I began our wellness discussion by talking about the importance of eating whole foods, but “spiritual nutrition” is just as essential and can feed us on a deeper level. As Dr. Andrew Weil said, “the essence of spirituality is connectedness; an inner sense that we are not random, isolated creatures but part of something sacred and infinitely larger than ourselves.” Spirituality fosters positive relationships, higher self-esteem, a sense of optimism and meaning or purpose in life. Spiritual individuals are self-aware; strive toward personal growth and ultimately a better life. I encourage you to develop your own unique practice that suits your needs and beliefs.
Here are a few ideas:
- Daily meditation induces feelings of calm and clear-headedness. It can also reduce symptoms in individuals who suffer from depression, anxiety, cancer, chronic pain, type-2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Many programs are easily downloadable on iTunes. Simply light a candle and take 10 minutes to begin or end your day in a peaceful way.
- Practice yoga, which aims to create a sense of union within the practitioner through physical postures and breathe expansion. It can reduce inflammation, stress, depression, anxiety, lower blood pressure, and increase feelings of wellbeing.
- Begin a journal. This contemplative practice can help you become more aware of your inner life and feel more connected to the world around you. This is a great tool if you’re at a crossroads in life and need a healthy outlet to express your truth.
- Daily prayer has a positive effect on overall wellness by eliciting the relaxation response, along with feelings of hope, gratitude and compassion. In addition, if you’re a member of an organized religion, attend regular religious services or devote 10 minutes a day to reading a spiritual text.
- Practice deep breathing exercises. For example, in the ratio: 1-4-2 (inhale for 8 seconds, hold for 32 seconds, exhale for 16 seconds). It’s free and you can do it at any moment if you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Check-out Dr. Weil’s website for a few more simple exercises: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html
- Spend time in the natural world. Take a walk in the forest preserve, around a lake or sandy beach letting in all the sounds, smells and sights. As a child I cherished walking through the forest in upstate WI with my grandparents. It was a magical experience, especially when the white deer came out to play!!
- Adopt a pet. They can not only add years to your life, but provide solace and give a focus outside the self.
- Take a “day of rest” once a week (or even once a month) to simply be and experience the little joys in life, such as cooking, gardening, walking, fishing, swimming, skiing, hiking or spending time with loved ones away from technology and life’s hustle and bustle. The world will survive without you for one day and you will feel rejuvenated!!