What is Spiritual Health?
Body, Mind, Spirit. We've all heard these three words next to each other often right? Commonly they are used to describe a holistic approach to life or wellbeing. A simple google search of "holistic health" will point you to the definition that encompasses the full human being. The American Holistic Health Association, defines the terms as
"an approach to life. Rather than focusing on illness or specific parts of the body, this ancient approach to health considers the whole person and how he or she interacts with his or her environment. It emphasizes the connection of mind, body, and spirit. The goal is to achieve maximum well-being, where everything is functioning the very best that is possible. With Holistic Health people accept responsibility for their own level of well-being, and everyday choices are used to take charge of one’s own health."
In the current Canadian (or perhaps more broadly, North American) context, physical health is the most commonly understood and promoted aspect of this wellness trilogy. This is likely because it is easy to see, feel, put into words, or discover through science, when the body is in good health or not. There are of course numerous industries supporting our physical health - everything from western medical system, to Chinese medicine, to the nutrition/diet or fitness industry... The list feels endless. And that is great. Physical health, inside and out, is being explored, talked about, normalized, and attended to.
Now, on to the mind: Mental health, is a little less well known, understood, and promoted; however, in more recent years, there is a movement to raise awareness of mental health and mental illness. In 2013, the World Health Organization launched the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan to educate on mental health and promote its relevancy and importance. The WHO defines mental health as "a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community." Thanks to a rise in pop cultures' determination in breaking down stigma against mental illness, mental wellbeing is a topic that is quickly becoming a common part of our dialogue, some of which can be attributed to the bravery of celebrities speaking up about their own struggles with mental illness.
So is it safe to say that in the next few decades there will be entire industries supporting our mental health? Aside from psychiatry and pharmacology (which focus on mental illness and treatment, rather than mental health and promotion), will we see a rise in industries which assist us as individuals and communities to cope better with life stresses? If you have heard anything about meditation and mindfulness, you will know that at the very least, this is one area that is certain to grow and shepard in mental health in a big way. What other industries might we see emerge? It is wonderful and hopeful that at the present time, we are moving the needle on a deeper, more profound understanding of mental health.
So, what about spirit? Is spiritual health even term you are familiar with? Have you contemplated it? Measured it in your own life?
Turns out, a simple google search does not come up with a long list of internationally recognized websites to define this term (like it does for physical and mental health), although there are academic pages, and holistic-focused websites which define it in their own words and promote its importance. Why is that? What is it that makes us shy away from defining and understanding and being curious about our spirit and its health? Formalized religion aside, do most people believe they have a spirit? Within those who do, are they connected to the health of their spirit?
I love Brene Brown’s definition of spirituality, so I will use that as the basis for this platform here:
“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.”
I define spiritual health as the wellbeing of our soul and congruence with the energy of the natural world. The health of our spirit allows us to feel connected to our highest Selves and our collective consciousness. It’s absence creates a sense of disconnection from purpose and loss of meaning.
I am deeply passionate about supporting people to find their connection to their spiritual life. Some of this includes helping them find the words that work for them. Words that feel real and full of substance. Words that empower them to get quiet and listen to the call of their own soul's longing. It is from this quiet space of connection with their soul (True Self) that they are able to ask themselves the questions (and hear the answers): What am I actively doing to generate health and healing for my spirit/soul?
The search and curiosity for the answers to this question is the beginning spark towards cultivating spiritual health. And this is simply the beginning. Can you imagine in 50 years where we will be in the conversation of spiritual health? What industries and platforms will exist for us to finally attend to this part of our wellness? So that we can finally say: Spirit. Check.
Are you curious about your own relationship to spiritual health? Want to delve into this topic? Join me on October 24th for a powerful and purposeful seminar!