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Spirituality: An Elixir for Modern Life

Having a positive spiritual orientation has a huge impact on both our physical and emotional health
12:17 AM Apr 06, 2024 IST | Guest Contributor
spirituality  an elixir for modern life
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Sharika Muthu

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When we were children, we were told ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’. In these times when an average person leads a stressful, overworked life, one could very well add ‘A prayer a day keeps ill-health away’. Most religions, in fact, teach the importance of having a spiritual aspect in our lives, although they do not necessarily connect it with one’s physical and emotional health. A large number of studies have shown that there is a definite correlation between one’s spiritual health and one’s general well-being.

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What Exactly is Spirituality?

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This question can be answered with a surprising variety of definitions, because the idea of spirituality is unique to each individual. Spirituality could be something that helps you to connect with the world or lets you draw meaning out of your life. Your spirituality could be a strong sense of who you are, why you are here and what your purpose in life is. Or, it could be simply your way of relating to God and religion. Spirituality could be one of the above, all of the above - and something more, which is special to you.

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The beauty of ‘spirituality’ is that even if someone is not comfortable with the idea of following a conventional religion, they can still practice spirituality in daily life. For some, spirituality is a life led honestly and righteously. For others, it may mean growing as a human being and becoming a better person as one grows older. For yet others, spirituality may be simply being at peace with Nature and all living beings. Whatever it is to different people, spirituality is that core of your being that helps you to go through life with strength and hope.

Although the idea of ‘spiritual wellness’ is as old as religion itself, yet, over the last few decades it has become an intrinsic part of our lives. In an article published in September 2012, Dr. Robert J. Hedaya, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Georgetown University Hospital says: “Studies show that a positive spiritual orientation helps people cope, and makes them resilient in the face of life’s challenges. Those patients who think their illness or condition is a punishment have a negative spiritual orientation, which only worsens their problems and symptoms.”

Nurturing Your Spiritual Side

One of the essential steps in discovering your own spirituality involves getting in touch with your inner self. When you discover a sense of meaningfulness in your life, and realise that you have a purpose to fulfill, both your health and your spirituality blossom. In other words, having a positive spiritual orientation has a huge impact on both your physical and emotional health.

In order to put your health and happiness on a stronger foundation, you could try these suggestions:

  • If you have never prayed, you could start by saying a short prayer once a day or more frequently if you wish.
  • If you can sit still even for a few minutes, try meditation and relaxation techniques to help find peace of mind.
  • If you like to write, you could maintain a journal to express your feelings.
  • If you are feeling confused about your direction in life, talking to a trusted friend could help you discover your purpose in life.
  • If you are religious, you could even read the scriptures – in fact, scriptures of all religions are a treasure of inspiration.
  • If you follow one or more of these tips, you are bound to make progress in your quest for meaning.

The lives of great people beautifully illustrate the principle of spiritual wellness. Mahatma Gandhi spent several hours each day in meditation, silent reflection and reading the scriptures. His entire life was based on the principles of truth, purity of thought and love for all creatures. In his autobiography, Gandhi describes how, through constant introspection, he strove to learn from his mistakes and faced each day with renewed strength.

Reflecting on her spiritual life, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar says: “I’ve never thought of myself as having a spiritual life apart from my work. I approach my work as a whole person, and that includes any spiritual strength I may have as well as other strengths…I see peace through work…And by getting through it (work) each day, I get a lot of satisfaction, and satisfaction gives you a sense of peace.”

 

Effective Remedy for Great Health

The immense power of forgiveness over our total health cannot be overstated. Carrying a grudge is like dragging behind you a bagful of rocks at all times – can you imagine how fatiguing that is? What a crushing burden to carry! Do yourself a favour and throw it away right now – and you will feel lighter and healthier instantly.

Refusing to forgive, says US-based psychiatrist Dr. Harold G. Koenig, “is like drinking poison every day and hoping the other person gets sick.” Numerous studies have proved that forgiveness has dramatic consequences, in terms of both mental and physical health. Effects on physical health include an immediate lowering of blood pressure, decreased stress and easier breathing. Mental health benefits you could expect are a sense of freedom, greater happiness, a sense of warmth and joy, and an immense feeling of being cleansed from inside.

A virtue associated with forgiveness is kindness. When you forgive, you become a kinder and gentler person, and that translates into better health for you. Whether you receive a kindness or show a kindness, its powerful effect is the same. In her 2012 Nobel peace prize speech, Aung San Suu Kyi said: “Every kindness I received, small or big, convinced me that there could never be enough of it in our world. Kindness can change the lives of people.”

Several studies indicate that people who have a spiritual side to their lives, exhibit fewer self-destructive behaviours such as suicide, smoking, and drug and alcohol abuse; and report a greater satisfaction with their lives. Spirituality has been shown to reduce depression, improve heart functioning, and boost the immune system. Best of all, it gives us an impetus to start life anew after a setback.

 

Ways to Improve your Spiritual Health

  • Take time out for yourself every day. You could start with a few minutes and then gradually increase it. You could use this time to reflect on your day, the people you met, and the feelings you experienced.
  • Be open and tolerant. Learn to listen patiently and attentively.
  • Try to be non-judgmental and uncritical.
  • Practise forgiveness and kindness.
  • Pray and meditate daily.
  • Think of the life you have led and whether it has given you happiness. Then think of the positive changes you would like to introduce in your life.
  • And, always let yourself be guided by your inner voice.

 

The author is a free-lance writer and translator based in Delhi NCR.

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