Cultivating Spiritual Health
The human existence is made up of this mesmerizing mind-body-spirit connection, and sometimes this connection is overlooked in favor of the more tangible aspects of health (the physical). Mostly, because the physical aspects of health and well-being are simpler to measure. We can capture metrics such as resting heart rate, blood pressure, blood lipids, stress levels, body composition, and other health-related fitness components (flexibility, strength, and endurance). It’s more complicated to define and measure spiritual health and well-being.
Defining Spiritual Wellness
Most often, spiritual wellness is thought of as how an individual lives their life, their set of core values, principles, and overall belief system. Combined, these components give meaningful direction to our lives.
According to the National Wellness Institute (NWI), the spiritual dimension of wellness recognizes our search for meaning and purpose. It also involves the process of developing a deep appreciation for life and living one’s life in alignment with the goals and purpose they identify with. Further, spiritual wellness does not always have a connection with a religious affiliation or practice. It certainly can for some individuals but is not always the case. Most generally, spiritual wellness is ecumenical in nature as it is related more to the “big picture” of life and the purpose and meaning of why we are here.
NWI highlights the following tenets of spiritual wellness:
- It is better to ponder the meaning of life for ourselves and to be tolerant of the beliefs of others than to close our minds and become intolerant.
- It is better to live each day in a way that is consistent with our values and beliefs than to do otherwise and feel untrue to ourselves.
Core Values and Beliefs
Everyone’s core values — or those principles that guide an individual’s daily life, vary from person to person. In the simplest terms, core values answer the question “what is important to me? What do I want to demonstrate to others and receive in return?”
Examples of core values might include topics related to:
- Relationships with family and friends
- Compassion and grace
- Giving nature
- Faith-based practices
Developing a Personal Code of Values
To truly cultivate your spiritual wellness, you first must identify what values guide you in your daily life — personally and/or professionally. Consider these eight reflective questions to help guide you in the development of a personal code of values.
- What is important to me in life?
- What gives me hope? Or makes me feel hopeful?
- Where do I find comfort?
- Where do I find joy?
- What values guide my behaviors?
- What are my top personal traits?
- How would I describe my relationships with others (family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, etc.)?
- If I had to write a mission statement that defines my intended purpose in life, what would it be?
Nurturing the Spiritual Side of Well-being
There’s no black-and-white approach to fostering one’s sense of spiritual wellness; developing this aspect of one’s “wellness wheel” involves all the shades of gray because spiritual well-being is unique to each individual and to each person’s life experiences. A valuable place to begin is by assessing total well-being. NWI offers free tools and resources that will help you accomplish this. Visit this link and sign-up for free. The NWI’s Dimensions of Life tool can help you better understand how to bring balance and harmony to your life in all dimensions — spiritual included.
Strategies to Explore
As everyone’s personal values will differ, the strategies for developing a deeper sense of self and spirit will also vary. Some ways to encourage a richer presence of spiritual wellness might include:
- Nature walks and mindful observation
- Spending quality and intentional time with loved ones to deepen the relationships
- Self-reflection, journaling, and/or prayer
- Meditation and yoga
- Engage in meaningful conversations with others about values and the purpose of life
- Engage in new hobbies or activities that allow you to align your values with your life
- Volunteer for nonprofit or community events
- Donate to various causes
- Travel and experience different cultural events and rituals
- Practice daily mindfulness
- Set new goals
- Practice gratitude each day
- Read books that challenge your thinking (see book recommendations below)
- Practice a growth mindset
As with any dimension of personal wellness, it takes time to develop and nurture spiritual wellness. Give yourself grace and patience as you work towards filling this bucket. Commit to intentional and consistent practices and you will find a deeper sense of self and life purpose.
Big Magic — Elizabeth Gilbert
Option B — Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant
Grit — Angela Duckworth
Who Owns the Ice House — Clifton Taulbert
The Growth Mindset — Joshua Moore & Helen Glasgow
Lean In — Sheryl Sandberg
Course in Miracles — Foundation of Inner Peace
The Obstacle is the Way — Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferriss
Braving the Wilderness- Brene Brown
The Power of Creativity — Bryan Collins
What the Bleep Do we Knew — William Arntz & Suzanne Toren (et al.)
Man’s Search for Meaning — Viktor Frankl
Night — Elie Wiesel
Conquest of Mind — Eknath Easwaran
Dr. Erin Nitschke is a professor of exercise science at Laramie County Community College. She holds certifications including NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1. Erin is an editorial author for IDEA, NFPT, where she writes regularly on topics related to personal training and health coach skill building, behavior change, and career success.