Much attention is focused on the importance of our physical and mental health, but what about our spiritual health?
As it turns out, our mind, body and spirit are all deeply intertwined. The health of one can significantly affect the health of another. While spirituality won’t cure you, it’ll help you cope with pain and navigate troubled waters.
But what is spiritual health? Does it require religious ideals and beliefs, church services, guilt and atonement? You may be surprised to know that there isn’t one path one needs to take to be spiritually healthy—it’s different for everyone.
“Some people experience spirituality through religion, but religion isn’t the only tool to experience it,” said Carrie Wester, a chaplain with Banner Behavioral Health Hospital in Scottsdale, AZ. “Spirituality is a sense of internal wellbeing and how you connect with something greater than yourself—whether that’s a higher power, nature, music, art or humanity as a whole. It’s the ideals and beliefs you form throughout your life that form your own unique spirituality."
What are the benefits of spiritual health?
The benefits of being a spiritual person are endless. “It can create a sense of purpose and belonging, help you feel calmer and more mindful and create hope when things aren’t going the way you want them to,” Wester said. “The biggest thing is spirituality can provide hope when there doesn’t feel or look like there is any. A lot of spiritual practices can help you find or make peace.”
8 ways to boost your spiritual health
Some people find spirituality through religion; others don’t. There’s no right or wrong way to achieve spiritual health. If you’re unsure where to begin, here are a few ways to help you get started.
1. Connect with your faith community
According to a Gallup study, 43% of Americans say they belong to a church or other religious body. These places of worship offer a number of ways to connect and encourage those living with a mental health condition to have community connections.
Find someone or an organization that shares your beliefs and thoughts and reconnect with them – whether online, over the phone or in-person. Reach out to a pastor or spiritual leader and find ways to connect with like-minded people within your faith community who can support and encourage you.
“During the pandemic, many people’s support systems had been taken away from them—church, volunteering, support groups,” Wester said. “It was really hard on those who already struggled with mental health issues. As soon as you feel it’s safe to physically do so, I encourage people to reconnect with their faith community.”
2. Volunteer or help others
If you don’t have a faith community, that’s okay. Another way to feel connected to your spirituality and faith is to find a cause that matters to you and to give back. You can work at a food pantry, become a mentor or tutor or foster an animal. Doing so can grow your community and connect you with like-minded people. By helping others, it’ll also give you a sense of purpose and gratitude.
3. Practice yoga
You don’t have to be a yogi to gain the spiritual benefits of the practice. Yoga is for everyone at any level. Besides strengthening and stretching your body, it can help your mind and spirit—reducing symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety.
Like yoga, you don’t need to be an expert meditator. Meditation is one of the easiest practices to maintain because it requires little time. “Some people think you have to sit and be quiet, but that’s not true,” Wester said. “You can walk and meditate, being mindful of how your feet feel on the ground or the details of your surroundings. Just the practice of slowing your body down can help slow your brain down.”
Meditating for as little as five minutes can help reduce stress, depression and anxiety and increase your mindfulness. If you need assistance, there are some excellent guided meditation apps, such as Calm or Balance.
5. Keep a journal
The act of writing can help you process your emotions, increase your awareness and give you a nonjudgmental space to express your feelings in the moment. Write down your worries and your fears or start a daily gratitude journal with prompts.
6. Spend time in nature
Whether you live in the mountains, the desert or near the beach, spending time in nature can boost your spiritual health. You can’t help but disconnect from your phone, your day and your troubles. Even just a few minutes watching the birds, the trees swaying in the wind or the crashing waves on the shoreline can be therapeutic.
7. Focus on your hobbies
Find things that you enjoy doing, whether it be knitting, coloring, cooking, playing a sport or working out. Focusing on things you enjoy can bring back a sense of purpose and keep you focused in the moment—even just for a little bit.
8. Speak with a chaplain or someone you trust
If you’re struggling to connect with your spiritual side or your mental health, reach out to someone specially trained or with someone you trust who can help.
“Chaplains are trained specifically with the struggles of faith in a clinical setting,” Wester said. They can help validate your feelings and won’t wash over them—brushing them off. They can guide you back on your spiritual path.”
If you need help right now
If you are disconnected from your faith community and are finding it difficult (mentally, physically and/or spiritually), talk to your health care provider or reach out to a mental health professional. They are here to help.