Spiritual wellness is a critical component of overall health and happiness. It’s the most personal of the eight pillars of wellbeing. Those who achieve it are in tune with their innermost self and at one with the world around them. This piece looks at the proven ways to achieve spiritual balance. Keep reading if you want to explore your purpose in life and take better control of your destiny.
First, it’s important to understand spiritual sickness before work can start on the human spirit. Many Americans are spiritually unwell, yet most don’t even know it.
Spiritual Illness Defined
Spiritual illness affects the physical, mental, and emotional state. It impacts thoughts, behaviors, habits, and personal beliefs. These are all excellent yardsticks to measure one’s spiritual well-being or lack thereof. They are what shape a person’s attitudes and outlook .
Below are eight typical signs of spiritual sickness:
- Living with constant fears and anxiety
- Unhealthy, negative beliefs
- Addictive behaviors
- Apathy and low motivation
- Resentments and apportioned blame
- Remorse, guilt, and shame
- Restless and irritable
- Physical: fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, tummy upsets
There are other, more subtle signs too. Denial often prevents Americans from acknowledging their shortcomings. Thus, honest and open reflection is the only way to recognize and accept one’s flaws. It’s not possible to apply spiritual solutions until you first identify the problems .
I’m Not Religious
You don’t have to embrace religion to find inner peace or become spiritual. You can do, but it’s not a prerequisite. Religions are well-organized systems with set values. Faith-based religions adopts specific cultural practices. They hold beliefs in a precise order of existence as it relates to humanity. But you can believe in something greater than yourself without subscribing to an organized faith .
Here’s a non-religious breakdown of what it means to be spiritual:
- A belief that there’s more to life than the material
- Attend to one’s inner self, i.e., mental, and emotional well-being
- To be open-hearted, compassionate, and empathetic
Americans with faith may find the route to spiritual wellness easier to travel than non-believers. Even so, it’s a channel that’s open to anyone who wants it. The idea is to be more inward focused and less outward absorbed. Perpetual outward focus blocks the path to spiritual progress , .
Spiritual Wellness Is Balance
Spiritual wellness transforms lives for the better. It allows you to find purpose and meaning, and thus your place in human existence. You get to appreciate life experiences as they are—the good and not so good. Acceptance is a virtue. So, you don’t dwell on mistakes, you learn from them. You become in touch and at harmony with yourself from the inside out.
To be spiritually well is to have balance. The positive knock-on effects of a balanced mind and lifestyle are immense. Mood, energy levels, physical, and mental health all benefit , .
Your Path to Spiritual Wellness
There are many ways to develop and maintain spiritual well-being. Humans have used the six proven methods below for generations. These are all things that cost nothing—or very little—to pursue:
- Care about yourself, set aside some ‘Me Time’ daily
- Explore the local environment
- Have fun and engage in new programs or events
- Practice faith or meditation
- Practice open-mindedness
- Replace negative thoughts with positive ones
The sections that follow look at each of the above behaviors in more details.
#1 Why ‘Me Time’ Matters
There’s nothing selfish about me-time, yet many people, especially parents, think there is. Anything that helps you as a person also benefits those around you. You become more approachable, obliging, and productive when relaxed. Americans who take time out daily tend to get more done in less time. Slow is the new fast. There is nothing more hindering than trying to function while exhausted.
Less is more
Me-time takes practice, but it’s an endeavor worth pursuing. It’s easy to stop the body, but not so easy to unplug and center the mind, especially when there’s a lot to do. One study from Stanford University called ‘The Productivity of Working Hours’ seems to back up the less-is-more hypothesis .
Reclaim time; you’re worth it
Can you reclaim your evenings, weekends, or both? Do you need to check and recheck email and social media as often as you do? Is it possible to delegate some tasks to others or outsource? Take a moment to step back. Think honestly about these things and other time-consuming responsibilities.
Below are three starting points to get you thinking about your precious time:
- Keep a journal and start to record where every minute goes
- Review the above and see what—if anything—can go
- Reorganize your schedule and designate regular slots for Me Time
People who do this exercise are amazed at how efficient and organized they become .
#2 Explore Surroundings and Local Environment
Surroundings and local environments influence spiritual health. A simple step out into the back garden, yard, or local countryside is an excellent start. The idea is to take some deep breaths and pause for thought (no electronic devices allowed). Be still and take in the sights, the sounds, and the smells, but don’t force it. Be patient. The experience will intensify as the senses take effect.
