keep it simple. Write a short sentence to yourself for each ideal of what you should be doing. Try to make sure they are based on clear metrics, so you can easily tell whether you are meeting an ideal or need more work on it. If you get into a habit of checking your progress on your ideals each year, I have no doubt that you will become a better person. If you want to get more serious about it, you can do this evaluation monthly. Even more serious would be keeping a log to track your progress over time. It’s up to you how far to go with it, but you will improve. With improvement, comes happiness. Over time, you may reach ideals you never thought possible.
Success in self-improvement can help you in other areas of life too. You can become more self-confident after making a hard change and sticking with it until you got the results you want. It can help you be more productive with your time. You won’t be wasting so much time watching TV, for example, when you can be working towards goals you desire in the bottom of your heart. Whatever happens, you won’t ever feel that working on personal improvement was a waste of time. Even if you found that some ideal was impossible, it wasn’t a failure. It gave you information about your limits. Working towards ideals can really give you purpose, and having purpose goes a long ways towards happiness. Along the way you will become a holier person, ready for heaven.
May God bless you with his abundant grace,