I was talking with a client one time about stress-management. She had reflected that work was going quite well and she didn’t have much stress with it. Her life overall was not bad. Yet, she continued to explain that she still struggled with stress because of anxiety about the future. A splinter of thought would creep in that had her worried about the unknowns in her life. I asked if she had any spiritual beliefs that help her when these thoughts of worry for the future pop up. She reflected that this was something she had put on the back burner for a good portion of her life. She said (to paraphrase), “You know, I am so glad you asked this. I do think it would be important to re-pursue and dig deeper roots in. This topic really is the elephant in the room these days, isn’t it?”
Barriers to Achieving Your Health Goals
Can you relate? I think we all strive for that the next goal, financial opportunity, vacation, time with family and friends, etc. We want to pursue making changes with our health, but something gnaws at us. For some of us, anxiety and stress hinders us time and time again from making lasting health changes. One of the reasons is because we turn to old habits for comfort and security. Or, the stress drains us so much it’s nearly impossible to make any new efforts to move forward and grow. Hence, we become depressed no matter what we try. We can try many things, including new habit “hacks”, strategies, tools, gadgets, and more. But we often do not consider the elephant in the room – spirituality.
Why is Spirituality Important?
Why is spirituality important to consider for our health and well being? First, we should look at defining what is spirituality, to begin with. This is quite challenging in and of itself and there are many opinions. Oxford Dictionary defines it as, “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.” I think that last part about it being something other than “material or physical things” is a key point. For some of us, it may be tied to religion. For others, it may not be. It could be that extra layer of depth to our personal self; a sense of connection to something/someone greater than ourselves, our purpose, and shaping our worldview. Okay, back to the question – why is spirituality important to consider for our health and well being? Here are just a few reasons to consider:
1. You may develop and refine a deeper sense of purpose.
Therefore, you build stronger foundations for yourself to drive why you do what you do in the first place. Why you want to make changes with your health – why that even matters. Stronger purpose fuels motivation, which fuels doing more of what you want to accomplish. This in turn fuels fulfilling your purpose, which fuels even more action, etc. It creates personal momentum in what you want to accomplish in life.
2. Developing your spirituality may tie your purpose and reason for being to something that isn’t material.
This is incredibly significant because, let’s face it, everything in life fades away. It’s a sad reality, but one we are all too familiar with. Our things break, our houses constantly need maintenance, things corrode and lose value, our health still eventually declines, and we all will die. When you think about it – it’s quite depressing. So, if your personal reasons for doing things are tied to something physical or material – such as your family, your kids, your job, your hobbies, etc – all those things at some point can be taken away. When that happens, what then for you? What will be your foundation to continue standing on? So – if your sense of purpose and reason for being is rooted in something that cannot be taken away from you, you can continue growing and moving forward despite hardships and challenges.
3. Developing your spirituality may guide you towards clarity in the community you belong to.
This is one of the reasons many people find religion beneficial – because it ties people together who may have nothing in common except that they share the same world view. Because of that, people can connect and build relationships that do not have to be tied to mutual interests, mutual hobbies, the same sports teams, etc. We ALL need deep meaningful relationships in the context of a community. We all need help because it’s extremely difficult to navigate life all by oneself. Whether or not you tie your spirituality and practices to an organized religion or something else, it may help you find who your “tribe” is.
This, of course, is a massive topic, and the rabbit hole goes deep, as they say – and we all have our personal beliefs and opinions. But, these are just a few examples of how this practically connects to our health and everything else that’s important to us.
So, what about you? If someone asked you what your spiritual beliefs or compass were – will you have a clear answer to that? Do you want a clear answer to that? Do you have a clear sense of your personal purpose, and what guides the reason you do what you do (or should not do)? If not, I encourage you to consider this for your personal growth – to pursue this side of your life and see where it leads you, and to develop stronger roots for yourself.
Lead health coach Dan Tribley, EPIC Functional Medicine