Welcome back to our self-care series! This month’s highlight is spiritual self-care. Spirituality gets defined in many ways in our society. It can contain various beliefs, practices, and values, among other qualities that are unique to you that increase your spiritual awareness and presence. Spirituality does not necessarily need to align with any particular faith tradition or religion, although it can and does for some people. There are even some individuals that simply describe it as a way of being. Caring for our spiritual self can be the practices that ground us to our own bodies, brains, and the world around us, influencing who we are overall. Although often an individual and personal part of our lives, spirituality can also include a community of other people. Below are a few helpful ways that spirituality can be incorporated into your self-care routine!
Oftentimes, a way to get in touch with our core self and care for our spiritual selves is to identify and learn to live in congruence with our values. All people maintain a set of core values whether they are aware of what they are or not, that can determine how they live and interact in the world. A few examples of values include, family, work, friends and social connections, learning, romantic relationships, and things like health, recreation, and creativity. In counseling, I often utilize what is called a values card sort activity with clients to help them think about and identify which values are most important to them. This can then lead to a discussion of how these values influence thoughts, moods, behaviors, and decisions in life both historically and in the present. For example, if one of your core values is honesty, it might be helpful to look at why this particular value is important to you, where the value may have come from, how it currently plays a role in your life and in your relationships, and how it influences who you are as an individual. Knowing this about yourself, can help you live a more congruent and interconnected life with yourself, those around you, or a higher power.
Engaging with a higher power is another way to take care of our spiritual selves. Sometimes looking to, trusting in, and focusing on an entity or being that is outside of ourselves can assist us in feeling grounded and cared for. This can involve a formal belief in a creator, spiritual being, God or gods, or any entity that represents strength, knowledge, wisdom, or authority in your life or the world around you. You may ask yourself, what entity or being outside of yourself helps you feel connected, calm, and equipped to handle life’s happenings or challenges? When caring for your own spiritual needs, you might build routines, rituals, or practices that allow you time to focus on this entity and look to them for guidance or support.
Connection to Nature and Earth
Similar to a higher power, building connections to the world around us can boost our spiritual identities. For example, spending time outside, with animals, or any parts of nature can nourish the spiritual parts of ourselves that allow us an opportunity to be in touch with entities outside of our own bodies and minds. In turn, this practice can give us an opportunity for interconnection to not only ourselves, but with the immaterial things of the world. From simply opening your window to breathe in fresh air to going out for a walk, engaging in an activity such as hiking or biking, sitting outside to take in the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations, or witnessing a beautiful sunset, sunrise, mountain or ocean view, we can all likely find a way to feel more in tune to nature.
Prayer & Meditation
Personal acts of peace, calm, and mindfulness through prayer or meditation can be an encouraging action to again, feel interconnected to yourself, others, or a higher power. This can be directly communicating to that higher power you believe in, meditating on a scripture and positive quote, creating and repeating a mantra, or focusing on the sensory experience of a natural space. Such practices can put us in touch with our own experience, body, sensations, thoughts, and emotions. They can also give us an opportunity to get to know ourselves better and are often recommended as a part of anxiety and depression symptom management.
Meaning & Purpose
One last area of spiritual self-care can be to look at the things, people, or actions in your life that give you a sense of meaning and purpose. I think we all feel better when we can engage in certain practices, relationships, or activities that feed our soul and inner being. We can often experience more motivation and work more easily toward achieving goals when we engage in meaningful and purposeful life activities. For some, this can come in the form of working or volunteering at a place they love, being deeply connected to a community of others, participating in enjoyable hobbies and activities that bring pleasure and enjoyment, doing acts of service or kindness for others, or sharing one’s personal story and journey with safe and trusted listeners. When living in alignment with our goals, values, morals, and engaging in routines and practices that keep us connected to our spiritual selves, we can often feel a greater sense of self-understanding, feel more comfortable in our own skin, and experience increased life satisfaction.
As you reflect on these various areas of your life that help nourish your spiritual self, consider creating a self-care plan that incorporates such practices in order to encourage a holistic lifestyle.