Spirituality is expressed in many forms, whether tied to a religion, a moral philosophy, or an inherent sense of connectedness with something greater than oneself. In any form, spirituality is always personal. The need for spiritual wellness is often downplayed as less important than emotional, physical or social wellness, but vital to the overall wellness of every service member in the National Guard is a sense of hope and belonging – of purpose.
What does “spiritual wellness” mean?
- Spiritual Wellness means making time to contemplate your purpose in life and achieving greater mindfulness of your impact on the rest of the world:
Contemplating your purpose in life helps put you in touch with your potential to create, to affect change, and to proliferate good things in the world — like love, compassion and peace. For service members engaged in the protection of our nation, connecting with a greater purpose strengthens morale and encourages unity.
Achieving greater mindfulness is necessary in order to locate yourself as a member of a global community. No man is an island, which means every person has significance and importance to others, including family members, friends, peers, your neighbors, and beyond. Spiritually well individuals sense their implicit connection to others within their sphere of influence and outside it.
- Spiritual wellness means achieving harmony with one’s surroundings and balancing one’s personal needs with the needs of others:
Harmony with one’s surroundings is achieved when one’s actions and intentions align agreeably with the environment to the benefit of all within it. Considering the impact of your actions on your world can expand your perspective and inspire acts kindness, compassion, tolerance and altruism.
Balancing one’s personal needs with the needs of others is part of fostering healthy relationships. Spiritually well individuals consider the needs of others in relation to their own needs so that they are neither acting only in self-interest nor draining themselves for the sake of others. In other words, they transcend ego and act in universal interest.
- Spiritual wellness means having personal values and beliefs and acting compassionately in accordance with those values:
Personal values and beliefs may change throughout the course of a lifetime, taking shape through the influence of relationships, events and personal experiences. A spiritually well individual will take care to notice when their values shift, when to readjust them, and when to reassert their importance.
Acting compassionately is the physical expression of spiritual intention. Examples of compassionate action include prayer, efforts to find understanding in the midst of conflict, mentoring a peer, expressing love and affection, and other acts that cultivate mutual respect and nurture unity.
Signs of spiritual distress
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- Loss of direction
- Sense of emptiness/feeling alone in the world
- Hopelessness and helplessness
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Self-destructive language
- Bitter or jaded outlook on life
- Fearfulness, dissociation
- Anger at God/higher power
Tips for improving spiritual wellness
- Find some “quiet time.” It’s easy to feel encumbered at the end of a long day, especially for service members experiencing stressors related to deployment or managing the balance between military and civilian life. Fit some quiet time into your day to recharge your inner battery, where you can observe the present moment, pray or read something uplifting.
- Say something. Preferably out loud. Many faiths believe you can shape your world by speaking aloud the world you want to manifest. In psychology, the same idea is behind the recitation of affirmations. For many religions, it is achieved through prayer, chanting, liturgy and singing among other audible modes of expression. Whatever you believe, speaking your intentions out loud can change your thoughts and ultimately affect your life.
- Ask the big questions. “What am I doing here?” “What does it all mean?” The quest for greater truth begins with big questions, and you’re not only allowed to ask, you’re allowed to answer. Contemplating the meaning of life and seeking your greater purpose teaches the importance of the present moment and opens you to the infinite possibilities that lie ahead for your life.
- Find out what you believe. Determining a set of values begins with discovering what’s important to you. Is tolerance important? Is it important to defend those who cannot defend themselves? Is love important above all things? Defining your values gives you a framework to live by – and it’s important to revisit them from time to time to see if they’ve changed.
- Be true to yourself. Living authentically can offer tremendous benefits. When you honor your true self, you are stronger in adversity, a better leader to your peers, and reap the added benefit of a clear conscience. Best of all, your confidence will rub off on your friends.