Have you ever found yourself lost in a forest? Nowadays, that might not happen too often, considering the advanced technology we possess and have access to. But imagine if your phone’s battery would be dead and you were far away from the road, surrounded by only nature. The only company you have are birds singing in the crowns of the trees and your own thoughts, feelings, desires and ideas. Would that situation for you be scary and challenging or would you appreciate the time to yourself?
Either way, eventually you would have to find your way out of the forest. There are many aids with which you can orient yourself – moss, years on the trunk or the position of the stars can help you determine sides of the world and serve as a compass! As much as it is important to find a compass in those kinds of situations, it is crucial to determine what is guiding you through everyday life. Indeed, you may ask yourself what is my inner compass? Sometimes we can feel very lost in the middle of our own homes – where it can feel like life or some of its components don’t make any sense. That’s why it’s important to work on our beliefs and values, connect with others and our surroundings and find something that will navigate us through the forest named purpose and something bigger than ourselves.
What is meant by spiritual wellness?
Within the six domain model of wellness, Hudson-Vitale and Waltz (2020) explain the spiritual domain as a set of strategies that inspire us to devote more time to caring for the human spirit and the connections with others and something bigger than us. Authors emphasize that this does not necessarily include religion, but it can also refer to it and be considered part of the spiritual domain.
The importance of the spiritual domain is widely recognized and that’s why it is a main component of almost all wellness theory models and it is most well-defined and explored in the literature (Roscoe, 2009). Some models have slightly different definitions of spiritual wellness, but they share a common underlying process of continuously finding meaning and purpose in life in relation to others and the universe. Also, the process of connecting the self with nature, community, the universe and some bigger power while creating personal values and beliefs (Roscoe, 2009). Renger et al. (2000) offered an interesting definition in which they included the ability to give/receive love/joy/peace as an important component of the spiritual domain.
How can I work on my spiritual wellness and what can I gain from it?
A Swiss psychologist Carl Jung has defined four basic functions of the mind as thinking (thoughts-driven decisions, logic, critical, questioning), feeling (feelings-driven decisions, empathetic, accepting, tender), sensing (concrete, realistic, practical, experiential) and intuition (abstract, imaginative, original, interrelationships). We can observe mentioned four functions as a good metaphor for the inner compass whereas individuals by developing and balancing each function can gain a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them.
The spiritual domain can often sound very complicated and demanding, which is why people can put off working on it. But the secret to it is, as often mentioned on the journey of wellness, taking small steps. Some of the topics that consider spirituality can’t be discovered overnight, for example, what does higher power mean to you? Instead, we bring you some steps and actions that everyone can start applying in their everyday life and the benefits that go alongside them.
You should spend time in nature!
Nature almost immediately comes to mind when thinking about connecting to something bigger than ourselves. Outstanding landscapes and breathtaking views away from the everyday hustle and bustle of the city are only a partial part of the benefits nature can offer. In their review of the benefits of spending time in the forest on health and well-being, Oh et al. (2017) listed numerous positive consequences for both physical and psychological outcomes. Forest therapy interventions in the reviewed studies resulted in participants having significantly reduced blood pressure, better immune function, positive changes in inflammation, oxidative stress and antioxidant and reduction of the stress hormone. From psychological outcomes, studies showed that spending time in the forest helps reduce anxiety and depression and improves one’s mood. White et al. (2019) conducted a study with the data provided from a year, across the whole of England. The main finding of that research was that spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with self-reported health and subjective well-being.
Considering all that, it is apparent that spending time in nature helps calm us down, improving our mood and overall physical well-being. Those are great conditions in which we can have some time for ourselves and reflect on questions that may bother us. You could go on a hike, take a walk, swim, or just sit on the grass in some glade. Use that time to connect to yourself, but also to the environment around you.
You should practice gratitude!
There are many ways in which you could express your gratitude and that can show various benefits for your general health, psychological state and after all, spirituality. Jans-Beken et al. (2020) have gathered research that showed numerous advantages of practicing gratitude where the improved quality of sleep, quality of life, emotional well-being, optimism, life satisfaction, happiness and self-esteem are just a few. Everything mentioned is a good prerequisite for improving your spirituality!
You can try and write a gratitude journal in which you can identify and write down 3-5 specific blessings on a daily or weekly basis. Furthermore, you can write a gratitude letter - to an individual whom you never properly thanked (approximately 300 words). You can choose to keep that letter or send it to an actual person in question. If writing isn’t something that you find yourself in, you can engage in a gratitude conversation with others about positive events that happen each day (express gratitude for some experiences, outcomes or other people).
You should use self-reflection!
Nowadays, we are often used to rushing everywhere, which can result in forgetting to take a break and time for ourselves. In her paper, Dixon (2020) stated that spending time alone has proven to result in positive outcomes for adults. If the time spent alone is an intentional practice of self-care and that solitude is combined with social media, self-reflection during the time alone may heighten awareness of one’s emotions and behaviors which improves emotional regulation and overall well-being.
That’s why it’s important to leave some time to self-reflect, think about your values, beliefs and ideas. Try practicing this at least once a week for approximately half an hour.
You should practice your spirituality!
As stated before, the spiritual domain may or may not include religion! If you are religious, you should leave some time in your day to pray. Maybe it would be most convenient to do it in the evening so you could at the same time reflect on your day and also practice the previous tip by including gratitude in your prayers. Furthermore, if you are not a religious person, the practices that you can give your time to are exercising mindfulness, yoga or some other self-regulation exercises. That way you can do good for your body while at the same time being focused on your spirituality.
How can LeafCo help me?
LeafCo can help you on your wellness journey. We have created a home in rural Portugal for remote workers, teams and digital nomads to come together to work, experience culture, wellness and community. LeafCo’s working wellness retreat was developed by psychology practitioners with digital nomads and remote workers in mind.
If you would like to learn more about LeafCo, the science behind nature’s role in human wellness and get offers on our wellness retreat, join our mailing list here: https://www.leafcoportugal.com/
Dixon, L. P. (2020). The Impact of Spending Time Alone on Emerging Adults' Mental Well-Being. Family Perspectives, 1(2), 4.
Hudson-Vitale, C. and Waltz, R. M. (2020). Caring for our colleagues: Wellness and support strategies for remote library teams. College & Research Libraries News, 81(10), 494.
Jans-Beken, L., Jacobs, N., Janssens, M., Peeters, S., Reijnders, J., Lechner, L., & Lataster, J. (2020). Gratitude and health: An updated review. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 15(6), 743-782.
Oh, B., Lee, K. J., Zaslawski, C., Yeung, A., Rosenthal, D., Larkey, L., & Back, M. (2017). Health and well-being benefits of spending time in forests: Systematic review. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 22(1), 1-11.
Renger, R. F., Midyett, S. J., Soto Mas, F. G., Erin, T. D., McDermott, H. M., Papenfuss, R. L., Eichling, P. S., Baker, D. H., Johnson, K. A. and Hewitt, M. J. (2000). Optimal Living Profile: An inventory to assess health and wellness. American journal of health behavior, 24(6), 403-412.
Roscoe, L. J. (2009). Wellness: A review of theory and measurement for counselors. Journal of Counseling & Development, 87(2), 216-226.
White, M. P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J., Wheeler, B. W., Hartig, T., Warber, S. L., ... & Fleming, L. E. (2019). Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-11.