Spirituality involves experiences of a deeper sense of meaning and purpose, and a sense of belonging and a connection with the universe. Spirituality can help to achieve inner peace and happiness. It relates to the human spirit, and discovering the ‘true self’.
For some, spirituality does not relate to any kind of belief, but relates more to how they live their life, and their outlook on the world. It can be a path that will lead them towards a higher state of awareness of the self, and having a better way of life. Some see spirituality as a life source that flows. For others, spirituality helps them feel more connected to a higher being, God, or the universe, and connected to everything and everyone around them.
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What does spirituality mean?
Spirituality can be short or long term. Some use to it help achieve a goal, restore the balance in their life, or reduce stress. Some set challenges, for example doing good deeds, or helping those around them.
Spirituality is generally regarded as separate to religion, but religion can be one way of experiencing spirituality, and many spiritual practices are also religious practices.
The word spirituality comes from the Greek word ‘pneuma’ and the Latin word ‘spiritus’, both meaning ‘breath’ or ‘of wind’.
There are many benefits of spirituality. It can lead to a deeper connection with others, growing as a person and gaining more insight into life. It can also promote quality of life and forgiveness, helping to let go of past grievances and anger.
There are many different ways to practice spirituality, as part of every day life, or taking time out for specific practices. Below are some of the ways to be more spiritual or practice spirituality:
Rituals, symbolic practices, forms of worship
This can range from traditional religious worship, such as attending a church service, to rituals involving words or objects which are completely unique to the individual. They may involve listening to music, or saying sacred chants.
Pilgrimages and retreats
There are many kinds of spiritual retreats, both in the UK and further a field. They are usually based around a specific type of spiritual practice, such as yoga, or they can simply be a way of escaping from the pressures of daily life and enjoying peace and quiet.
This involves training the mind to block out other thoughts, and have complete focus and be still. There are many different methods of meditation, some people prefer complete silence, whilst others will use music, or a specific mediation CD. Some meditate regularly, whilst others use it as a form of stress relief when required.
Again, prayer can relate to specific religions, with specific prayers, conventions of praying, and a higher power or God to pray to. Others may choose to pray to a nondescript higher power or being, or to the universe.
Yoga is a physical practice which helps focus both the body and the mind and promote better health. There are many different types, such as Tai chi which combines yoga and martial art, or Bikram which is practiced in warm temperatures. Yoga mixes stretches and breathing techniques to help promote a better flow of energy around the body. It can be practiced as a class with an instructor, and by yourself at home.
Many believe that being creative is an important part of spirituality. The creativity can take many forms, from sculpture or painting to gardening and cooking, or keeping a journal of thoughts or dreams.
Setting goals can be an important aspect of spirituality. The goals can relate to becoming a better person, helping others more, or setting time aside to meditate, pray, or be contemplative.
Whilst spirituality can be a very personal thing, some may prefer to share it with others, coming together to engage in spiritual practices.
A mantra is a word, phrase or statement which can help create spiritual transformation, through motivation, self-affirmation, or relating to a higher being. Mantras are associated with several religions, with traditional mantras. However, they can be used by anyone, and some prefer to use philosophical quotes, or write their own that specifically relates to what they want to achieve.
Some people may wish to explore their spirituality with a counsellor. Being able to explore different ideas and beliefs without judgement can be hugely rewarding and allow individuals to develop that part of themselves.
Spiritual values and skills
There are many qualities that are attributed to being spiritual, and trying to have these qualities may help someone become a more spiritual person. They include:
- being honest
- ability to focus, be alerted and attentive
- being able to rest and relax and have a peaceful state of mind
- having a deeper sense of empathy for others
- being hopeful with someone who is suffering
- having better judgement
- ability to deal with grief and let go of the past.
Spirituality and health
Spirituality can play a useful role in helping the body heal from physical injuries or emotional trauma. The feelings of optimism, coping and support that spirituality promotes help reduce feelings of stress and encourage healthily behaviour. This can influence the immune, cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels), hormonal and nervous systems.
Spirituality has proven particularly effective in overcoming addiction, allowing the addict to have something to focus their feelings on and get support from.
Some areas of spirituality are based on methods, theories or specific practices. These include:
- Philosophy - some may use a set of philosophies to live their live by, for example the 7 principles of spiritualism, or Instructions for Life by the Dalai Lama.
- Meditation - using crystals or music.
- The Human Aura and colours.
- The Charkas - placing specific crystals on specific charka points on the body.
What should I be looking for in a counsellor or psychotherapist?
Whilst there are no rules or regulations regarding the level of training and experience a counsellor dealing with spirituality needs, we do recommend that you check your therapist is experienced in the area for which you are seeking help.
What our experts say
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Dr. Yordan Zhekov, PhD, MSc, MTh, MA, BTh19th December, 2017
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Imi Lo: Psychotherapist, Art Therapist & Author (MMH,UKCP,HCPC,FRSA,MBPsS)3rd February, 2016
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