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Action 27

Get in touch with your spiritual side

Having a spiritual dimension to our lives can make us happier. But can we discover spirituality or does it find us? Spiritual wisdom doesn't need to involve myth and mysticism; nor does it necessarily have to be linked to organised religion, although people with strong religious faith often experience high levels of well-being. [1]

Living happily depends on how we are in our inner lives - our thoughts, emotions, beliefs and desires. Having a spiritual dimension means finding a sense of inner peace - both peace of mind and peace in the heart. It also means allowing our inner values to guide how we interact with the world around us - our concern for others, our connection with the natural world and our interst in making a positive contribution to society.

Why do it?

Research suggests that people with a sense of spirituality - which can be religious or non-religious - are likely to experience greater happiness and wellbeing. Spirituality can provide us with meaning, a sense of vitality (or aliveness) and a sense of connectedness to others and to 'something bigger' beyond our daily lives. [2] People who feel their life has meaning are happier and healthier too. [3]

Where to start

Our sense of spirituality is deeply personal and individual. For some people it comes from a particular faith, for others from their relationship with the natural world, while for others it may be the experience of creativity or music.

Ken Pargament, a leading researcher in the psychology of religion and spirituality suggests that developing spirituality is a dynamic process that has three stages:

  • Discovery - finding a form of spirituality that we feel drawn to;
  • Active practice - for example attending religious services or regularly meditating;
  • Struggle - when life events or stages force us to question our beliefs.

Talking or thinking about spirituality may not be something many of us do regularly these days. In a multi-cultural and largely secular society, such as the UK, it can feel odd, unnecessary or uncomfortable. But we shouldn't let that put us off trying to connect with something fundamental and universal within all of us. One place we can all start is with reflection. Below are some questions to contemplate.

Questions for reflection

What does spirituality mean for you and what role does it, or could it, play in your life? Think about each of the questions below. You might find it helpful to write your answers down. Feel free to adapt the questions or add any that you feel are important.

Take your time, consider them one by one. You may not know the answers straight away and you may need to reflect on them over a few days, weeks or months. It's a process of discovery - one you have to feel as well as think about.

The source of spirituality for you?

  • Where do you experience a sense of spirituality in your life?
  • What or whom do you call on or turn to in times of difficulty?
  • Which people in your life help you think about what spirituality means to you or bring out your best spiritual qualities?
  • What do you hold sacred in your life?
  • When do you feel the presence of the sacred in your life most strongly?
  • When do you feel the sacred is not there?

What has influenced your sense of spirituality?

  • How has your family and religious context shaped your attitudes towards spirituality and religion?
  • How have other key people or events in your life influenced your sense of the spiritual?
  • When it comes down to it what do you believe life is for and why do you believe we are here?

What is your spiritual journey?

  • How have you tried to develop yourself spiritually over the years?
  • What struggles have you encountered along the way?
  • What kinds of transformations have you experienced, if any?
  • What might your next steps be to bring more spirituality into your life?

Based on questions posed by Ken Pargament.

References

[1] Gallup (2010). Religious Americans Enjoy Higher Wellbeing. Gallup-Healthways Well-being Index.

[2] Averill, J. R. (2009). Emotional creativity: Toward "spiritualizing the passions." In C. R. Snyder & S.J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology. NY: Oxford University Press

[3] Stegar, M.F. (2009). Meaning in Life. In S.J. Lopez & C.R. Snyder (Eds.) Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology. NY: Oxford University Press.

Resources

POSTER #10: MEANING

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Meaning 200

Mother Theresa

"We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love"

- Mother Theresa

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Mindfulness changes your brain

Recent research has shown that an 8 week mindfulness meditation class can lead to structural brain changes including increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection.