Establishing a spiritual practice has tangible benefits such as improved quality of life, less anxiety, more compassion, and improved health, just to name a few.
Let’s start by defining a spiritual practice as any practice used to nurture and feed the deeper parts of ourselves that bring a sense of peace and interconnectedness. The practice and purpose is an intent to recognize and support your heart and connect to the goodness and love of the universe, god, spirit, or whatever you want to call it. When we look at a spiritual practice through that lens, it opens us up to infinite possibilities.
What does a "spiritual practice" actually look like?
Your spiritual practice can be as simple as taking a few moments every morning to think about what you're grateful for while drinking your coffee. It can be taking a walk in the woods, cooking a loving meal, or cultivating a quick meditation practice. We can connect by creating art or simply standing on the ground barefoot. The beauty of a spiritual practice is that you define it for yourself. All you have to do is ask yourself, "Does this feed me on a deeper level? Does this leave me feeling nurtured and uplifted?"
Too often our culture encourages us to dissociate from our bodies, whether it’s with work, our smartphones, or our busy social calendars. But by disconnecting from ourselves and our deeper wisdom, we experience spiritual starvation. When we shift our intention to cultivate a relationship with those deeper parts of ourselves, we make a self-loving decision to put ourselves first. That choice has a ripple effect throughout the rest of our lives and we can become present once again. We can tune in to what we need and make self-loving decisions.
The science of spirituality & how to practice it.
Simple spiritual practices have profound and tangible effects on our health and happiness. Take the act of practicing gratitude over your morning cup of coffee. Attuning ourselves to the gifts in our life shifts our perspective from one of scarcity to abundance, and this can lead to physical benefits as well. A study out of the University of Miami split participants into three groups: The first noted what they were grateful for during the week, the second noted things that irritated them, and the third noted things that had no effect. After 10 weeks, the gratitude group felt more optimistic and better about their lives than the other two groups. Plus, a follow-up study found that the gratitude group had fewer visits to the doctor than the group who focused on their frustrations.
Even practicing mindfulness and compassion for a few moments a day has a radical effect on our health, happiness, and well-being. One study on mindfulness and compassion published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine by the Institute of Health, found that those who practice mindfulness and compassion deal better with stress, are more forgiving, feel happier in their lives, and are more connected to their life purpose.
Spending time outdoors is a spiritual practice that directly improves health and happiness. A study by the Journal of Environmental Health found that simply standing barefoot on the earth did the trick, reconnecting us to the earth’s surface electrons, which have a profound impact on well-being. It ultimately led to better sleep, reduced pain, and a more positive outlook on life. Being in contact with dirt also releases serotonin in our brains.
Creating a spiritual practice touches every part of your life and leaves you nourished, slows you down, and reminds you that all you need lies within. Whatever your spiritual practice, watch how it provides you with more internal space. Just like a single drop of water on a still pond, our spiritual practices ripple out to every corner of our lives.