For the last couple of weeks, I have been blogging about the different types of Primary Food- that which feeds us that is NOT the food that we eat.
We talked about Physical Activity, Career and Relationships. Today, we talk about the last component, which is Spirituality.
I must confess that I was a little nervous about writing about this last Primary Food of Spirituality because it tends to be a sensitive topic for some people.
It is a very vulnerable topic. I believe when it comes to spiritual things, no two person is at the same exact point on their path in life. We all have so many different experiences in life that have led us to our spiritual beliefs.
That said, let me first clarify what spirituality is NOT. It is not following a rigid set of rules- i.e- religion. Depending on how you grew up, you may have a negative view of religion. Maybe you felt forced to perform certain duties or to be someone you are not. Maybe it turned you off from anything remotely religious. You may have a negative view of God. Maybe you believe that God doesn’t love you or that you are not good enough. This negative view can greatly affect a person’s outlook on life. If they do not find any kind of meaning to their life, outside of performing strict religious rules, or pleasing God, they may give up on themselves and on life.
Here is a challenge: google the meaning of spirituality. You will come up with a thousand different answers. Why is this? Because we are all so different, spirituality can mean different things to different people. Here are some key definitions that I found.
According to Wiki-pedia:
1.Spirituality is the concept of an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.
And here is another definition:
2.“The definition of spirituality is that which relates to or affects the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.”
The word spirituality comes from the word “spirit.” In it’s most basic sense, the term means anything that we cannot see or feel with our senses, or anything that is outside the physical and material realm.
Joshua Rosenthal, the director of my school, IIN, likes to say: “We are spiritual beings in a material world.”
So how does being spiritual relate to health and wellness?
1. It creates meaning in our life.
We are all here for a purpose. Weather or not you believe that our purpose has already been set in stone, we instinctively know that there is more to this life than eating, sleeping and playing. We are more than just people who drag ourselves to work every day, or moms who spend most of the time chauffeuring our children. When we have meaning to our life, we naturally want to live the best life possible. We will begin to look outside of ourselves, to how we can help others. As we focus on others, we naturally reduce stress, increase happiness and feel more grateful.
2. It helps to reduce vanity.
So many women are obsessed with their body size and shape. Eating disorders are everywhere. I should know– I struggled with anorexia and bulimia in college and have struggled with body image issues for as long as I can remember. However, what really brought me through this journey was knowing my value and my worth. Knowing that I was worth more than a number on the scale, opened my eyes to the fact that being healthy was better than being skinny. I rarely admit this to anyone, but here goes– I was *this close* to getting a tummy tuck. I was obsessed with my stomach (all the loose skin from having babies). However, after a series of events happened (including being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia), it really opened my eyes to the fact that I am a spiritual being and should not be focusing so much on my selfish desires. (by the way, instead I used the money to enroll at the Institute For Integrative Nutrition which was one of the best decisions I have made!) I started thinking about how God created us perfectly in His eyes and our job is to take care of His creation.
Eventually, I found a good, healthy balance where I actually desired to eat a good amount of healthy foods. (don’t get me wrong- I still eat too many gluten free pretzels!) I want to look and feel my best– but not to be a perfect size zero, or to gain acceptance— but so that I can truly thrive and enjoy the life that I have been given. It also helps me to look outside of myself and focus on how my health affects others. Being truly nourished in mind, body, and soul, helps me to be the best mom and wife I can be. When I am feeling great, and at peace, I am able to operate out of a place of joy as opposed to a place of lack and guilt.
3. It helps to reduce stress and pain.
Studies show that patients who are spiritual have a better outlook on life, reduced stress, and reduced chronic pain. This is in large part, due to the many spiritual practices that they engage in, weather it be prayer, meditation (in all forms), or just spending time with others who are positive and supportive. I know, I have found meditation to be very beneficial. Studies show that 10-20 minutes of meditation twice a day leads to decreased metabolism, decreased heart rate, decreased respiratory rate, and slower brain waves.
Stress is naturally connected to our health and how we feel, physically. I rarely suffer from Fibromyalgia pain anymore (largely due to eliminating gluten) but when I do, it is normally related to some kind of stress. However, if I focus on relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, prayer, or meditation, it helps take my mind off the pain and slowly helps to reduce it.
When we realize that everything is connected, we naturally tend to focus on our thoughts as well. Every action starts with a thought. If we focus on how much we hate ourselves and hate life, our actions will reflect that. We will sabotage our weight loss with binging on foods to numb us, or we will go the opposite direction and become obsessed with diets and exercise, which can also be a form of punishment. Knowing that we are spiritual beings enables us to look outside of ourselves and focus our thoughts on positive things such as our blessings in life and we find contentment.
Now, let’s bring this all around to what I do as a health coach.
I support women to find a loving relationship with the food on their plates and the bodies they live in.
Do you think it would be easy for someone to lose weight if they hate life and feel unfulfilled?
How about if they are stressed and inward focused?
What if they don’t think they have any purpose in life? Do you think that person would see the point in enjoying their food and their body?
These are just a few reasons why I think it is soo important to start a conversation around Spirituality. Don’t worry – I don’t beat people over the head with the Bible. 🙂 But, I do help you sort through your life and help you find what gives you true meaning in life. You are sooo worth it.
Repeat that. “I am SO WORTH IT!”