How’s Your Spirit?
Probably someone has asked you, “So, how are your spirits”, right? But what does that mean? Are we only talking about your mood? What do spirits have to do with me, anyway?
Spirit can mean different things to different people. Usually it is something that we don’t see or touch, its a sense of something that exists within us, maybe the “alive” part of us. For lots of people, being spiritual means observing rituals, studying religious texts and attending regular services. For others, it might be about the energy that flows in us which helps guide and motivate us.
Perhaps a simple way of defining spirituality is anything you consider meaningful and special. Whether you find it in God, in people, in nature, or in art, it can be a place of lightness and release from every day pressures and pains.
Get to know your spiritual side. It’ll give you a:
- reassuring belief that you don’t have to know how to control everything
- sense of purpose and meaning
- feeling that you are part of something bigger than yourself
- way to understand suffering
- connection with others
- reminder of the good in the world
Research on spirituality says it helps the body and mind:
- People who meditate have increased activity in a “feel-good” area of the brain
- People with strong religious beliefs may recover faster from heart surgery
- People who have a fuller spiritual life appear to be less stressed out and have fewer illnesses
If you’re curious to try out a religion or two, explore some of these paths to religious faith;
- Attend services at a religious institution. The social connection you make might be helpful. Groups often support healthy lifestyle choices and activites.
- Pray or focus on your notion of a guiding force. You can worship from a prayer book at a specific time each day. Or you can pray from your own heart when you need some solace. Uttering a prayer of gratitude may be particularly good for your mood.
- Read religious texts and histories. Take time to reflect on what they mean to you and how they have helped others.
- Talk with others who share similar spiritual interests and learn from each other.
- Volunteer with a religious group or charity.
Meditation is another form of focussed practice. It can create a sense of calm, as well as reduce anxiety and depression, help with cancer, chronic pain, asthma, and other medical conditions. Practice starting with a few minutes each day, working up to 10, 20 or 30 minutes. There are many meditation resources online and in books. Your school might even offer a class. Some of the practice suggestions below might work for you. Give it a try, you might like how you feel.
- Deep Breathing. Sit or lie down comfortably. Rest your hands on your stomach. Slowly count to four while inhaling through your nose. Feel your stomach rise. Hold your breath for a second. Slowly count to four while you exhale, preferably through pursed lips to control the breath. Your stomach will fall slowly. Repeat a few times.
- Mindfulness Meditation. Focus on your breath. Notice anything that passes through your awareness without judgment. If your mind starts to tackle your to-do list, just return to focusing on your breath.
- Visualization. Close your eyes, relax and imagine a peaceful place, like a forest. Engage all your senses: Hear the crunching leaves, smell the damp soil, feel the breeze.
- Repeating a mantra. Sit quietly and pick any meaningful or soothing word, phrase or sound. You can repeat the mantra aloud or silently. Experts say the repetition creates a physical relaxation response.
We can get pretty distracted from ourselves with all the time we spend plugged in, tuned in or online. Day dreaming is a great way to pull away from the world of pokes, likes, and beeps, to think about who you are and want to be in the world. Taking the time to figure out what is important to you can make daily irritants and stresses feel like less of a burden.
- Think about where you want to be going. What goals do you have? How do your values and beliefs frame your path?
- Keep a journal to help you express your deepest thoughts and feelings.
- Read inspiring stories or essays to unearth insights and philosophies that can enrich your life.
- Try something new experiences. An experience that is outside of your comfort zone can nurture your spirit. How about connecting with nature, music, art or visiting a place you don’t know so well.
- Find out what really motivates you. There are so many things to get excited about. What get’s you going?