Most people know that eating a healthy diet, exercising appropriately and getting enough sleep all contribute to good health. Another factor, spirituality, has also been shown to impact our health. As we head into the holiday season, there’s much talk about spirituality. But what does it mean to be spiritual and how can it impact our overall health and wellness?
The word ‘spirituality’ is used to describe the way people relate to something or someone bigger than themselves, how they relate to their neighbors and how they relate to themselves. Out of these webs of relationship people find meaning in their lives.
Recognizing that there is a great variety of spiritual beliefs within our society, there are three broad and common spiritual practices that, in my experience, many people find helpful in promoting good physical and mental health.Live with gratitude.
Even when life is very difficult, we can still find things that awaken our gratitude. I visited a hospice patient one time who always asked for me to pray a prayer of thanksgiving. She would list all the kindnesses done for her that week. In the midst of a terrible illness, she chose to find things to be thankful for. She never denied the difficult parts of her illness, but chose to look for the good that still did exist in her life.Live with integrity.
Whether people are religious or not, they hold certain values to be more important than others. When we live in harmony with our deepest beliefs, we live our lives with purpose. The patient who told me, “I have no regrets. I always tried to do what I thought was right. It gives me a sense of peace”, was saying something about integrity.Be forgiving.
It has often been said that holding a grudge is like holding a burning coal in your hand, waiting to throw it at the person you are mad at. It injures us to be bonded to the hurts in our past. Forgiveness, whether of others or ourselves, is a way to recognize that wrongs have been done and that we can choose to let go of, to not be defined by, those hurts.
As we focus on these and other goals as part of a healthy spiritual life, we find that we have more energy to face our daily struggles, whatever they may be. Rev. Jonathan Scott serves as Chaplain at Day Kimball Hospital and leads the hospital’s Pastoral Care department.