Category Archives: Spiritual Fitness

Ways Spirituality Improves Your Mental Health

Thinking about spirituality can happen anywhere – whether its in a place of worship like a church, synagogue or mosque or while you’re out on a walk at a park, there are several moments to consider connecting to something bigger than yourself. Spirituality comes in all shapes and sizes. For some, it may come in the form of introspective practices. For others, it may come through relationships with our loved ones or by religious activities. The Military Health System outlines how “ideological and spiritual fitness refers to your beliefs and practices that strengthen connectedness with sources of hope, meaning, and purpose.”

Even if spirituality is something you may not actively be considering, employing different life skills may indirectly bolster your spiritual health. Whether it’s through these or other means, there is no right or wrong way to express or explore your spirituality. Spiritualty helps enrich our lives by helping us find meaning and purpose. Spirituality is a contemplative practice, like meditation and journaling, that helps us focus on our attention and increase our empathy. Consider the following items to increase happiness, strengthen relationships and improve your overall well-being.

Patience
Patience means that we stick with things even when they take a long time to show the preferred results. Patient people are often better equipped to practice gratitude and take to heart the phrase “good things come to those who wait.” Someone using patience may also feel more at ease when challenging events arise.

Perseverance
Committing to a healthy goal, habit or way of thinking demonstrates perseverance. Even when faced with adversity, the ability to grow through discomfort can help you find purpose and feel a deeper connection to learning something new.

Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a deliberate choice to accept and let go of negative emotions following a harmful event from another individual in a group. The American Psychological Association discusses: “True forgiveness goes a step further … offering something positive—empathy, compassion, understanding—toward the person who hurt you.” While forgiveness is primarily considered in interpersonal dynamics, it is also important to practice self-forgiveness to grow and evolve from self-inflicted negativity. Forgiveness helps increase immunity, lower blood pressure and lead to improved psychological health.

Empathy 
Empathy focuses on listening and responding to others without judgment. Empathy helps others feel open to sharing their perspectives and creates an environment where everyone feels more understood and heard. Showing empathy helps others navigate uncertainty.

Positive Thinking
While it is important to feel all of your feelings, the act of positive thinking may help boost your mood and discover new ways to recognize and respond to different situations. After recognizing a negative thought, try brainstorming positive thoughts to counterbalance the feeling. Positive thinking envelops practices like approaching new experiences from a “glass half full” lens, not jumping to conclusions and vocalizing the happy and healthy aspects of your day-to-day experiences.

The end of the summer is a great time to check-in and reflect on how your year is going through the lens of spirituality. Introspection leads to growth and is a mindful way to help find new ways to progress. If you’re feeling burned out throughout the year, remember these skills and take time for yourself.

Connecting with the Spirit of the Season

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“On the first day of Christmas, the season gave to me: one cross-country trip, two white elephant gifts, three treks to the mall, four holiday parties, five credit card bills…”

That may not be how the original song goes, but if you can relate to this remix then it might be time to push pause and connect with something a little deeper.

The holidays can be a harried, hectic time of year, but it is also a time of hope, goodwill, celebration and renewal. Beneath the frenetic drumbeat of traveling and to-do lists, this is a time when we recognize the best in people and enjoy the rich traditions and unique customs of Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah to name a few. Whether you are leaving cookies out for Santa, placing candles in the Kinara or lighting a Menorah (or some of each!), try not to let energy spent on gift-giving and merry-making take time away from reflecting on the reason for the season that you identify with the most.

Spirituality can help you cope with stress by connecting you to something bigger than yourself, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. For some, spirituality may come in the form of relationships with shipmates, friends, family, nature, etc. For others, it may come in the form of a relationship with a Higher Power and religious practices. However you choose to express your spirituality, it can create values, beliefs, peace, purpose and connections that give life meaning. Spiritual fitness can increase happiness and well-being, reduce anxiety and depression, promote a positive outlook, mend feelings of moral injury, strengthen personal relationships and help maintain healthy lifestyle choices.

This FITmas time, take a moment to both reflect on your spiritual fitness and strengthen your bonds with these tips for a more fulfilling holiday season:

  • Be purposeful and find perspective. As Navy Chaplain Andrew Sholtes reflected in his post, “December: a Season of Goodness,” it’s easy to feel obligated to go overboard with shopping, cooking, decorating or pleasing others. Keep these things in perspective by pausing to think about what you’re doing and how it fits within the season’s meaning. Let this meaning guide your actions, rather than trying to please everyone or falling into the traps of commercialism.
  • Put your faith or spirituality into practice. Share thoughts and questions with others who have similar beliefs or can help you gain new perspective, read about spiritual teachings and focus on spiritual fulfillment. Explore your personal beliefs and find the best application for you and/or your family, staying connected to tradition. Give yourself and others the gifts of presence and forgiveness by using the spirit of the holidays to rekindle relationships that may have dwindled, mending differences and moving forward.
  • Make new friends, and keep the old. Another Navy chaplain suggests adding new tools to your toolbox during the holiday season by focusing on connection. Engage in fellowship by surrounding yourself with people when you can. A sense of community can warm even the coldest of moments. Reach out to others and make an effort to create new friendships, expand your circle of family and acquaintances and involve those who may be alone or struggling this season. A great way to alleviate your own struggles is to help others with theirs.

This season has different meaning for each and every one of us, but also common threads that we can share to stay connected. As you seek ways to strengthen your spiritual fitness—which can also include brief breaks for mindfulness practices and embracing the outdoors—remember that help is always available whenever you or others need it. Navy chaplains are always available, offering confidential support and guidance for Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and their families to help reinforce a sense of connectedness, build spiritual resilience and navigate life’s challenges. Call Navy 311 to request chaplain support in your area by dialing 1-855-NAVY-311.

Keep an eye out for more tips to help you strengthen your Spiritual Fitness this season as we continue to celebrate the 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas!