No matter what word you use to describe the nature of your beliefs—sacred, religious, faith, spirituality, transcendent, truth, etc., when I talk about spirituality, I am referring to that aspect of life which informs our sense of meaning, serves as a foundation and guide, and provides important resources for coping with difficulties and change.
Healthy spirituality is an important source of hope. Spiritual practices, such as keeping the sabbath, provide healthy rhythms of rest, reflection, and connection. I want to point out three important ways that healthy spirituality can serve as a resource for thriving, and direct you to additional blogs and articles that address these concepts more in depth.
Essential to thriving is being adaptive and navigating a good fit with one’s environment.
Just like a plant thrives by growing towards the sun despite obstacles, thriving entails our own adaptive growth toward our greatest aims in life. Thriving amidst obstacles requires staying grounded, connected, and directed.
Like a plant, we need to be rooted in good soil. Attune and stay grounded in your physical body, feelings, ideals, and values. Pay attention to what brings you joy – even during difficult moments – and pursue more of that. Science shows that positive emotions relax our brains and motivate us to be more kind, more creative, and to take positive action. (1)
Opposite of the invigorating effects of positive emotions, anxiety and fear can hijack vital processes. (2-3) As Dr. Richard Davidson says, just as we exercise our bodies, we must exercise our brains. His research has demonstrated how meditation is effective in promoting attention, focus, resilience, and purpose.
Furthermore, psychological science indicates that individuals with clarity about their beliefs and values, and whose actions align with their priorities, report higher levels of wellbeing and life satisfaction. Consider your most deeply held beliefs and how aligned these are with your activities and obligations. Take measures to be aware of your body, feelings, and beliefs through quiet meditation, mindful breathing, prayers, journaling, and/or reflection.
For many trees and plants, intertwined root systems keep them stable even in stormy weather. During times of change and difficulty, you need people close, both emotionally and physically. Create space to take stock of how you spend your relational energy. In a day when people report higher levels of loneliness than ever before, we need to re-evaluate our social connections and what is meant by our “friends.” (4) Research demonstrates that high numbers of social media friends or followers do not result in feeling known or loved.
Rather than accumulating connections, deepen the important ones. Get closer to the people who count most in your life. Leverage technology to maintain relationships, (5) and check in with those you love. Make an effort to be connected in meaningful and routine ways with those who are closest to you. Reach out with a phone call to those who might be lonely, like an elder mentor or acquaintance. Keep or start meeting regularly with a trusted group, either in person or through a virtual platform. Talk openly about your difficulties, fears, faith, and hopes.(6)
Stay connected to your deepest convictions and spiritual needs. We will each experience spirituality in different ways during times of change and difficulty. Some will rely more on God or their understanding of a higher power. Others will feel confused, despondent, and even angry. Take hope knowing that you are a part of something bigger. (7)
Just as a plant relentlessly grows towards the sun, thriving and healthy spirituality entail keeping oriented towards your purpose. Stay directed towards your beliefs and ideals as your source of hope, strength, and meaning. Take time to reflect on the story of your life in the broader context of this world. What is your role in your local community and the global world? Who have you been and who are you in the process of still becoming?
Dr. William Damon at Stanford University and Dr. Kendall Bronk at Claremont Graduate School have demonstrated how youth and adults who have purpose (7)—defined as an enduring and achievable goal that is meaningful to the self and contributes to the greater good—report higher levels of life satisfaction, job/school performance, and other positive outcomes.
I recommend that you reflect on three things regarding your purpose: your uniqueness, the needs of the broader world that you can contribute to, and from the Christian perspective, how you are called to become more like Christ. Ask how your skills and passions can be used for a greater purpose in the world? How are you helping others beyond your household? Who can you reach out to and encourage or help? Those who thrive cultivate an ability to stay aware and attuned to themselves and the world around them. Those who thrive are able to align their values and goals with the well-being of others. They are able to live out their convictions, assessing and adjusting when necessary.
Disruption brings disorientation, and we need to ensure that we stay grounded, connected, and directed—with and for ourselves, others, and our higher purpose.
Thriving and healthy spirituality don’t simply push away difficult challenges, but rather they embrace them with conviction.
- Dr. Joey Fung’s post explains how mindfulness and breath exercises can interrupt anxiety’s detrimental effects: https://thethrivecenter.org/grief-and-mindfulness-body/.
- In my previous post, I share some grounding apps on contemplative practices: https://thethrivecenter.org/contemplation-and-covid-19/.
- Twenge, J. M. (2017). iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood. New York: Simon and Schuster.
- Check out my article, Telos, Technology, and Thriving in FULLER Magazine: https://fullerstudio.fuller.edu/telos-technology-and-thriving/.
- Check out Terry and Sharon Hargrave’s candid and refreshing video on the pitfalls and opportunities for relationships: https://youtu.be/9tpdwuQyjhs.
- See Dr. Stephanie Trudeau’s post on how spirituality and faith can help us make sense of loss, panic, and pandemics: https://thethrivecenter.org/loss-in-time-of-covid19/.
- Damon, W. (2008). Path to purpose: How young people find their calling in life. New York, NY: Free Press.
Mindfulness: The Importance of Checking In with Your Body
Dr. Joey Fung shares 5 mindfulness practices to help us check in with our bodies and manage grief during change and difficult times.
The Friendship Edit: Creating Meaningful Connections in a Digital Age
Our relationships are central to our thriving; ideas about how to “clean up” and improve the quality of relationships.
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