Summer is starting to wind down and you’re still looking for the perfect getaway. Perhaps you have no idea exactly what you're looking for, but just need a little rest and relaxation. Well if you’re short on cash as well as time, how about taking a mental vacation and going on a safari of the mind for a little soul searching?
Holistic health is about looking at all aspects of health including physical, emotional, spiritual and environmental. Sure, I go to the gym every week and watch what I eat, but last time I checked my spirituality was emaciated. Studies show that practicing spirituality lowers stress levels, improves feelings of connectedness, and increases overall well being -- thus greatly improving health.
I want to transition by saying that although spirituality for many people comes from their religion or relationship with a higher power, this does not necessarily have to be the path to your spirituality.
So what exactly is spirituality? Dr. Shah, professor of public health sciences at the University of Toronto, defines spirituality as “beliefs and values one holds concerning one's place in the universe and which reflect one's connections with a higher power and social and physical environments.”
So how do you assess your spiritual side? Take a minute and ask yourself: Do I feel I have a purpose or meaning in my life? Do I feel a sense of connectedness to people or the things that surround me? Am I happy with where I stand in this life? Am I able to let go, forgive and feel hope or do I find myself holding on to past events?
These are all deep and personal issues that can be addressed when considering your spiritual well being. Here are just a few suggestions on how to practice being a little more spiritual.
1) Be quiet. Take time for yourself every day, whether it’s ten minutes you set aside in your day, or squeezed in just before you go to sleep. Take time to quiet your mind, there are so many things running through it all day long! One of my favorite spiritual teachers, Eckhart Tolle, makes the point that oftentimes we are slaves to our minds, getting sucked into and controlled by our thoughts. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
2) Be open. Spiritual experiences can happen anywhere at any time. Keep an open mind about the meanings of events that happen in your world, even if your beliefs lie strictly in scientific findings. Remember, spiritual experiences can come in many forms.
3) Practice being non-judgmental and having an open mind. Take a day to notice how often your mind jumps immediately to judging. Instead, try to simply notice rather than pass judgment. I think through this little activity you may really surprise yourself. I was very surprised by my own practice!
4) Be receptive to pain or times of sorrow. It is often in these times when we discover how spirituality can help us cope.
5) Practice forgiveness. Studies have found that individuals who practice forgiveness are healthier mentally and physically than those who don’t. Plus, life is too short to hold on to the past!
6) Pray or meditate. Putting trust or hope into something larger than yourself increases humility and takes some of the weight of the world off of your own shoulders.
7) Live joyfully.
8) Allow yourself to believe in things that aren't easily explainable. Not only is this humbling, but also allows you to let go just a little more.
Although everybody’s spiritual practice will be different, a good rule of thumb is to strive to have balance in all aspects of your life. Best of luck in your spiritual journey.
Improving Your Spiritual Health. (n.d.). Thompson Rivers University. Retrieved September 2, 2011, from
Ingersoll, E. (n.d.). Spiritual Wellness Test. Elliott Ingersoll: Integral Psychotherapy, Coaching & Consulting. Retrieved September 1, 2011, from http://www.elliottingersoll.com/Spiritual_Wellness_Test.html
PreventDisease.com - Spirituality May Be Good for Health. (n.d.). Prevent Disease.com - Aiming Towards Better Health. Retrieved September 1, 2011, from http://preventdisease.com/lifestyle/emotion/articles/spirituality_good_for_health.html
Reviewed September 7, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith