For too many people, the search for happiness focuses entirely on the physical and material aspects of life. We tend to think that being sexier, making more money, or having more stuff will make us feel better. In reality, the spiritual aspects of life are a key element of finding balance and may even unlock the door to a healthier body or better career.
It’s important to follow daily spiritual practices that nurture your spirit. Having an attractive body will mean little if you neglect your physical and emotional health. Having money or great stuff can’t guarantee your happiness either. Your attitudes and actions can make you happier with what you have and help you get more of what you want and need.
Nurturing your spirit is a process of finding balance: between yourself and the universe, yourself and others, between the past, present, and future, between your dreams and the opportunities life presents to you. In this article, we’ll discuss daily practices that can shift your attitude and guide your actions toward a healthier balance.
Seeking Balance in Attitude and Action
Achieving and maintaining balance is an ongoing process. Our lives are complex and complicated at any given moment, and things are always changing in ways that introduce new challenges and opportunities. It’s better to think of balance as a state of being than the finish line at the end of an obstacle course.
Don’t set out to become balanced. Instead, seek to become more balanced than you are at this moment—repeat as necessary.To do this, it helps to develop practices that influence both your attitudes and your actions.
Even if the search for balance isn’t a set route from start to finish, it’s important to have a big-picture perspective to help you navigate the terrain as you proceed on the journey. That’s where attitude comes in. Recognizing what balance means to you and what the right mix will be for your life requires some work on this level. This work can draw from:
- Spirituality / Religion
And it should aim for:
At the same time, achieving a balanced life can’t be all abstract ideas and inner peace. That’s where action comes in. The things we do in our daily lives are just as important in helping us achieve the kind of balance that will nurture our spirit. It will also determine the influence that we have on the world around us. Actions can be thought of in terms of:
- Care of the Emotional Self
- Care of the Physical Self
- Interactions with the World Around Us
Developing an attitude that will help us achieve balance and nurture our spirits is a process that challenges us to examine both what we know and how we feel. Our lives are informed by spiritual and religious beliefs, philosophical perspectives, and the boundaries of our own consciousness.
When we reflect on what those influences are, we give ourselves the opportunity to clarify uncertainties and identify limitations. When we open ourselves to additional perspectives, we gain access to new insights and perspectives that fill in gaps and expand horizons.
Spirituality / Religion
There is nothing more sacred or personal to each of us than our spiritual and / or religious beliefs. Whether you are a member of an organized religion or not, whether you classify as simply “spiritual”, Judeo-Christian, Muslim, Hindu, atheist, or agnostic, those beliefs are a central part of who you are.
For me personally, as well as many others I know – being “spiritual” is seen as an alternative to religion. For others, spirituality is synonymous with religion. Some of us are comfortable studying and comparing religions as part of our process of self-discovery. Others choose to embrace a single religion or to avoid religion entirely.
For the purposes of the discussion we are having here, it doesn’t matter if you are spiritual but not religious, believe in religion, or what religion you believe in. What is important is the recognition that this is an influence on your attitude that you can examine and work on in order to develop practices that nurture your inner spirit and bring more balance and peace into your life.
Maybe you’ve never read a single page of Plato, and maybe you have no desire to ever do so. Be that as it may, whether you realize it or not, you have a personal philosophy. At the end of the day, being able to identify what your philosophy is and reflect on the elements that make it up is what is most important.
Studying philosophy can give you useful tools to identify what your personal philosophy is and wrestle with the difficult philosophical questions that have kept philosophers arguing with each other for all of recorded history. But it’s important to know that you don’t have to be a philosopher to have a philosophy.
When life presents you with difficult choices, or you find yourself unsure of the right thing to do in a given situation, being able to ask yourselves those questions in relation to what your philosophy is can help you make a decision that fits with your overarching idea of who you want to be.
Consciousness is another way of saying awareness. We are using consciousness as a broader term than either spirituality, religion or philosophy, though some folks use all of these terms interchangeably.
Expanding your consciousness doesn’t have to involve anything more than becoming aware of what you take for granted. Spiritualy, religion and philosophy are particular ways that you can do this, but there are many others.
The key to achieving a consciousness that promotes balance and nurtures your spirit is to go beyond yourself and think about how your own attitudes and actions affect the communities, the planet, and the universe that you are a part of.
Practicing Mindfulness and Living with Intention
The goal of the work that you do on the level of attitude should be to arrive at an understanding that allows you to practice mindfulness and live with intention. Spirituality / religion, philosophy, and consciousness are all ways to make sense of the choices you will face when you become more aware of your own actions and direct those actions toward certain ends.
There is so much that we take for granted in modern life. This can range from where our food comes from to where our garbage goes. It can encompass the effects that our actions will have on others and the impacts those actions will have on our own spiritual well-being.
Mindfulness is essentially focusing on being present in the moment. When we focus on all of our senses in every moment, it can put us in direct connection with the ripple effect of our own choices on the world around us. Without a set of guidelines to go by, this level of engagement can quickly become overwhelming and lead to paralysis or indecision.
