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Spirituality: Traveling the Path to Improved Health and Wellness
The Dalai Lama describes spirituality as: “concerned with those qualities of the human spirit — such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony — which bring happiness to both self and others.” 
 
For many people, spirituality aligns with their religion, while for others it lies outside of a faith tradition. Broadly speaking, spirituality is the way someone finds meaning, hope, comfort and inner peace in life. Some people nurture their spirituality through art, music or by forging a connection with nature.
 
For centuries, cultures have understood a connection between body, mind and spirit. Today, research done in integrative medicine and psychology has shown that overall wellness is influenced by spiritual, mental and emotional health, as well as physical health. The health or distress in any of these elements affects the whole of one’s wellbeing.
 
As a Spiritual Care Specialist at a large medical center, I often see patients and families who have positive attitudes, communities of support, and lifestyle practices like prayer and meditation. They seem better equipped to cope with physical illness, stress, loss or even death.
 
Spirituality creates a basis of the values, priorities and purpose which orient one’s life — like a compass pointing to true north. Using the compass metaphor, these values can help people find their way when lost and life becomes stressful. Spirituality helps provides clarity amidst the chaos that may surround us.
 
Employers may want to encourage exercise and healthy eating when considering employees’ well-being. While essential, also recognizing that carrying excessive mental and emotional stress is important, too. Chronic stress takes a tremendous toll on the body. To help manage and reduce chronic stress, people may consider establishing wellness regimens that incorporate emotional and spiritual aspects, too.
 
It may be helpful to:
  • Consider what provides a sense of inner peace, comfort, strength, love and connection in life.
  • Set aside time each day to do things that nourish one’s spirit. This could include community service or volunteer work, praying, meditating or spending time in nature.
  • Reserve some quiet time for thinking, practicing yoga or any other enjoyable activity.
  • Build connections and relationships with others who are kind and supportive. Research shows that people with strong social networks live longer, happier, healthier lives.  
  • Find ways to cultivate generosity and gratitude — that is, to open one’s heart to others.
There is evidence that “letting go” of past hurts with forgiveness can lead a person to self-healing and peace. A study by Johns Hopkins Medicine1 shows that the act of forgiveness can actually impact health and wellbeing, by:
• Lowering the risk of heart attack
• Improving cholesterol levels and sleep
• Reducing pain and blood pressure
• Decreasing levels of anxiety, depression and stress
 
How can workplace leaders support spirituality?
• Understand the connection between spirituality and achieving total wellness.
• Cultivate and model your own practice of spirituality.
• Consider how your workplace culture and your organization’s values either help or hinder the practice of spirituality.
 
In short, spirituality means traveling a personal path to find meaning, hope, comfort, and inner peace. Spirituality practices can help employees live happier, healthier lives, allowing them to be more engaged and productive in the workplace.
 
 
Sue Ott-Holland is Vice President of Mission and Spiritual Care at Advocate Aurora Health.
 
 
Retrieved April 19, 2019, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/forgiveness-your-health-depends-on-it.
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