Can You Be Spiritually Healthy If You Don’t Go to Church?
Yes, absolutely. The End.
OK… That’s not really the end, however, if you’re looking for the short answer, there you go. You can 100% be spiritually healthy without ever setting foot in a church. Formal religious practice isn’t strictly speaking necessary for spiritual health. That being said, many, many, many people derive a great deal of peace from practicing formal religion. And on the flip side, many people practice formal religion, and get absolutely no spiritual benefit whatsoever. This is one of the classic cases of YMMV.
The point is religion and spirituality, while related, aren’t the same thing.
“the belief in and worship of a superhuman power or powers, especially a God or gods.”(Oxford University Press, 2023)
“spiritual wellness is connecting your inner and outer worlds to support you in living your values and purpose.”(University of New Hampshire, 2023)
Two very different concepts.
Today I’m writing specifically about the Spiritual Corner of our Life Puzzle. If you want to learn more about my Life Is A Puzzle series, I recommend that you start here. I’ve already covered the Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Social corners. So, feel free to circle back and check out those posts to learn about four of the eight other corners of Life’s Puzzle.
As I’ve mentioned in the previous posts about mental, emotional, and social corners, being spiritually healthy does tend to get lumped in and confused with them. I like to think of it separately, and I’ll keep it that way for the purposes of this series. While these other corners are related and entwined at times, when I’m writing about spirituality, I’m talking about things like purpose, reflection, ethical boundaries, forgiveness, compassion, hope, values, and peace. (University of New Hampshire, 2023) (Rolling Green Village, 2018)
So… We can approach this from a couple different angles.
We can look at it as where do you stand? But first, I want to make something abundantly clear. If ever there was a case of it’s about the journey, not the destination, then spiritual wellness is that place. You may be at a season or era of your life where you want to investigate your spiritual side, or you may not. Digging into your thoughts and feelings about deep ideas like what are your values? What is your purpose in life? You might find answers, you might not. You might find answers that work for you right now, however, you may find that down the road, after some life stuff happens, you meet some different people, travel, have some experiences that you may change your outlook.
And that is 100% ok.
In fact, I’d say that it’s expected that as you move through life, you will change your perspective somewhat on life’s purpose, your purpose, your values, what it is that gives you peace. So, to the extent possible, try not to let it freak you out.
I know we all start off thinking that we have these things all figured out. I think that we all get to a point though, where we realize that we don’t actually have it all figured out. No one has it all figured out. And if they tell you that they have it all figured out, then that’s a pretty clear indication that they DEFINITELY don’t have it all figured out.
So, please if you have the mental and emotional stamina to work on your spiritual stuff, go for it. And if your Life puzzle is just too tossed right now, it’s ok to work on other things first. Like I’ve said before. It’s up to you. And what makes sense to you is what you should do. Maybe whatever tossed your puzzle most recently is indicating that you DO need to work on being more spiritually healthy? If that’s the case, I hope that you find this helpful and inspiring.
Are you Spiritually Healthy?
Let’s start with a quick evaluation. It’s always best to get a sense of the scope of a project before it starts. That way you can (hopefully) direct your efforts more effectively. Let’s start with some questions for reflection. It’s important to note that this is a snapshot in time. Your answers to these questions will likely shift over time. They may even shift within the space that it takes you to answer them. I just want to be forthright, and let you know that it’s a moving target. Just expect that. Then it won’t surprise you as much when it happens.
Without further ado:
- How is your sense of hope and hopefulness? Do you see a feasible way forward? Do you have the skills, tools, and resources that you need to move forward in life? In whatever capacity that applies to you currently.
- Do you have a positive outlook? This isn’t strictly necessary, and may be wildly inappropriate at various points in time, based on whatever it is you are currently dealing with.
- Are you able to offer forgiveness and acceptance to yourself and/or others? People make mistakes, sometimes on purpose. Can you allow them to be imperfect and move on with your life. Can you allow yourself to be imperfect and still keep moving through your own life?
- How is your commitment level? Can you agree to something and stick with it, even when it’s tougher than you thought it would be?
- Do you feel that your life has meaning and purpose? Do you have a sense that you are part of something bigger?
- What are your values? Can you state them clearly? Are you living in accordance with the things that you value? If not, why? What obstacles are in your way?
- Do you have a general feeling of peace about the way your life is unfolding? Even about the things that haven’t gone according to “your” plan?
Now that you have a sense of where you are, what do you want to work on?
I think that there are basically 4 categories of things that you can work on. As always, you can pick and choose what works for you, based on what you feel you need to work on, what makes sense for you, and what you have the energy to tackle.
