What is spirituality?
Across cultures and religions, people tend to their spiritual wellness in countless ways. In the most basic sense, spirituality is about connecting with what's meaningful to you in a way that lightens or enriches your spirit.
While there are many ways to describe it, most experts agree that spirituality can:
- Come from religious and non-religious experiences alike.
- Include the need to find answers to questions about the meaning of life, suffering, and death.
- Relate to how you think of the ultimate meaning and value of your self.
Some people talk about the spiritual as the deeply moving or the feeling of being fully alive. Others call it the "more than" in their lives.
For many people, spirituality is connected to a higher power.
How does spiritual wellness relate to health?
There is some research that links spiritual wellness with physical well-being.
Spiritual wellness can bring comfort and lend strength for handling life's challenges. Some people find that tending to the spirit seems to be as healing as medicine itself.
What does it mean to be well?
We all have different ideas of what it means to feel well. Try this thought exercise, and focus on what wellness means to you.
Think a moment about what it means to feel unwell. You have a health problem. Maybe your mind or spirit is troubled in some way. Any or all of these struggles can make life difficult. And they can leave you feeling unwell.
- Ask yourself: "In what ways have I felt unwell in my life? What problems of the body, mind, or spirit can make me feel unwell?"
Now think about what it means to feel well. It could be about your body, your mind, or your spirit feeling healthy and whole. It might be some combination of the three.
- Ask yourself: "How do I feel when I am well? What balance of physical, mental, and spiritual needs are being met when I feel well?"
What did you notice about this thought exercise?
- When you feel fully well, is there also a spiritual part to feeling satisfied and engaged?
- When you are physically unwell or your stress level is high, how can spiritual wellness help you? Many people who are seriously ill or dying, for example, look to their spirituality to help them cope.
What about your spiritual wellness?
If you're wondering about your spiritual wellness, it might help to ask yourself some questions. In doing so, you are giving attention to things that you may not think about every day. You can become more aware of what's important to you.
- Ask yourself: "How do I already take care of my spirit? What brings peace, purpose, connection, love, beauty, and meaning into my life?"
There are other ways to look at the role of spirituality in your life. For example, you can try pondering one or more of these questions. Pay attention to what strengthens your spirit. Notice other questions and ideas that come to mind for you.
- What am I thankful for? How do I feel when I focus on gratitude?
- What are my sources of strength?
- What gives my life meaning? If I were fighting for my life, what would make life worth fighting for?
- When do I feel fully alive?
- Is a relationship to a higher power or universal being important to me? If so, why?
- What life experiences are meaningful for me?
- Are there sacraments or rituals that are meaningful for me?
- Is a faith community important for me right now?
- How is community in general important for me?
What can you do to enhance your spiritual wellness?
For some people, making time for a spiritual practice is a key part of their wellness. Some take time to be in nature, to meditate, or to pray. Others spend time with music, art, or poetry, in motion or quiet. Many people pay special attention to beauty, loving kindness, gratitude, healing, or faith in a higher being.
Is this a good time to think about adding something to your life to improve your spiritual wellness? Perhaps a spiritual practice can help you to connect in a new way with what is meaningful to you.
What is spiritual for you is very personal. It is for you to define. But that doesn't mean that you have to explore spiritual questions and ideas by yourself. You can share with and learn from others however you like. And if you're struggling, you can look to a chaplain, a counselor, or a trusted member of your community for support.
- Swinton J (2012). Healthcare spirituality: A question of knowledge. In M Cobb et al., eds., Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare, pp. 99–104. New York: Oxford University Press.
Current as of: June 16, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Catherine D. Serio PhD - Behavioral Health