How to Care For Our Spiritual Health

What does your checklist for healthy living look like? Mine often looks something like this: eat vegetables, drink water, and go to the gym three times a week. Most of us value our health. We try to eat well and exercise, get enough sleep, and drink enough water. Life gets busy and these items might not always get checked off, but we know we should be doing them.

We may not give our mental, social, and spiritual health as much attention as our physical health. Each of these, along with our physical health, are important to our overall well-being. We need to care for each part of our being to be our healthiest. Our spiritual health affects how well we fare in the other areas and can be easy to forget about. It has been found to affect physical health, levels of stress, emotions, and our relationships with others.

Spirituality can mean different things to different people. Many people would define their spirituality as their religion. Practicing a religion can be one way to foster spiritual health, but it isn’t the only way. Spirituality can also simply refer to our sense of meaning in life, our guiding beliefs and values, and the sense of connection we feel with a world beyond ourselves (e.g., our communities, nature, and humanity). Taking time to get to know what our values are, building connections with others, and fostering our spiritual health has benefits for our health and life satisfaction. People who are spiritually in tune engage in healthy behaviors more often, which has positive effects for their physical, mental, and social health.

Here are a few ways to start prioritizing your spiritual health:

Know Thyself

Most of the benefits of spiritual health come from knowing your core beliefs and values and living a life where your behaviors match your values. When is the last time you stopped to really think about what matters to you most? If it’s been a while, try setting aside some time this week for some self-reflection. Sit down with a pen and paper and take a few minutes to think about your most important values. Write down everything that comes to mind, see where some might overlap, and combine them into a list of your core values. Next, look at the list and ask yourself – “does the way I spend my time reflect what I value most? How can I live more according to my guiding beliefs?” After reflection, look for small changes you can make to align your life with your values and apply them one at a time.

Prioritize the Things That Bring You Joy

Looking at your list of core values, what does it tell you about the things that make you happy? Making time for what brings us joy or make us feel at peace is important for our overall health. One example is spending time in nature, which has benefits for mental well-being. Going for a hike, admiring the views, gardening, or kayaking at a nearby lake can help us feel more linked to the world around us. You might find joy in other activities, like reading a good book, volunteering, or listening to music. Whatever it is, make time to do it, and you will see how the peace and joy you feel overflow into other areas of your health.

Spend Time with Others

Humans are naturally social animals. Feeling connected to others is an important part of spiritual health. People who are more connected to others are less lonely, have more feelings of belonging, and a greater sense of meaning in their lives. Joining a group for one of the things that brings you joy can help you connect with people who have similar interests. Get involved in your church, join a group or club for a hobby, or create your own group for something you enjoy. For example, starting a walking group with friends can help you improve your spiritual and physical health. Even going to large events can improve your health. Attending a local event, like a movie in the park, play, or parade can help you feel more connected to your community, which has benefits for mental and physical health and your energy levels. Local libraries are good places to find events you might enjoy.

Taking time to identify what brings meaning in our lives and what our values are can help us make choices that put our well-being first. Start with one change that works for you, and see how it improves your health.

 

References

Gabriel, S., Valenti, J., Naragon-Gainey, K., & Young, A. F. (2017). The psychological importance of collective assembly: Development and validation of the Tendency for Effervescent Assembly Measure (TEAM). Psychological Assessment, 29, 1349-1362. doi:10.1037/pas0000434

Kamitsis, I., & Francis, A. (2013). Spirituality mediates the relationship between engagement with nature and psychological wellbeing. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 36, 136-143. doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.07.013

Tewari S., Khan S., Hopkins N., Srinivasan N., & Reicher S. (2012) Participation in mass gatherings can benefit well-being: Longitudinal and control data from a North Indian Hindu pilgrimage event. PLoS ONE, 7, 1-5. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047291

Unruh, A., & Hutchinson, S. (2011). Embedded spirituality: gardening in daily life and stressful life experiences. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 25, 567-574. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6712.2010.00865.x

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