One area that you can work on is to get outside. Hike, walk, stargaze, whatever you want, just get outside. Why? Because getting outside will help you connect with whatever it is you identify as bigger than you. You can feel the wind against your skin. Let the rain wash you clean and free. The sun is good for helping you produce your own vitamin D. See the passage of time in the movement of the seasons as the plants and animals in your area grow, live, and die. There are so many ways that you can connect with the world and universe around you and getting outside is one of the easiest ways to access this feeling of connection to a larger community.
The second category of things that you can work on to be more spiritually healthy, is to find art that you enjoy. I think this is an area that I need to work on. Art appreciation is so underrated. Think about the whole spectrum of art, yes, there’s fine art, painting, music, theater. However, fashion is also art. The way that you decorate your home, your yard can be art.
And that’s the second part of this, is to make art. It doesn’t have to be for anyone other than yourself. You can write a story or poem and burn it. Maybe you can breathe fire, or make glass beads. You could arrange flowers. The possibilities are endless. Really and truly endless. Art allows your creativity to flow. It opens connections between concepts that you may not have considered before. It helps with problem solving, even if the problem that needs to be solved is you. In our rigid, digital lives, art is messy, it makes the rules and then breaks them. Art can teach you about commitment and acceptance. Art can bring you peace.
The third category that you can choose to work on is volunteering. Like getting out in nature, volunteering can help you to feel connected to something larger. It helps you to take part in making the world a better place. Volunteering can connect you with your values, meaning and purpose. When you volunteer, you give of your time and resources with no expectation of anything in return. Providing service to others helps you to see them as they truly are, rather than your assumptions about them. It creates deeper connections between people and can foster forgiveness and acceptance. It turns our that those two things, forgiveness and acceptance, of yourself and others, is a really huge part of being spiritually healthy.
The final category of things that you could work on is the reflection category. Typically, this is expressed as things like yoga, meditation, and journaling. Take what you like. Try them out and see what works for you. I personally prefer journaling, and at the same time, there are people who love, love, LOVE meditation and /or yoga. No matter what works for you, you will spend time alone, with yourself. This is a precious time where you can learn about yourself, about your past, and about your hopes and dreams for the future. There are many formal ways to practice these types of reflections, however, find what works for you.
And as always, be open to the possibility that life may change you. Start with what has worked in the past, and if it isn’t working for you now, feel free to experiment with other options to see what works for you at this moment.
Spiritual health is digging deep.
It is getting to know yourself and the world in very intense ways. It is also an essential part of being whole and well as a human. If your chosen religion helps to draw you closer to these skills, that’s great. If your chosen religion helps you to connect with yourself and others in positive ways, go for it. And if you don’t have a formal religious practice that does all this for you, that’s ok too.
It’s totally ok to work on being more spiritually healthy on your own, no formal practice required. It’s all about what works for you, and everyone is different. Every season of life is different. You may find great peace and connection in a formal religion at one point in your life, and feel completely abandoned at another point in your life.
It’s all ok.
Formal religion a tool. If it works for you, that’s amazing. It is not necessary. You can totally achieve all the spiritual enlightenment you need on your own. Really, no matter what, you will have to do the work yourself.
If you like journaling, or if you want to try it out, sign up for my newsletter. Each month I send an email recapping the posts from the last month, offering some journal prompts and some challenges, if you find that motivating.
If you’re looking for a new journal to get started, check out this one! I especially like the spiral bound ones, they lay flat and are easy to write in. (It’s NOT an affiliate link, I haven’t figured out how to set that up yet.)
So, what do you do to connect your inner and outer worlds? How do you practice being spiritually healthy? Please share in the comments below. And if you think that someone else might benefit from this, please share it with them.
Oxford University Press. (2023). Google Definition: Religion. Retrieved from Google: https://www.google.com/search?sxsrf=APwXEdfU9tUsFGGVR3zY1paCIs3gtRHdwQ:1680881058563&q=religion&si=AMnBZoFvNU0WynupgJGHQVzk85f5CnSnY-rijZT6aZLIUbNyP1tiBeVSIa3ZvNeq8Qp00V31Lfk6faMdz1CipPSCIYSN9X8qUF1NAYh2pIdqK6le05PQUBQ%3D&expnd=1&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiMzZ7ziZj
Rolling Green Village. (2018, 09 26). Rolling Green Village. Retrieved from Spiritual Wellness is an important part of your overall wellness: https://www.rollinggreenvillage.com/blog/spiritual-wellness-is-an-important-part-of-your-overall-wellness/#:~:text=Those%20with%20good%20spiritual%20health,values%2C%20and%20feelings%20of%20peace.
University of New Hampshire. (2023). Spiritual Wellness. Retrieved from University of New Hampshire: https://www.unh.edu/health/spiritual-wellness