Writing this blog post has not been easy for me. The trouble I’ve had with this post isn’t because I find it too much for me or the topic uninteresting, it’s because I don’t identify myself as a spiritual person and struggle with the notion that one has to be spiritual to be well. For me and probably many others, the word “spiritual” brings up images of either someone strictly following scripture or someone who spends more time channeling energies, cleansing auras and shopping at Whole Foods than anything else. But I know that spirituality can be more approachable and can fit the average person regardless of his or her personal beliefs. I decided to go to the horse’s mouth and see what SAMHSA, the creator of the 8 Dimensions of Wellness, had to say about spiritual wellness. On their site, they define spiritual wellness as “expanding a sense of purpose and meaning in life.”
While I was pleased with SAMHSA’s inclusive and non-judgmental approach to this subject, I wanted to continue to see how others define spiritual wellness. This article on Wellness from SUNY-Geneseo defines spiritual wellness as “finding congruence between our values and our actions and developing inner peace. Spiritual wellness involves recognizing our purpose and feeling a sense of meaning and belonging in our lives.” The definition implies that when there is a disconnect between your actions, your values and your inner peace, your spiritual wellness will suffer. This means to enhance a sense of spiritual well-being you need to connect with yourself (your inner peace), your actions (your interactions with others) and your values (your outlook on life). Here are some great tips on how to enhance your spiritual wellness:
Connect with yourself
Take an electronic detox day – Schedule a day where you turn off all the screens in your house, no TV, no computer, tablet or phone. Studies show that while technology does have many benefits, it is also making people more anxious, depressed and less able to focus. Going 24 hours without these devices allows your brain to re-set. Technology may help you connect to everyone else at once; a day without it will help you connect with yourself.
Spend time in nature – If staying at home, being constantly tempted to check your email and text messages, isn’t working for you, go out where the cell service is limited. Spending time in nature has many proven mental health benefits. Check out my blog post on Green Wellness to learn all the amazing benefits of getting out into nature!
Practice self-care – When you have a million and one things to get done each day, taking care of yourself can slip down to the bottom of the list. There are many ways to add self-care into your life. You can exercise, meditate, read, do yoga or take a long hot bath. The important thing to remember is that you deserve to be on your list of priorities.
Get inspired – Take note of things that inspire you: a song, a hobby or an influential personal. Write down your favorite quotes and pin them to a physical or virtual bulletin board (i.e., Pinterest) to bring a spark of purpose and passion to your daily life.
Connect with others
Practice gratitude – Write a thank you note to someone who has really helped you in the past. Make a point to tell your friends and family how important they are to you. Also don’t forget that spending quality time with other people (without interruptions) can be a way to tell them you are thankful that they are in your life.
Give to or take care of someone – It can feel extremely satisfying to know that you can be helpful to someone else. This someone else doesn’t have to be another person, it can be as simple as taking the family dog for a long walk or feeding animals in a shelter. Also helping out family members or friends without expecting anything in return is a way to show them that you genuinely care about them. In the words of Joey Tribbiani, love is about “giving and receiving, having and sharing.”
Have real conversations – While it’s fun to talk about celebrity gossip or the latest defeat of your rival team, these topics of conversation don’t necessarily get at the deep stuff. Respectfully ask others about their faiths, beliefs and values. Don’t judge or force the conversation but take the time to try to learn what is really important to the people in your life. Plus, you may think you’ve got it all figured out until you hear another person’s viewpoint.
Connect with the human experience
Study the world around you – It can be so easy to get wrapped in your daily routine, seeing the same people and same places that you forget there is a whole world out there to explore. Obviously taking time to travel can help you connect to other places and cultures but you don’t necessarily have to get on plane to learn about other faiths, practices and beliefs. Watch a documentary about a different area of the world you aren’t familiar with. Enjoy the art and music of other faiths or cultures. Read religious, spiritual, or philosophical texts. Looking at life through a different perspective can help you understand what your values truly are. For those who like a deep scientific and philosophical journey, check out the book Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story.
Spend time in a sacred place – It doesn’t have to be a religious site, although that counts. It could be an ancient or modern burial ground, historic battlefield, ancient ruin, cave paintings, etc. It could also be an art museum, famous opera house, or modern architectural wonder like the Philip Johnson Glass House in nearby New Canaan, CT. Anything that can inspire awe or amazement will surely help your spiritual health.
If all else fails, laugh! – Comedy allows you to look at how ridiculous and trivial some of those day-to-day problems can really be. It also helps foster a feeling of connection as you relate to the problems or situations either the comedians or actors are talking about. For some of the best satirical wellness advice that will make you laugh check out Ultra Spiritual with JP.
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