As we continue our month-long dive into the different parts of wellness, what little things you can do for you, and for your family, this week I look at spiritual wellness.
First, let's look a little at just what Spiritual Wellness is. One does not have to be of a particular faith in order to be spiritually well. On the contrary, one can be very spiritual AND not have a defined religion. Spiritual well-being can be described as a sense of inner peace, as well as the journey to finding one’s purpose and meaning in life, as well as the discovery of what is important in life and one’s place among these important things. Spiritual well-being plays a role in one’s coping mechanism, and also includes personal values. Sure sure, religion may play a role in one’s spiritual well-being, but it is not necessarily a component; spiritual practices may include other activities beyond religion. It is important to understand what you need to feel spiritually fulfilled, and to fully embrace your own personal values. With a healthy level of spiritual wellness, one can accept and grow from the challenges in life, and benefit from a strong sense of self-efficacy which in turn feeds into a strong sense of self and a purpose in life.
Have you heard of mindfulness? Mindfulness can play a key role in focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, to being aware and placing value on what is occurring rather than just letting life pass by. Focusing on emotions that result, or interactions with self and with others can help one gain insight into their own needs and responses as well as those of others, increasing awareness, sense of self, empathy, and acceptance. Having a healthy level of spiritual well-being plays a key role in self-control, too, helping to curb unhealthy or unwise decisions or behaviors.
What can we do, what can we say to help you really develop their realm of your wellness? Yours and your kids? This week, 5 simple things you can do for yourself that will make a big improvement in your spiritual wellness. And most of them are free!
1. Spend time being 'unbusy.' We often use the excuse of not having enough time, rushing around, rather than taking the time to slow down and developing an understanding of our own inner insights. Do you let yourself be bored? Do you spend time just being and experiencing what life flows around you? Do you make the effort to see past the obvious: is it just a tree, or is it the scores of green leaves, masses of branches, and all of the life that lives in and around it? Do you see the insects, spiders and birds thriving in it? There is a lot of wonder in the appreciation of all of it, of what is around you. Noticing the finer details is as important as getting all of your to-do tasks accomplished.
2. Never stop learning. Our ability to gain knowledge, to develop our curiosity, to continue to ask questions is (or should be) insatiable. As you can probably imagine, I was THAT child, the constant source of questions ... why why why (my poor parents). I honestly believe that we can never know too much. Oh sure, we can talk too much, and perhaps our questions might become annoying, (and so, accordingly, it is also important to develop an ability to read one's audience, and know when the time has come to find out answers for ourselves, rather than continue pestering the people we are currently peppering with questions) but there is never such a thing as 'knowing too much.'
3. Be open to new experiences. Be accepting of uncomfortable situations. Be welcoming to the unfamiliar. These are the very sorts of situations that may open our eyes to something amazing or unforgettable. Why am I emphasizing 'new' experiences? As we get older, as we mature, our brain cells benefit hugely from continuing the learning the process. Sure sure, this is true for younger generations, too, but especially as we age, we might fall into patterns where we continually do only the things with which we are familiar. Learning new things, challenging ourselves mentally or physically is a great way to keep your brain functioning well (actually there are physical changes, too, to the brain with new skills and knowledge which are beneficial). Learning new things also makes you happier, and who doesn't want to be happier?
4. Allow yourself to experience emotions. We are human; humans have emotions. Humans are happy, sad, mad. We cry, laugh, and yell. We are passionate and we have feelings. And yet, we tend to react to strong emotions with suppression or repression. Why? Why not give yourself permission to feel these big feelings, name them, embrace them, and then move on? An emotion is not something one needs to dwell on, or suffocate. There is nothing wrong with allowing ourselves to feel. What we also need to make sure we do is move past the emotion, be it positive or negative.
5. Take the time to fully understand what is important to you right now. Quick, this minute: What inspires you? What are your goals? What are you moving towards? What are your sources of happiness? What are your sources of courage? These answers change with time, with life period, as you develop your relationships or begin your family. Take the time to check in with these important questions regularly so that you can ensure you give yourself what you need to feel spiritually well.
For your family:
1. Help your child to develop their grit. Part of maturation is developing our ability to respond positively to a challenge. Life is full of hiccups and speed-bumps. How does your child respond to these situations? I'll tell you what, if you let them win every game, if you give them a ribbon for every foray into athletics, if you hide them from all of the ugliness that might happen in the world, they will not know how to respond when the Real World rears its head. Much as we'd like to, we cannot make reality go away, much as we'd like to we can't pack our kids into bubbles and manipulate their experiences. Let them live real life, and they will be better off for and because of it.
2. Help your kids develop their understanding of the difference between empathy and sympathy. Feeling sorry for someone does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with compassion. Having compassion for others - for other people, for animals, for the environment - helps one develop their sense of passion. Kids are naturally more empathetic than adults; we lose this skill as we gain experience with what can only be viewed as 'cruel reality'. In all honestly, though, it doesn't have to be that way. Sure, reality is definitely not always rose-tinted (see #1 above). But along with understanding reality comes the ability to have compassion for others, to understand and share the perspectives of others, and to realize the range of humanity.
3. Make a game out of positivity. I know in the beginning, it may feel forced or pollyanna-ish. But help your kids to see the natural positive aspects of situations can help them develop their optimistic tendencies. Every proverbial cloud has a silver lining, though at times very very faint. Help them to practice this skill, though, even if it is listing three good things about their day as you tuck them in at night; playing 'Rose, bud, thorn' at dinner (one good, one new and one maybe not-so-great thing about their day); or starting a positivity journal (writing down 3 - 5 good things about their day/life). This ability to see the good in a situation really is a skill that can be practiced and honed throughout one's life. The better one is at this skill, the less likely they will be to feel despair or hopelessness in messier situations.
4. Help your child be kind to themselves. As often as not, kids are hard on themselves. They see us being hyper-critical of ourselves, of those around us, and they develop these fault-finding skills aptly enough. Rather, they should learn how to be accepting of themselves, and to start expanding their own self-care routine (and no, self-care should not include hours of gaming on their devices.). Self-care is important at all ages.
5. Get to know some of your kid's interests and find a related community organization where they can volunteer. If there is one thing I am certain of, big people with skills like sharing these skills with little people. Big people love helping others develop a love of whatever their field of expertise might be, and they would likely welcome your child as a volunteer. Sure, you might end up spending a Saturday trailing after your child as they volunteer at (insert your child's special interest site here), but you never know, you might find a new passion as well. They love animals? Get to the local pet shelter or shop and see how your child can be involved. Plants? The local park system probably has a list of volunteer opportunities. Helping a community in need? I am certain there is an option for that. They love tools? Maybe a mechanic shop or carpenter organization? They love tech? I bet there is a library or community college that has opportunities. Nursing or elderly care homes often welcome kids to help read books, play games or do crafts with their residents. Doesn't matter where you live in this world; there are always people who are less well-off than yourself.
So. These are simple suggestions. None of these are novel or nouveau. None of these are life changing alone; together, though, they can make a positive impact on your and your family’s social health. Next week, some final thoughts to sum up what you can do for yourself and your family and bring about wellness.