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  • Writer's pictureAnn Yebei

What is Spiritual Wellness?

Spiritual Living Post #1: Spiritual Health


Welcome to the first post in the newest section of the blog- welcome to Spiritual Living! We'll talk about different elements of spirituality, what it is, and how to practice healthy inner well-being. For today, we're going to generally touch base on spiritual health and wellness.

An Asian girl sits upright in a white cotton turtleneck sweater with short black hair cut into a bob. Her eyes are closed. She sits before a light source that lights up half of her front body vertically. The right side is in the shadow with the left lit by the light.
Quiet Time

Many people may confuse spirituality with religion. While they are related, they are not always the same. The National Center for Cultural Competence in Georgetown University defines spirituality as follows:

"[The] quality that goes beyond religious affiliation, that strives for inspiration, reverence, awe, meaning and purpose, even in those who do not believe in God. The spiritual dimension tries to be in harmony with the universe, strives for answers about the infinite, and comes essentially into focus in times of emotional stress, physical (and mental) illness, loss, bereavement and death" (NCCC).

Other definitions include self-discovery, purpose searching, honoring the sacred, and experiencing/being in a relationship with a deity. Religion can be thought of as a much more structured form of spirituality- organized spirituality.

"[A] set of beliefs, practices, and language that characterizes a community that is searching for transcendent meaning in a particular way, generally based upon belief in a deity" (NCCC).

An overhead photo of a person walking through a meditation path drawn on the sand with stones. The walk is placed at a corner of the beach. The ocean breaks into the large rocks separating the sand from the sea.
A Meditation Walk

The difference is, honestly, vague, and many people- including researchers and academics- at times use the words interchangeably depending on the context. The bottom level for my blog is that I will be speaking of religion as a manifestation of spirituality, just on a larger, more communal context, compared to how spirituality is always individual, and can manifest distinct from local majority religious practices.

Spiritual Wellness

When exploring the various elements of holistic wellness, spiritual wellness is often named. Some may understand it better as a combination of mental/emotional wellness with social and environmental health. Spiritual Wellness involves having a sense of purpose in one's own life, stability in one own's self and personal values, and harmony or alignment, with external forces. It involves the daily, mindful practice of being present, self-aware, and intentional.

Visible expressions of spiritual wellness include connecting with the community, whether in (found) family, or through community service. It includes having rituals and practices related to one's religion or self-care. Some activities include mindfulness, physical health care, journaling, prayer, reflections, gratitude, and continued learning and engagement with larger philosophical topics like death, purpose, the nature of reality, life, and so forth.

An empty outside hallway is lit by the sun. The archways are made from a pinkish-orange stone with green bases with carved geometric square flower. The hallway ends at a distant dark brown door. Above the door is a visible sky window carved out in the same shape as the dome shape arches of the hallway.
Mosque Hallway in the Day

Benefits from having a healthy inner life includes a sense of comfort, in private or one's community; a sense of safety and hope, reduced levels of stress, suicidality, and depression; increased resilience, and sense of purpose and having a community.

Like all other dimensions of wellness, this dimension can grow and be weakened throughout one's life. Healthy spirituality involves a prolonged mindset towards learning and maintainence of inner peace or stability. Having an expanding, or moving, sense of meaning in life is important for experiencing purposeful living. And as with other Dimensions, it is possible to perform poorly during a period in your life- it happens! Just remember that resilience isn't about how tough you are, or for how long you had a good streak. Resilience is about getting back up and working towards a stronger, healthier, and happier you.

Tenants of Spiritual Health

Background is black as night. Foreground is weakly lit by candles to show a golden outline of a kinara for Kwanza. All 9 candles are lit. The leftmost candel is yellow followed by red, then yellow, then dark purple, then the higher, center most candle which is yellow, then the rest of the candles starting with purple, to yellow, red, and yellow.
Kinara for Kwanzaa

Poor spiritual or inner well-being can easily become a weak link when it comes to coping with hard times, and having adequate tools to use to get through, reflect, and grow as an individual and community is important. Here are some suggestions for what you could do to build your spiritual wellness. Take and pick what you're inclined to!

Having a sense of purpose in one's own life

  • Journaling or Reflecting Regularly

Track what you would like to do, what you don't want to do, and why. Write down your goals and aspirations and celebrate them when you attain them! Celebrate life milestones and proactively start to mold and curate what kind of average Tuesday you'd like your life to look like and be! No matter how small the progress is, it will contribute to a sense of intentional motion and increase mindfulness. Life can easily feel like a blur if you're busy and time will go by quickly!

People build, or copy, different journaling outlines and I'll share mine so you have an idea of what a reflection entry can look like. As to frequency, pick what you'd like and experiment. I moved from daily to weekly, then bi-weekly, and now I focus on small daily entries into Daylio with weekly free-flow journaling work mixed with scrapbooking.

When I journal, I would mention what happened this week, highlight strengths, core memories, and weak points. I would review progress towards goals mentioned in the last entry- or the week in question- and then I would review how aligned I was to my personal beliefs and action values (more on this in the next Tenant!). The last section are my top 3-5 goals until the next review and what I can do to attain them.

Having stability in one own's self and personal values

  • Value Exploration: Core Beliefs and Action Values

Explore what values you agree with, those to explore further, and those you don't agree with. Values can be found at different levels and it's easier to think of it in terms of concentric circles within each other. You exist in a society that has societal values, and were raised in a community influenced by those values. Nonetheless, your community can also come with its own values, and your family is based within that community. Likewise, families can have their own values distinct to their said community. Even deeper still, you, as you live your life, are creating your own lifestyle and value systems.

Native American Traditional Dancer

As you write down what values you hold or disagree with, take note of where the value came from in your life and check if it's personal to you or not. I like to separate general values from action values and core beliefs. For example, I have many beliefs- like how children shouldn't be abused- which many in society and the community can get behind. This is a general belief. A core belief, would be my Christian faith, for example. This is personal and plays a part in how I orient myself through the different layers mentioned earlier.

Action beliefs direct me and help to hold me accountable to my goals and values. My life should show actionable traits of being committed to said goals in my work and relationships. My 3 action beliefs are to have Clarity, Commit, and stay Couragoeus!

Lastly, core beliefs are my anchors. They are inviolable and shouldn't change. For me, my 3 core beliefs are: Expression, Connection, Curiosity. I am to be authentic in my day, create, and express myself; I am to connect to other's around me, and I am to stay curious and enjoy the journey of learning and experiences.

Having harmony or alignment, with external forces

  • Inner Orientations

How do you decide what you like or don't want to do? This third idea of spiritual health is less of a fixed practice, like journaling or meditation, and more of a choice. No matter where you go, and what you believe, every moment asks of a choice from you. Whether this is related to larger topics, like social movements or politics, or personal crossroads, like attending a wedding, or what to eat for dinner. An answer- and no answer- is a choice.

How you make these decisions, and the automated ones, create your life path and ultimate destiny. So consciously creating your orientations internally is important as it will determine how harmoniously you can live in your larger context, with the external forces it comes with. One of the marks of a spiritually mature person, is one how takes accountability of themselves and their lived experiences.

Grounding Meditation and Gratitude Practices

Conclusions and Reminders

Spiritual health and wellness is a broad topic with many subdivisions like religion, meditation, philosophy, mental health, and physical health, so more will be explored in the future!

For today, we opened up on what spiritual wellness entails, with suggestions of an activity you can try to further your self-understanding and live a more conscious life.

Which activity would you like to try first? And what questions do you have about spiritual wellness?


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