Spiritual Wellness often means something different to each person, but it serves as a pathway for all of us to enrich and heal our mind, body and soul. While the word “spirituality” can be intimidating or even contentious to some, research has shown that prioritizing the needs of our internal self can actually lead to a greater sense of purpose and meaning in life. For those overcoming mental health issues, addiction, trauma, or other difficult circumstances, spiritual wellness is an important part of the healing and recovery process. March is Spiritual Wellness Month, which coincides with Spring and a time of renewal.
What is Spiritual Wellness?
The definition of spiritual wellness is the process of developing and maintaining a set of values, principles, and beliefs that work to cultivate a sense of purpose and meaning in life. It recognizes that we are all connected to something greater than just ourselves. That feeling of connection doesn’t necessarily mean it is linked to religion, though that certainly works well for many people. Being connected to something greater than ourselves can also mean a sense of belonging in the universe, feeling connected to a community, participating in a fulfilling endeavor, or anything that nurtures hope, and brings meaning to our lives. For people in recovery from a substance use disorder or mental health condition, focusing on spiritual wellness can ultimately help to move past the guilt, shame, anxiety, or depression, and into something more grounding and powerful, like confidence, respect, and love of self.
Spiritual Wellness Examples
A lack of spiritual wellness can have a significant impact on how we handle life’s daily stressors. It’s all too easy to become overwhelmed by the pressures of work or the needs of our family and friends. When this happens, we often start to feel like life is a series of hollow transactions rather than a series of meaningful interactions. Without a sense of purpose or meaning, depression can take hold and drive behaviors like alcohol or drug use that may feel like they help in the short-term. The truth though, is that these types of unhealthy behaviors only serve to make our physical and mental health even worse than before we started. Cultivating spiritual health can put daily stressors into perspective and help us have more empathy not just for our own self, but also for those we care about. While learning how to do this might seem like a difficult process, in reality, it’s simply about taking small steps and learning what types of activities feed our spiritual side.
Examples of Spiritual Wellness include:
- Practicing self-care
- Being optimistic
- Living a positive life
- Nurturing a sense of belonging
- Connecting with others you care about
- Contributing to a community
How to Increase Spiritual Wellness
Positive ways to increase spiritual wellness include activities like meditation, mindfulness, and yoga. These three practices often stand out as ways to connect to our body, quiet our mind, and be more aware of our environment and surroundings. 1. Meditation Meditation is the practice of focusing on our breath and noticing when our mind strays from this task. The idea may sound simple, but it takes practice to quiet the mind and focus solely on breathing and the rise and fall of our chest for 5, 10, or even 20 minutes. Regular meditation provides a greater sense of self-awareness and can change a person’s perspective on other issues. Meditation has also been shown to reduce stress and help with chronic pain in the body, leading to greater spiritual wellness. 2. Mindfulness Mindfulness is a practice that can be combined with many different things, including mindful meditation. Practicing mindfulness involves being aware of, and present with our senses and feelings without trying to interpret or judge them. This activity works to calm the mind and boost working memory skills and focus, all of which are necessary for improving spiritual wellness. 3. Yoga Yoga is both a spiritual and physical exercise that combines specific body postures, breath control, and simple meditation. Regularly practicing yoga helps to strengthen the body as well as relax the mind, with the goal of bringing both into harmony and boosting spiritual wellness. Studies have shown that practicing yoga reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Other activities that increase spiritual health include:
- Nature walks
- Daily journaling
- Taking warm salt baths
- Practicing breath work
- Setting intentions
- Creating an uplifting music playlist
- De-cluttering your environment
- Daily affirmations
- Creating a gratitude list or making a gratitude jar
There really are many different activities that satisfy us on a spiritual level. Even just a few minutes a day of spiritual wellness examples like those listed above can help lift our mood and get us into a healthier and more productive headspace.
Spiritual Wellness Benefits
It’s true that the benefits of spiritual wellness will help improve not only our day-to-day life, but also our overall, long-term mental health. Another aspect is that people who nurture the wellbeing of their inner self often have a greater impact on the world around them.
Some of the benefits of spiritual health include the following:
- Increased confidence and comfort in uncertain times
- An ability to maintain or regain a sense of calm and focus
- A decrease in stress, anxiety, and many types of depression
- Better overall mental and physical health
- The ability to make sense of grief during times of loss
- Greater creativity and ingenuity
- A desire to be of service to others
- Experiencing a sense of community with others
- Feeling that life has a purpose and meaning
- Improved healing and recovery
There are undoubtedly many other spiritual wellness benefits that people experience. The benefits of a healthy spiritual life are as diverse and unique as humanity itself.
Spiritual Wellness Improves Health
The effect that spiritual wellness has on improving health is an active area of research among psychologists, psychiatrists and, interestingly, physicians. One research paper published by the National Institutes of Health makes it clear why spirituality is an area of interest for medical doctors: “Technology has led to phenomenal advances in medicine and has given us the ability to prolong life. However, in the past few decades physicians have attempted to balance their care by reclaiming medicine’s more spiritual roots, recognizing that until modern times spirituality was often linked to health care.”
Research into the health aspects tends to fall into three specific categories:
In all three areas, patients who already fed their spiritual sides or those who began a journey to improve spiritual wellness after a serious diagnosis fared better. There’s evidence that people with a thriving spiritual life live longer. Studies suggest that people who are spiritual not only have a more positive outlook and a better quality of life, but they are also better equipped to cope with stress, illness, pain, and loss. Data also suggests that people who worry less have better health outcomes and show improved healing during recovery. Many mental health and addiction treatment facilities recognize the importance of spiritual wellness benefits on health and healing, and incorporate spiritual practices into their recovery program.