By Rachelle Williams
When is the last time you nurtured your spirit? Plenty is said about the importance of nurturing the physical body through diet and exercise, but the spiritual body is often forgotten or ignored. In order to live a happy and thriving life, all of your aspects (mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual) must be acknowledged in order to maintain overall well-being.
Notice what area of your life you tend to focus on and what might need some attention. If spirituality is waning, there are ways to enliven it. You may discover you’ve already been doing a few of these things--self-care ideas are pretty intuitive. The difference now is that you will start to pay attention with new awareness.
What Is Spiritual Self-Care?Spirituality has different meanings for different people, often influenced by the ideologies you grew up with. Maybe you associate spirituality with religion or cultural traditions. In this case, observing rituals, attending religious services or ceremonies, and studying religious texts are types of spiritual self-care.
Perhaps your concept of spirituality is experienced in nature, in one another, or within oneself. It could be through art, music, and dance. Ultimately, it can be anything that is meaningful and kindles a sense of sacredness, even if only felt by you. Spirituality is a personal practice. No matter what path is chosen, they all converge upon something you desire on some level—the need for connection, purpose, and happiness.
A spiritual self-care practice is any ritual that connects you to your true self, the real you. The real you is the raw expression of who you were meant to be and offer this world. It’s energizing, inspiring, and most of all, it feels right. Perhaps you already are experiencing this or maybe have had glimpses of what this might look or feel like. Becoming familiar with how you feel is an important part of being able to navigate through life. Accessing that part of yourself through spiritual self-care can be rewarding on many levels.
Why Is Spiritual Self-Care Important?You can be the healthiest person but still feel like something is wrong or experience illness, both mentally and physically. Emotional and spiritual well-being have a deep influence that trickles down into and impacts the mental and physical body. Loneliness is an epidemic. Your ancestors lived in groups and you derived many benefits from this way of life, especially mental and emotional. Today, you must make concerted efforts to seek out ways to nourish this part of yourself.
Taking time for spiritual selfcare is soul-fulfilling. It encourages introspection and offers clarity and comfort. Studies have shown how cultivating a spiritual life can have numerous health benefits. A practice in spiritual self-care quiets the mind and helps to calm the turbulence within, leaving space to begin feeling and honoring what your heart yearns for, and having the courage to take the necessary action for good change. Your body and emotions can’t lie; when you are truly happy and thriving you will know it at your core. You deserve to live life from this place. Spiritual self-care can help you to:
- Improve relationships and connections with others
- Experience more inner peace
- Gain clarity on what makes you happy
- Enhance feelings of oneness and universality
- Diminish feelings of isolation and loneliness
- Deepen relationship with self
Not sure where to begin? Here are a few spiritual self-care tips to get you started.
1. Practice Yoga
The intention behind yoga is to harmonize your body, mind, and spirit and is individualized according to what your needs are at the time. The physical benefits are well known, but there is more to yoga than getting a good workout. It helps you to connect with your body and emotions stored deep within. Yoga encourages non-judgement and an acceptance about where you are at in life with the knowledge that you are building a strong foundation for a more empowering life. There are many types of yoga--explore the types you’d like to try.
Meditation is one of the easiest, most accessible spiritual practices to maintain. It may take a little encouragement to get started, but once you get going it’s hard to imagine life without it. The benefits of meditation practice are numerous and includes the reduction of stress and a clearer connection to who you are and what you want out of life. .
3. Try Mindful Walking
Walking is undervalued. Research shows that people who suffer from mental health conditions can benefit from going on walks. Any form of physical activity is beneficial, but walking is different. It allows you to press pause on life and just be in the moment. Breathing in the fresh air, feeling the pavement under your feet, and seeing the wide-open sky are subtle ways that ground and nourish the senses. Mindful walking is a practice that has many great benefits that might surprise you.
4. Clear Your Space
A good practice in general is maintaining good, clear space around you. You are constantly exchanging energy and information with others and it’s natural that you may end up being affected in some way. It’s hard to connect to your true self if you are feeling tired or dragged down. Smudging using a particular incense, sage, cedar, or palo santo is a great way to clear your space (including mental space). Whether it’s the power of scent to uplift or the intention of clearing negative energy, it works.
5. Connect with Community
Humans are communal by nature. Unfortunately, the lifestyle that you lead today does not often support this way of life. Connection, laughter, exchange of ideas, emotional support, and strength to persevere are some of what you can experience through community. If you don’t have these connections already, you might need to step out of your comfort zone and find some. Volunteer, find people that share your interests, attend religious or cultural gatherings, host groups of your own, join a book club, or attend a game night. Making the effort will be rewarding!
Journaling is another way to tap into the deep recesses of your mind and heart. The act of writing sifts and processes thoughts and emotions. Problems, worries, and negative emotions can crowd the mind and dampen your spirit. Get it all down on paper and see what happens. New insights might be revealed. Journaling can be a nice complement to a morning or evening routine. There are different techniques to journaling you can try—make it work for you.
7. Read Inspiring Material
This sounds simple but can make a difference on your outlook on life. Notice what you are exposed to on a daily basis and how it makes you feel. You are inundated with information from many sources and it’s not all positive. As a result, it can sometimes be hard to feel inspired or uplifted. Make it a point to have on your bookshelf or nightstand a book or other reading material that inspires you. Right before bed, rather than thinking about your day and any worries, have your last thoughts be positive. Reading a few pages in the morning can also be a nice start to the day. Some inspiring books to start with are:
- The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
- Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron
- The Joy of Living by Eric Swanson
- The Ten Commitments by David Simon
8. Be in Nature
Being in nature heals. The smell of the earth, the sound of birds or water, the sight of trees swaying in the wind, or waves crashing on the shore make your senses come alive. You can’t help but disconnect from the day and bask in the healing that comes when surrounded by nature. You are in the moment and there is a sense of experiencing something greater than yourself. Take time as often as you can to spend time in nature, even if it’s just a few minutes sitting by a tree.
9. Unplug from Technology
While technology is a blessing, it also has the downside of being extremely distracting. You likely constantly check your devices, even without noticing. There is a movement toward digital detoxes, where you set time aside to unplug from technology, especially from your smartphone. The benefits of doing this are what you would expect:
- More time to observe and reflect
- Increased creativity
- Improved relationships
- Better night’s sleep
- Better sense of self and needs
Set aside time during dinner where all phones are put away or try choosing a day where you will detach from texting, checking social media, and responding to emails. You will begin to experience a richer life.
10. Practice Forgiveness
“To err is human; to forgive divine.” Life is too short and valuable to remain stuck in patterns that don’t serve you. When you are unable to forgive someone, it holds you back from fully experiencing life. Much energy is diverted to maintaining a grudge or similar when that energy could instead be directed toward creating the life you want. There are techniques to help you through this process; the freedom and lightness you will feel can be life changing.
It’s important to stay present and accept pleasure and pain as part of your journey to spiritual health and balance. Your ego naturally leans toward pleasure and comfort. It takes concerted effort and discipline to begin exploring the truth of who you are and creating a stronger connection to your true self. Try one or two things from this list. Keep it simple. If what you try doesn’t do much for you, try something else. This is a sacred journey and there is no right or wrong path. The most important thing is that you stay true to yourself while implementing any self-care plan.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.