We’ve all heard how the path to holistic well-being is a combination of mental and physical health, but there’s one more important side to it that people often overlook: the spiritual side. This final component is the key to healing emotional traumas and linking all the other aspects of self-care together, giving them all a higher purpose. Spirituality is the essential foundation that helps you learn how to remain stable throughout all the changes in life, tapping into a deeper inner peace that lasts longer than everything around you.
What is Spirituality?
The topic of spirituality is a very personal thing that means different things to each person. Here, we are not referring to any kind of religion. We are focusing on ways that people connect to their own spirits, souls, Higher Selves or any type of universal consciousness. In other words, it’s targeting our bond with any force or energies beyond us that have gone by a myriad of names since the first humans walked the earth.
The word “spirituality” has similar roots in Greek, Hebrew and Latin that all describe an invisible force like the wind that gives life . It’s that source of inspiration the gives a higher meaning, value and purpose to your endeavors beyond material and physical progress alone.
Many wisdom traditions worldwide have distinctive perspectives on spirituality. In the beginning, you can view spirituality as anything transcendent or sacred that you can connect to in order to enhance your personal well-being. However, if you choose to go deeper, you will find it is much more than that.
Regardless of what you focus on to build a spiritual connection — whether it’s a ritual from your respective religion, a personal form of God or simply a Higher Power or consciousness — it is the belief that matters. Concentrating on this faith can lead you to think and behave in a more positive way, which is also important for your overall health. According to Dr. Christina Puchalski, Director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, spirituality is that aspect of a person that refers to the path that the individual has taken to express the purpose and meaning of life and their experiences that connect themselves to nature, to others, to particular moments and to the significant being that they consider as their spiritual connector .
Common Themes of Spirituality
Now that we’ve discussed the core of what spirituality is, let’s look at the core values and themes that appear in most traditions. When popular Life Coach Giovanni Dienstmann conducted a survey on why spirituality matters today, here are some of the main themes that came up in peoples’ answers :
- Living Wholeheartedly: When you are able to embrace the opposites of love and loss as well as grief and gratitude without losing your mental stability, then you can live life to the fullest by accepting whatever comes.
- Expanding the Ability to Love: By opening up to connect with a community or any aspect of divinity, we can overcome loneliness and the ill effects of excessive isolation.
- Living with a Purpose: When you have a spiritual foundation for living, then your daily actions will start aligning with that. This focus on a higher goal helps you to combat the negative feelings of constant dissatisfaction and limitation that breed depression.
- Forgiving and Healing: Everyone makes mistakes, so learning to accept them, learn from them and move on is a fundamental key to emotional and mental health. Then by learning to forgive others who’ve made mistakes, you’ll heal yourself on even deeper levels.
- Transformation: The ultimate goal of spirituality and personal well-being is the transformation of your inner self, a totally new attitude toward yourself and the world.
Goals of Spirituality
Spirituality is a daily practice with ongoing goals. In most traditions, the universal goals of a spiritual life generally fall into three main categories:
- Be mindful. Becoming fully conscious of what we do in the present moment and all of the positive things happening now helps to build more self-awareness. In turn, this greater awareness gives the power to make better decisions that can radically change our future by shifting the way we see the world and ourselves. On our Living Mavens blog, we discuss three simple mindfulness practices that help to shift your awareness into the present moment . We also offer a books and journals to help you get there step-by-step .
- Develop contentment. Most wisdom traditions agree that pursuing greed and unchecked desires are a fast road to misery. Happiness lies in the present moment by accepting what you have and sharing anything you don’t need with others who are suffering more than you are. Keeping a daily gratitude journal has many benefits besides increasing your contentment, for example . Practicing affirmations is another common way to increase your contentment and maintain a steady, balanced mindset toward life.
- Be compassionate to others. It is easy to be compassionate about yourself, but when you are compassionate to others, you are on your way to attaining spirituality. Judith Proctor Zenter and Nurses Ruth Beckmann Murray are of the opinion that your spirit will strive to look for answers about the unknown or the infinite and will try to be in harmony with the universe once you decide to be compassionate with others . The more your sense of self expands to consider others with the same love and care that you’d give yourself, the more you become free of the limitations of your individual ego.
Spiritual Disciplines and Paths
While setting goals like these is important, that alone is not enough to practically incorporate these ideals into everyday life. For this reason, people observe various spiritual disciplines according to whichever spiritual path they feel most attracted to, and any of them can help increase your deeper sense of well-being .
The different disciplines that have been pointed out by the experts are:
- The path of external action helps to develop patience and humility.
Group rituals and prayer circles fall into this category, as does community service. Here, the importance is on the attitude with which you do these activities. The goal is striving to do your actions in a selfless, loving way. Universal spiritual practices may be as simple as forgiving someone, loving someone unconditionally or trying to live wholeheartedly even if there are moments of grief and loss.
- The path of contemplation helps to redirect your focus inward to master the mind.
Those with a more philosophical bent may get more benefit from reading and studying texts from ancient wisdom traditions. In some circles — like Buddhist communities — they usually accompany such studies with debates, lectures and question-and-answer sessions.
- The path of sublimation helps to transcend negativities, which gives you more energy through cultivating expansive compassion.
Meditation, breathing practices, yogic exercises, qi gong, chanting, singing or playing devotional music and other types of energy work all fall into this category.
Studies show that spiritual development enhances your personal well-being.
In a review of more than 300 studies of the effects of spirituality on personal well-being, researchers saw that 79 percent of these studies found nothing but positive impacts of spirituality on an individual’s well-being . They noted that the practice of meditation especially was beneficial regardless of the person’s religious beliefs or lack thereof.
Now that we've established why developing your spiritual side is important to improving your well-being, you can take the first step to doing this practically in everyday life by building a spiritual practice to suit your own needs.
About the Author: Suzanne Leopold started Living Mavens in 2016 to share some of the products and techniques that help her focus inward and transform her life. With over 15 years of exploring energy and manifesting modalities, she is passionate about creating a life she loves and sharing her discoveries with others. To learn more on how to consciously create a life you love, go to www.livingmavens.com