Genie’s Note: Today we are happy to welcome back Doreen Learner Ph.D. , psychologist and wellness coach. You may remember her blog post on change from January 2015 . Please make her feel welcome.
However we define it, spirituality is about a search for meaning, purpose, and a direction in life. It may or may not include a feeling of connection to something larger than ourselves, what some may call the divine or the sacred.
What is spirituality all about?
Our spiritual quests strive for answers about life and death. Some may engage in a regular spiritual practice – either something that causes them to turn inward for answers to life’s larger questions, or something that involves worshipping that which is larger than themselves. Others turn to the spiritual perhaps when facing difficulties, illness, or the end of life (either their own or that of someone close to them).
What if I’m not religious?
Although spirituality may involve the practice of a particular religion, in general it has a broader meaning. Spirituality and religion have some overlap, but also have some unique elements. The former is more about meaning, connection, and life choices, whereas the latter is more often about rituals, morality and belief.
How do I cultivate a sense of spirituality?
There are countless ways to do this. Here are a few strategies that many people use to cultivate and deepen their spirituality:
- Develop a gratitude practice. See my recent blog post for tips on how to do this: http://thefullmindweigh.com/the-relationship-between-gratitude-and-successful-weight-loss-maintenance/
- Develop a mindfulness or meditation practice. You’ll find some ideas in this article: http://www.pocketmindfulness.com/6-mindfulness-exercises-you-can-try-today/
- Engage in creative pursuits
- Develop a habit of writing or journaling
- Simply be curious – ask yourself questions and seek answers. Here are some key questions you might ask yourself: What inspires me and brings me hope?
- What gives me joy?
- What do I value most in life?
- Develop a sense of awe. For tips, see this article: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_awe_inspiring_activities
- Spend time in nature
- Volunteer. Serve a cause that touches your heart
- Read inspirational stories or literature. Try the “Chicken Soup” books for starters Chicken Soup to Inspire the Body and Soul
- You might like this one:
- Talk to people you know who’ve cultivated their own sense of spirituality
- Prayer or religious ritual – if this fits for you. How does Spirituality help my Overall Wellbeing? There are a number of ways that cultivating a deeper sense of spirituality can benefit your overall wellness or wellbeing.
- In surveys by The Solution, a weight loss program that focuses on skills in self-nurturing and limit setting, program founder Laurel Mellin, RD, the author of a book by the same name found that the 73% of participants who developed a deeper sense of spirituality were more likely to maintain their weight loss and had seven times as much weight loss as those who didn’t gain spiritual depth.
- Cultivating spirituality leads you to live a more examined life. As a result, you naturally become more mindful, more aware. This in turn results in a lowered risk for engaging in automatic, unconscious, unhealthy habits. You’re more likely to stop, examine, and think.
- Spirituality helps to relieve stress. As you gain clarity on what’s most meaningful to you in life, you’re able to reduce your degree of focus on problems and stressors. As you develop a sense of purpose, you feel less alone and you gain peace, even during challenging times. You’re better able to cope with pain and loss. You have a greater sense of connection, and so you feel less lonely.
- As you become more spiritual, you develop greater appreciation for the wondrous machine that your body is. As a result, you’re more inclined to treat it with loving care.
- It’s critical that you feed your soul. If you find a way to do this that is meaningful to you, you’re less likely to try to feed your soul with excess or unhealthy food that your body does not need. Cultivating spirituality helps you find meaning in life far beyond food.What if I don’t believe in the concept of “soul”?If that’s the case for you, then its fine to substitute “inner self”, “essential self”, “core self”, “higher self”, “inner being”, “consciousness”, or any other term that you’re comfortable with.
Doreen Lerner, Ph.D. is a psychologist and wellness coach. More of her articles and musings can be found on her website, www.StopRegainingTheWeightYouLost.com