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Before we start, please don’t recoil at the word spiritual in the title. This is not an article about any particular religion, and there is no mention of crosses, prayer beads, or strange clothing. This article will answer the question of why spiritual health is essential and what you can do to get started.
No matter which country you were born in and whatever background you may have had, most of us experience highs and lows. For many of us, these low points can bring anxiety, stress, and, more worryingly, periods of depression.
According to the World Health Organisation, depression now affects more than 300 million people globally and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Depression is one of the most significant contributors to the global disease burden. Increased exposure to spirituality could potentially go a long way to solving this problem.
Today, depression has become the most common mental illness in the USA. 10% of all men and a staggering 25% of all women in America suffer from some form of depression at some point in their lives. Interestingly, studies conducted by Loma Linda University have found that spiritual practices can reduce the risk of clinical depression.
The importance of spiritual care should not be underestimated. Spiritual care is a form of healthcare that deals with spiritual (or religious) needs usually prompted by some sickness or injury.
When we suffer from serious illnesses (such as depression), many of us ask deep and probing questions about our place in the universe and look for answers to such questions as:
Further investigation into the link between spirituality and happiness uncovers many studies over the last 50 years. In most cases, it has been found that physical and mental health are both improved when our spiritual needs are met.
A lesser-known fact is that The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) co-sponsors curriculum development of spirituality. As a result, more than 70 medical schools now offer courses on spirituality and medicine.
One very important study done in 2016 by Li and Shun found that spiritual/religious support positively affected heart failure patients in both their physical and psychological recovery.
Research has shown a link between your beliefs and your feelings of well-being. Religion, meditation, and prayer have been found to promote positive beliefs, increase comfort levels, and positively influence health.
The “practice” part of “spiritual practice” means doing it regularly. The idea is to maintain your spiritual activities for the rest of your life.
So how the heck do we become more spiritual? The first step is to accept that you need some support; the next step is to keep an open mind. My personal choice of spiritual activity is to meditate. I have dabbled in meditation for a year or two but only really started “getting it” recently. Since then, my life has felt much easier, and many things that previously troubled me have seemed to reduce in number and in also in their impact on my mood.
I can honestly say that I am more at ease than at any other time in my life. I attribute this partly (if not totally) to my regular meditation sessions and increased mindfulness in my daily activities.
For some of us (and in my case), “Yes,” and for others, “No.” You would be well advised to check out a few spiritual gurus. You could start with the famous Eckhart Tolle and then move on to the charismatic Sadhguru. Also, check out the intellectual Rupert Spira, and prepare for my favorite guru – the Buddha-like Mooji. All of these spiritual guides talk about spiritual awakening and universal consciousness. All these incredible individuals are a great place to start your spiritual journey.
The gurus mentioned have all devoted their lives to helping those that feel “suffering.” Their main goals are limiting the mind’s harmful chatter and showing us how to find our “true selves.” This leads to peace and joy through the transcendence of the mind. While you might think this sounds like a load of “mumbo-jumbo,” you should keep an open mind. If you are depressed and hate life, what have you got to lose by looking into a spiritual practice?
These particular spiritual gurus’ teachings (or pointings) are given in easy-to-understand meetings/get-togethers called “Satsangs.” These meetings are usually held in retreats and often follow a question-and-answer format. Attendees can ask any question they need to be answered to help alleviate suffering and transcend life’s negative aspects. The meetings also feature guided meditations that aim to quieten the mind and get in touch with the “true self.”
It sounds so cliche, but meditation has changed how I live or, more accurately, how I look at life. Daily meditation pulled me out of a scary downward spiral after a few unhappy years. Today I am much better equipped to deal with the trials and tribulations of life. Meditation has become an essential part of my daily routine, and I will be forever grateful for finding this liberating experience.
An excellent way to look at meditation is to think of it as a “space” where you can escape that constant cycle of thoughts that many of us experience. Yes, you can gradually become less attached to your thoughts with some dedication. And with patience and time, the world can feel like a beautiful place again.
The following videos are great for newbies to spirituality. These talks are a perfect way to get an introduction to spirituality.
Thanks to the Isha Foundation for their wonderful photograph of Sadhguru [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons. Also for the beautiful pic of Eckhart Tolle and the Dalai Lama by Kris krüg [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons and Meditation Flickr photo by Wiertz Sébastien shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license.