As a population we often focus on the ways in which we can promote better physical, mental and emotional health, however, many of us overlook one important aspect of our overall health and well-being – our spiritual health.
Spirituality has different meanings for different people, influenced by their personal belief systems. For those that identify with a specific religious belief, such as that of Christianity, spirituality may be tied to their perceived connection with their God or deity, whereas for those that don’t have a religious affiliation may see it, instead, as an understanding of a higher purpose in your life.
Christina Puchalski, MD, director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health explains that “spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.”
As the underlying idea of spirituality is the connection to a bigger or more meaningful purpose in this world, it is often connected with improved emotional well-being. It allows us to feel a strong positive connection with the world around us, resulting in feelings of peace, gratitude, acceptance, understanding, and contentment. Spirituality provides individuals with something to hold onto, a bigger picture when they are facing a challenge in life. As Thomas Merton states, “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”
Unfortunately, our society today discourages the spiritual connection that was once a regular part of our day to day lives. Instead, we are taught to see material items as the path to true happiness in our lives. Experts report that the average American owns twice as many cars, eats out twice as often as Americans did in 1957. On top of that, we are inundated with new, bigger, fancier items that never before existed! Television advertisements and newspapers paint a picture of happiness brought on by owning the biggest, fastest, fanciest or most expensive gadget, always leaving us wanting more.
This drive for material possessions has replaced our desire to connect with those around us. We no longer focus our attention on our relationships, our communities, or the greater good, a focus that was the center of previously held spiritual beliefs. This shift in focus not only denies us the close friendships and relationships we once forged, but it can actually have a negative impact on your mental health.
“Compared with their grandparents, today’s young adults have grown up with much more affluence, slightly less happiness and much greater risk of depression and assorted social pathology,” explained David G. Myers, PhD, a psychologist at Hope College. “Our becoming much better off over the last four decades has not been accompanied by one iota of increased subjective well-being.”
We have allowed ourselves to buy into the belief that we are better off due to the advancements in technology and science – that our bigger houses, vehicles with more features, and collections of electronic toys and devices will bring happiness and well-being. This, however, is a myth perpetuated by the marketing industry and the first step to taking our happiness back is realizing it!
Featured Image via Humans Are Free