Stress And Spirituality
Taking the path less traveled and exploring the connection of stress and spirituality can lead to a clearer life purpose, better personal relationships and enhanced stress management skills.
Certain tools to reduce stress are very tangible: Exercising more, eating better, talking it out with friends. But there is another tool for helping you manage difficult times that can be just as beneficial…embracing your spirituality.
What Is Spirituality?
Spirituality has many definitions, but at its core spirituality helps to give our lives purpose. Spirituality arises from your connection with yourself, others and a higher power. It’s the development of your personal value system and your search for meaning in life.
For many, this takes the form of religious observance, prayer, meditation or a belief in a higher power. For others, it can be found in nature, music, art or a secular community. Stress and spirituality is different for everyone.
There Are Many Benefits Of Spirituality.
It Can Help You:
- Focus on personal goals. Cultivating your spirituality may help uncover what’s most meaningful in your life. By clarifying what’s important to you, you can eliminate stress by focusing less on the unimportant things that can sometimes seem to consume you.
- Connect to the world. The more you feel you have a purpose in the world, the less solitary you feel — even when you’re alone. This can lead to
an inner peace during difficult times.
- Release control. When you feel part of a greater whole, you realize that you aren’t responsible for everything that happens in life. You can share the burden of tough times as well as the joys of life’s blessings with those around you.
- Expand your support network. Whether you find spirituality in a church, mosque or synagogue, in your family, or in walks with a friend through nature, this sharing of spiritual expression can help build relationships.
- Lead a healthier life. Some research seems to indicate that people who consider themselves spiritual are often better able to cope with stress and heal from an illness or substance abuse addiction.
How Can You Define Your Spirituality?
The best way to uncover your spirituality is to engage in self-discovery.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to discover what experiences and values define you:
- What are your important relationships?
- Where have you found comfort?
- What gives you hope?
- What brings you joy?
- What are your three most memorable experiences?
- If you have survived losses in your life, how have you done so?
- What do you believe will happen to you when your physical life ends, and how do you feel about that?
- Describe a time when you felt comfortable and all was right with the world.
- Describe a time when your life was filled with a sense of meaning or you were filled with a sense of awe.
The answers to such questions will help you identify the most important people and experiences in your life. Armed with this information, you can focus your search for spirituality on the relationships and activities in life that have helped define you as a person and those that continue to inspire your personal growth.
Cultivating Your Spirituality
Spirituality begins with your relationship with yourself, is nurtured by your relationships with others and culminates in a sense of purpose in life.
Realizing this, two of the best ways to cultivate your spirituality are to improve your self-esteem and to foster relationships with those who are important to you. This can lead to a deepened sense of your place in life and in the greater good.
- Try prayer, meditation and relaxation techniques to access your inner wisdom and help focus your thoughts.
- Keep a journal to help you express your feelings and record your progress.
- Seek out a trusted adviser or friend — preferably someone who has had similar life experiences — who can help you discover what’s important to you in life. Sometimes others may have insights that you haven’t been able to discover on your own.
- Read inspirational stories or essays to help you evaluate different philosophies of life.
- Talk to others whose spiritual lives you admire. Ask questions to find out how they found their way to a fulfilling spiritual life.
- Be open to new experiences. If you are exploring organized religion, remember to consider a variety of different faith traditions. If your spirituality is more secular, you might consider expanding your horizons with new experiences in the arts.
Nurturing Relationships With Others
- Develop effective listening and communication skills.
- Make relationships with friends and family a priority, and stay in touch.
- Share your spiritual journey with loved ones, and let them know what’s important to you.
- Seek out others with similar spiritual beliefs, and engage in conversation to learn from each other.
- Volunteer within your community.
- See the good in people and in yourself.
Pursuing A Life Of Purpose
Staying connected to your inner spirit and the lives of those around you can enhance your quality of life, both mentally and physically. Remember that spirituality is a dynamic process and a constantly evolving internal journey.
Your personal definition of spirituality may change with your age and life experiences, but it will always form the basis of your well-being, help you maintain a reasonable stress level and affirm your purpose in life.
Positive Mental Attitude
Positive thinking helps with stress management and can even improve your health. Overcome negative self-talk by recognizing it and practicing with some examples provided.
Is your glass half-empty or half-full? How you answer this age-old question about positive thinking may reflect your outlook on life, your attitude toward yourself, and whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic.
In fact, some studies show that these personality traits — optimism and pessimism — can affect how well you live and even how long you live. With this in mind, take a refresher course in positive thinking. Learn how to put positive thinking into action. Positive thinking is a key part of an effective stress management strategy.
Understanding Positive Thinking And Self-Talk
Self-talk is the endless stream of thoughts that run through your head every day. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. Some of your self-talk comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk may arise from misconceptions that you create because of lack of information.
If the thoughts that run through your head are mostly negative, your outlook on life is likely pessimistic. If your thoughts are mostly positive, you’re likely an optimist — someone who practices positive thinking.
Living Longer And Happier Through Positive Thinking
Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health.
Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:
- Decreased negative stress
- Greater resistance to catching the common cold
- A sense of well-being and improved health
- Reduced risk of coronary artery disease
- Easier breathing if you have certain lung diseases, such as emphysema
- Improved coping ability for women with high-risk pregnancies
- Better coping skills during hardships
It’s unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. But one theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body.
Positive VS Negative Thinking
But what if your self-talk is mainly negative? That doesn’t mean you’re doomed to an unhappy life. Negative self-talk just means that your own mis-perceptions, lack of information and distorted ideas have overpowered your capacity for logic and reason.
Some Common Forms Of Negative And Irrational Self-Talk Include:
- Filtering. You magnify the negative aspects of a situation and filter out all of the positive ones. For example, say you had a great day at work. You completed your tasks ahead of time and were complimented for doing a speedy and thorough job.
- But you forgot one minor step. That evening, you focus only on your oversight and forget about the compliments you received.
- Personalizing. When something bad occurs, you automatically blame yourself. For example, you hear that an evening out with friends is canceled and you assume that the change in plans is because no one wanted to be around you.
- Catastrophizing. You automatically anticipate the worst. You refuse to go out with friends for fear that you’ll make a fool of yourself. Or one change in your daily routine leads you to think the entire day will be a disaster.
- Polarizing. You see things only as either good or bad, black or white. There is no middle ground. You feel that you have to be perfect or that you’re a total failure.
You Can Learn Positive Thinking
Instead of giving in to these kinds of negative self-talk, weed out misconceptions and irrational thinking and then challenge them with rational, positive thoughts. When you do this, your self-talk will gradually become realistic and self-affirming — you engage in positive thinking.
You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. The process is simple, but it takes time and practice — you are creating a new habit, after all.
Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you’re thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them. Start by following one simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else.
Practicing Positive Thinking Every Day
If you tend to have a negative outlook, don’t expect to become an optimist overnight. But with practice, eventually, your self-talk will automatically contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you.
Practicing positive self-talk will improve your outlook. When your state of mind is generally optimistic, you’re able to handle everyday stress in a constructive way. That ability may contribute to the widely observed health benefits of positive thinking.