So why does spirituality need to be your #1 healthy habit? What is spirituality anyway? What does it have to do with my blood pressure, my risk of stroke, diabetes or any other aspect of my life outside what I do in church on Sunday mornings? How on earth can I take time out of my busy day and responsibilities to do anything about it? Do you wonder about these questions? Or know a little, but aren’t quite sure how the dots really connect? Then read on!
The Spirituality & Religion Connection
First off let’s start with what is spirituality. I like to think of it as the Love Connection-and no I’m not talking about game show. 1 John 4 tells us God is love. Spirituality is this feeling, knowing and believing I am connected to (as a part of) something larger than myself, to others and the world around me. This sense of being loved, valued & worthwhile as well as expressing that to others and the world around us.
Religion, on the other hand is the way we practice our spirituality. Many religions have rules and/or rituals in place designed to help us grow in our spirituality. In our culture of freedom from religion (rather than freedom of religion stated in the constitution), we tend to forget or not recognize God is our source, the universal life-force energy that flows through us and around us.
Stress or Distress
So what happens when we feel disconnected? Isolated? Rejected? Unvalued? Unloved? Unprotected by others? STRESSED! Or a better word might be distressed.
And so what? Isn’t everybody stressed these days? You’re right. Most of us are-all the time. And most of us are experiencing negative health effects, too. Or are well on our way if we don’t make some changes.
Stress can take on many forms, (job, relationship, financial, fear of loss, eating things that our bodies don’t like so well, etc), but the effects tend to be universal. I found some staggering facts about stress and health on www.stress.org:
- Stress is a major contributor to 85% of all disease and illness (Brian Seward, 2012)
- 75-90% of all doctor visits are stress related
- Stress is known to increase or put us at increased risk for high blood sugar (diabetes), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, heart attack, injuries (due to muscle tension), PMS, migraines, autoimmunity like Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis or severe/multiple allergies, asthma, depression, being overweight, etc.
- Chronic stress is well known for stomach issues like acid reflux, indigestion, gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation
- “Stress exacerbates just about any health condition you can think of.” (Jay Winner, MD Take the Stress out of Your Life).
Created for Connection
And how can spirituality or a sense of connectedness help this? Our biggest fear as humans is to be disconnected, isolated, rejected. So we do everything we can to prevent that feeling from taking hold. God created us to be connected to him. As St. Augustine, way back in the 4th century wrote:
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
We’ve been trying to fill that God-sized hole with something else for years. Food, alcohol, sex, tobacco, drugs, shopping, etc. It provides quick relief, but not lasting happiness, peace, joy, health, well-being or a real solution to the problem you’re trying to solve. Do you ever feel that all is right in the world (even for a moment) when you do connect with God?
It’s our connection to God–receiving his love, how much he values us and recognizing and finding joy in the blessings he bestows on us all day–every day–as we connect to him, others and the world around us that negate that stress. It’s this connection to God that allows us to feel his blessings, his protection and use those blessings to make this world a better place.
Spirituality Unites All Other Aspects of Health
According to Richard Blonna’s textbook, Coping with Stress in a Changing World, spirituality is the unifying force, weaving the other aspects of health and wellness together. While 40% of all medical schools require a course on how spirituality affects health, only 10-20% of patients say their doctors ask them about their spiritual practices. As a Christian, RN and health coach, I see how a strong connection to God improves a person’s health. Hence the reason I made it the foundation of my practice.
According to Blue Zones author Dan Buettner’s research, taking time to connect to God helps put the rest of our lives in perspective. Spirituality encourages us to surrender our stresses to God. Connecting with him and others helps us find solutions, knowing we’re not alone. It reduces the noise & confusion of our hectic lives allowing us to see things more clearly. Connecting to God helps us see what is true, instead what our fears and doubts are blowing out of proportion. All so we can make better choices.
Slowing down to connect and experience joy in the little things breaks the stress cycle, helping keep chronic inflammation at bay. Connecting with the world around us, recognizing the beauty, wonder and abundance God offers, motivates us to take care of it and others as well as ourselves. We feel safe when we’re connected. And according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we really can’t do much else until that need is satisfied.
Personal Experience with Spirituality
I find everything else falls into place when I make connecting with God my top priority. Taking time to connect to God helps me see myself like God does–his beloved, chosen child of infinite value and worth. All while knowing I can’t do anything alone–all is from God. Finding that sweet spot, by embracing who I am without being a door mat or an arrogant know-it-all, I can make choices out of love for myself & my body. Truly believing this makes it easier to say ‘yes’ to eating well and moving more (and praying often) out of love for myself and my body. Then I can connect with and serve others and the world around me. (Check out this post on the 3 Biblical Truths to Create Healthier Habits.)
Simple Ways to Connect
While I do take a good 30 or more quiet minutes every day to really tune into God (usually in 10 minute chunks), as well as intentionally seeking God’s goodness several times throughout the day, I get that some people–especially busy parents don’t have that kind of quiet time. Been there, done that. That’s why I’m sharing some simple, easy things you can do today to connect with God that don’t hardly take any extra time:
- Be on the lookout for God–the brilliant colors of the trees, a child’s giggle, the sun peeking out from the clouds, a smile from a stranger in the grocery store
- Thank God for those moments
- Show the God in you to others–smile, hold a door, compliment others, point out the beauty in the world around you to others.
- Keep a bible or other devotional in the bathroom-yep I still do this!
- Think of 3 things that brought you joy during the day before you go to sleep (Check out my post on Joy Journaling!)
- Pray in the car on your way to/from work or wherever you’re going
- Take 3-5 seconds and pray before you eat (that’s really how long it takes–I timed it)
- Follow me on Facebook at Julie Grunklee and sign up for my newsletters to find other ways to connect by praying often, eating well and moving more!
Tell me how connecting makes you feel in the comments!
Are you afraid the upcoming holidays are going to send you into a tail-spin leaving you no time or energy to embrace the reason for the season, eat well or move more? I can help you come up with a sure-fire plan to ensure you do pray often, eat well and move more through all the hustle & bustle. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free discovery call & learn more!