Nature is all around us, even among the concrete jungles of urban sprawl. All you need to do is look for it. There’s a direct link between regular exposure to nature and inner happiness. That’s according to a study carried out by the University of Derby and Wildlife Trusts .
#3 Have Fun and Engage
Playtime is not the reserved rights of kids. Find time to engage in fun activities that you thoroughly enjoy. The goal is to relax and participate in pursuits that connect both the mind and body. Many Americans exercise not because they enjoy it, but because they feel they ought to. Don’t fall into that trap. There are countless new and exciting things to discover outside of conventional exercise.
Here are a few suggestions of engaging activities that benefit spiritual wellness.
- Any physical sport that appeals
- Listen to music or play an instrument, join a singing group
- Recite positive affirmations while walking
- Yoga, including laughter yoga (Hasyayoga) if you can find it
- Walks or country treks
- Tai Chi
- Use meditation to center the mind
Make time for whatever it is you enjoy (see #1 above) and dare to try new things.
The goal here is to find your harmonious passion (HP). HP is what leads a person to choose activities that are enjoyable to them. To have fun is to be free. It engages the senses, triggers emotions, and becomes addictive—in a positive way. Fun undertakings help humans enter what’s known as a flow state, or to get ‘in the zone’ (Carpentier et al., 2012) .
#4 Practice Faith or Meditation
Religion and spirituality both aspire to enhance the lives of humans in similar ways. They promote love, tolerance, compassion, kindness, and freedom from suffering. You don’t need to be a robed Buddhist to meditate. Nor do you have to master the lotus position and chant. It can be as simple as sitting still in a quiet space for a set period each day. The benefits are total relaxation and stress release .
Both religious practice and the pursuit for personal mindfulness benefit from spiritual wellness. It’s not necessary to attend a church, temple, synagogue, or mosque to believe. Some people embrace a religious community. Others may practice in silence and pray alone or only read sacred texts. The aim—in either case—is to engage, seek meaning, and strive to become a better version of you .
#5 Practice Open-Mindedness
To be spiritually well is to have an open mind. You accept when you’re wrong and are ready to learn new things. A closed mind is stubborn, biased, and spiritually unwell. Can you integrate fresh ideas and information into your existing set of beliefs? Someone with an ‘open mind’ is prepared to change their current views. They listen—with an open mind—to the strength of any new evidence .
Below are five basic ideas that can help to develop an open mind:
- Try new things; get out of your comfort zone
- Don’t knock a thing before you try it
- Learn to say YES more and NO less, where appropriate
- Look at situations and events from multiple angles
- Don’t be afraid to reorganize your routines periodically
Close-minded Americans tend to stay in the safety of their comfort zone. They refuse to learn new things, try different foods, or listen to new music. An open mind is one that dares to change .
#6 Replace Negative Thoughts with Positive Ones
Negativity is toxic for spiritual wellbeing, but sadly there’s a lot of it about in the US. It’s bad for individuals, families, and the broader society. Sometimes it’s easier to take a negative stance over a positive one, but it’s a bad habit. It’s not hard to replace negative thoughts with positive ones—in theory. Maintain an open mind and a readiness to change and it WILL happen , .
Here are some proven ways to swap stinking thinking with positivity:
- Recognize your negative thought triggers or patterns
- Talk positively to yourself
- Start to write down negative thought replacements
- Avoid negative people and situations when possible
- Make more time for activities that make you happy
- Continue to practice positive thought replacement until it becomes natural
Introducing new, positive beliefs to replace negative ones is a simple concept but can be hard to maintain at first. Like all new skills, the more you practice, the easier it gets.
An Unsung Hero of Spiritual Wellness: Spirituality and Practice
Not sure you’d really describe yourself as “religious” but still want to improve your general spirituality? Spirituality and Practice is exactly the site you’re looking for. Created by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, the site offers all kinds of access-points to spirituality, including art, books, quotes, films, e-courses, and blog posts. The site provides helpful insights into many religions, but it also focuses on more general aspects of spirituality as well, like body spirituality, anger, and resilience.
If you’re ready to find that inner connection in your life and improve your spiritual wellness, Spirituality and Practice can definitely help you on the way.
Martin holds a Master’s degree from the University of Copenhagen in Biophysics, and he enjoys using the research skills he honed while getting his advanced degree to uncover exactly what it takes to feel better.