Soul Hunger: The Silent Epidemic of the 21st Century

2018-09-11T14:32:41+00:00December 1st, 2017|Spirituality|

Over the past several months, I had the privilege of interviewing some amazing women for my book that is coming out in the fall: Awakening A Woman’s Soul: The Power of Meditation and Mindfulness to Transform Your Life. As I’ve listened and transcribed their stories, I began to see patterns emerge. There was a common thread that existed between their stories and my own. There was a sense that they were hungry for something.

What was the source of this hunger that I’d heard over and over again in my interviews?

A few days later it came to me in the shower as I was conditioning my hair: It was soul hunger!!! Not only was it explaining what so many women have been describing to me, but it helped me to make sense of what I was trying to describe when I wrote the article: Is Your Life Lacking Meaning and Purpose?

It was soul hunger that lead me out of retirement to start The Compassionate Mind, and soul hunger that gets me up at 5 am to meditate, write, mentor and make a difference. I have come to understand that our souls, like our bodies, need to be fed in order to flourish and thrive.

I have also come to believe that soul hunger is epidemic in our society. Large numbers of us experience it and yet we have no idea what it is. When I told my husband, Mark that my vision was to end soul hunger, he smiled and said, “that’s great, but most people would have no idea what soul hunger is.” And that is exactly the reason that it’s so important. I hear women say on a daily basis that “something is wrong and I have no idea what it is. I’m willing to make some changes, but I don’t know what to change.”

This notion of trying to hit a dartboard in the dark, reminded me of my many years working as a nurse. One of the foundational aspects of providing excellent care to clients was and continues to be the nursing process. The process includes the assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation and evaluation of care and services. The challenge with soul hunger is that its signs and symptoms are so vague it is often misdiagnosed or missed altogether. Without the awareness to know what it is, it is virtually impossible to develop a plan and implement some changes in order to evaluate whether the soul hunger is being alleviated.

In order to fully describe and begin to explore this concept of soul hunger, I decided to determine how actual physical hunger is described. I came across words such as craving, desire, longing, urge, yearning, ache, emptiness, void, urge, vacancy, empty, lacking, and want to name just a few.

It became eerily familiar to me when I realized that these same words are what I hear on a daily basis from women who by no means are experiencing physical hunger. They are experiencing a hunger that is being described in the same way, but is not physical in nature and is from a different source.

I was then reminded that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Meaning we are both spiritual and human. Perhaps the physical hunger that people experience can help us explain the spiritual hunger. Perhaps those same words that describe how it feels to be physically hungry can help us understand when our soul is hungry.

I turned to Google to explore phrases that people used when they described a sense of physical hunger:

My energy would desert me and weakness would take over.

I was so tired and lethargic.

My brain didn’t work properly and it was hard to concentrate.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

There was a nagging feeling of emptiness.

I had physical symptoms such as being irritable, dizzy, nausea.

Then I went to my transcribed notes and found the following from a couple of women. One was in a corporate job where she was miserable and the other woman felt disconnected from her husband of 40 years:

I felt tired all the time and would get sick with infections.

I needed a “brain restart” because it wasn’t working properly.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.

I felt empty inside.

I had a longing for things to be different.

I was showing signs of stress.

When I compared the above descriptions, I could see the overlap. We have created a society that values physical needs (and rightly so) and ignores spiritual needs. It’s almost as if we have developed a mindset that says, “If we can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.” We can value and acknowledge physical hunger because there’s a tangible cause, but we have greater difficulty acknowledging soul hunger because the cause is not quite so obvious.

Soul hunger is a very real experience and just as physical hunger is a sign that we need nourishment, soul hunger is a sign that our soul needs nourishment. In my next post, I’ll share with you 10 Signs That Your Soul May Be Hungry Or Starving For Nourishment.


  1. Bev December 3, 2017 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    Wow Bev !
    This posting is exactly how I have been feeling for sometime and didn’t know how to put into words. Soul Hunger,
    I am searching for meaning in my life. Especially on the dark days where I have a hard time just getting out of bed. Forcing myself to get out of the house that has in some way become my familiar and “toxic” tomb.
    I look forward to your next posting.

    • Bev Janisch December 4, 2017 at 10:09 am - Reply

      Hi Bev, thanks so much for sharing how the feeling of “soul hunger” resonated with you. Searching for meaning and purpose is the sign that you are being called to evolve and make some changes. It is often a scary and confusing time, but also very necessary and part of the journey for many of us. The challenge is to look inside ourselves for the answers that are often overshadowed. I’m looking forward to sharing my next post as well. With deep appreciation, Bev.

  2. Carleen Ellis December 13, 2017 at 11:27 am - Reply

    Thanks for articulating so beautifully Bev the deeper part of life that needs to be seen and lived. Especially in these tumultuous times!

    • Bev Janisch December 13, 2017 at 3:23 pm - Reply

      Carleen, thank you for your insightful comment. I love your idea of a “deeper part of life.” Very beautiful.

  3. Rachael Seupersad December 13, 2017 at 11:02 pm - Reply

    To reiterate what others have said, thank you Bev for this insightful post. You have reached deep into our humanity to the core of a shared experience…and revealed a universal truth. Your words will sit with me and I also know they will drive me forward on my journey…both human and spiritual.

    • Bev Janisch December 14, 2017 at 8:32 am - Reply

      Rachel, thank you for sharing your reflection about our shared experience. I love how you highlighted the human and spiritual aspects of our journey.

  4. Laura Boyse December 15, 2017 at 7:00 am - Reply

    Hi Bev,
    Love the phrase “soul hunger” ! It’s exactly what so many of us are experiencing today in this crazy world. I still work as a nurse in areas of critical care and hospice and am fortunate to witness both physical and emotional pain and suffering, but even amongst my co-workers. I say I am fortunate because it is an honour to witness this experience and to see those who nurture their soul and spirit, and how it can change their lives. The unfortunate ones who do not feel healing the soul is just as important as healing the physical body, seem to struggle and suffer more. That’s is just my own personal thought. How wonderful that you will be helping other women in this journey. Thank you!

    • Bev Janisch December 15, 2017 at 11:35 am - Reply

      Hi Laura- Thank you for your insightful comments and for sharing your wise perspective with us. You and I have a lot in common in terms of our experience with palliative and end of life care. It was powerful to hear from you how you have noticed that “the soul is just as important to healing the physical body.” So very important!!Thank you for taking the time to share!

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