Discovering Spiritual Wellness
Very few people are attuned with their spiritual health which has a significant effect in the over-all wellness of the mind and body. Spirituality is unique to each individual. It can be sought by way of a particular faith tradition such as Christianity, Hinduism, or Buddhism (which can also be pursued as a life philosophy). It can also be manifested in the level of growth that we experience in personal relationships, or in simply being truly at peace with nature and the world around us.
Those who are not in touch with their spiritual needs usually experience deep longing, apathy, discontent and even more extremes such as sadness, depression, intense anger, fear, anxiety, and grief. These negative feelings can create the environment for emotional, physical, and mental health dysfunction. People who suffer from repeated physical or emotional abuse often feel as if they carry a “wounded and broken heart”. Most of us do not realize that our heavy-heart directly influences our well-being, relational health and overall quality of life. Denial of the depth of distress will only aggravate the situation, increase the likelihood of depression and anxiety and can even lead to serious medical conditions and illnesses.
Spirit and Heart
Recent studies have shown the connection between depression and anxiety, and the correlation of depression with development of heart diseases. These risk factors are considered to be nearly equal to high cholesterol and diabetes. According to research, patients going through depression are twice as likely to die from the complications of a heart attack, compared with people who don’t have depression. Some experts even suggest that depression and anxiety should be classified as new risk factors for the development of heart disease.
People who are alone and with little or no social support system tend to be more sickly, with greater chances of developing heart disease and a shorter life expectancy, than those blessed with a wide circle of friends and other relationships that provide emotional and moral support. There seems to be a direct connection between illness and lack of love as documented in research studies conducted by Dean Ornish, M.D., a respected cardiologist from the University of California in San Francisco.
And while medications can be helpful there are many people who do not respond well to drugs because of emotional as well as physical ailments. And let’s face it, medications can help with physical and even some emotional health issues, but not spiritual health. This is where drug-free approaches such as meditation, Tai Chi, prayer, yoga and psychotherapy, comes in.
Reflection and Gratitude
As an example, let’s take a look at a meditative practice that comes from Sufism called “Practicing Remembrance” — an ancient spiritual practice that actually originated in Islam, and best known in the West through the poetry of Rumi. Sufism focuses its many practical and effective methods of healing on the heart with a simple but miraculous way of opening a person to the healing of gratitude, love and letting go.
Sound familiar? Sure it does. Contemporary psychotherapy, Eastern philosophy and most major religions today lean in this same direction. A combo of self reflection and gratitude – 12 Step folks will likely recognize these concepts are core parts of Alcoholics Anonymous as well.
Some Christians practice “contemplative prayer”, Buddhists often engage in meditation as a practice. Whatever your practice, path or tradition – remembering to keep a space for the spiritual and commit to some practice of keeping it alive in your life is very important. Remember, spiritual wellness at it’s very core is simply this; discovering a sense of meaning in your life, and living out the reason and purpose of your existence.
However you choose to manifest this in your life, I wish you well. When it comes to the mind, body and spirit – the latter often holds the other two together more than we might think.