Our spiritual beliefs are the elements of a solid foundation underneath when we practice mindfulness. But the level of abstraction on which these activities take place can still leave you wondering how to proceed through your daily life when confronted by the details. This is where living with intention comes in.
Living with Intention
When we ask ourselves what it means to live a good life as an abstract question, we’re playing at the work that philosophers do. When we take that question and apply it directly to ourselves, we’re figuring out how to live with intention.
“Your destiny is to move in the direction of your soul, and the fuel that makes destiny move is intention.”~ Deepak Chopra, M.D.
To live with intention, we must identify our life’s mission, purpose, or vision. Then we must choose to take actions that lead toward those aspirations just as we must choose to avoid actions that will hinder or distract our pursuit.
In order to make progress towards realizing our vision, we must affirm our own worthiness and strive to see others as deserving of the benefits of our intention to achieve outcomes that will be beneficial to all. In order to do so over the course of a lifetime, it is important to cultivate daily practices that will contribute value towards this purpose.
There is much more to nurturing your spirit than simply increasing your awareness and examining your understanding. In order to reap the rewards of a balanced life, you must take actions that will achieve and maintain that balance within and spread it beyond the self.
Spending time each day engaging in reflection, spiritual or religious practices, and philosophical questioning is important, but these are only part of a comprehensive daily practice. You must also practice:
- Care of the Emotional Self
- Care of the Physical Self
- Interactions with the World Around You
Care of the Emotional Self
Whatever spiritual challenges you encounter in life, there is usually an action that you can take that will meet that challenge on an emotional level. Doing work on this level helps us to achieve emotional balance and protects us from being caught in a cycle of reacting to external influences when we should be pursuing our intentions.
There are many ways to practice meditation. What they all have in common is the requirement that you set aside time to focus exclusively on yourself. This can help you to distance yourself from the stress that is present in your life and focus on thoughts and questions that will restore your balance.
The simple act of putting pen to paper can be helpful in achieving and maintaining emotional balance. Whether you write to vent your frustrations, explore your intentions, or respond to self-doubt with positive affirmation, just taking the time to write it down will make a big difference.
It’s not about channeling your inner Stuart Smalley. The goal should be to identify areas of your life where limiting beliefs get in the way of doing your best, trying your hardest, or really going after what you hope to accomplish. When you know where to expect those challenges, you can be prepared to confront them with affirmations.
Care of the Physical Self
Having a healthy body is about so much more than outward appearance. Sure, a strong, lean, limber body is part of it, but it also includes the elimination of the negative impacts that unhealthy eating, physical stress, and emotional stress can have on our bodies.
It is on each of us to establish health, fitness, and wellness routines that take the best care of the physical self. When illness or disease confronts our personal practices with challenges beyond our abilities – integrative medicine and integrative psychology can come to our aid.
Yoga is a safe, low-impact physical activity that almost anyone can enjoy. As you engage in the basics of breathing and stretching, your strength and flexibility will improve. This will allow you to take on additional challenges that will keep you healthy for a lifetime.
Challenging our bodies with physical exercise reaps emotional and physical rewards that go beyond physical appearance and last much longer than our elevated heartrate. No matter what exercise activities you enjoy, making a point of getting some exercise every day will contribute unimaginable benefits to your spiritual wellbeing.
Just as daily challenges are important to improving your physical well-being, so too is giving your body a chance for adequate recovery. Getting enough sleep and taking steps to improve the quality of your sleep will go a long way toward helping you nurture your spirit. Limit caffeine, alcohol, and electronic devices before bedtime to help you get to sleep and stay asleep.
The food you eat is the fuel that your body burns. By limiting the number of additives and processed foods you eat and replacing them with wholesome, organic alternatives, you’ll be running your body on high-test. Thinking about the fuel you put in your body is also a great way to expand your consciousness to account for your impact on the food chain and the environment.
Interactions with the World Around You
To this point, we’ve been focused on how the ways that you work on yourself will nurture your spirit. Perhaps the most important thing you can do to positively impact your overall spiritual wellbeing is to take actions that will have a positive impact on the world around you.
“As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change toward him.”~ Ghandi
Staying positive about the outcome when you’re trying to accomplish something big is a challenge. Negative thoughts will inevitably creep in. Writing down your goals and posting them somewhere that you’ll see them daily will help keep you focused on what you’re working toward.
Being more in touch with nature is a great way to create opportunities for inward reflection and outward action. Spend time walking in a natural setting to bring your spirit in line with the needs of your environment—locally and globally.
Do Something New
Nothing works quite so well as putting yourself in an unfamiliar situation if you’re looking to see your everyday routines, habits, and practices in a new light. Beyond that benefit, you might find out that you’ve been missing out on something you really enjoy.
Learn to Work with Energy
Practices like Huna, Reiki, Chi Gong, and Acupuncture can not only help you take better care of yourself but also empower you to offer help to others.
Attend a Silent Retreat
Give yourself an entire weekend for reflection. You may find that your thoughts quickly turn from the self to the broader world around you. Use the time to recuperate from stress and reinvigorate your intentions.
Connect and Reconnect with Loved Ones
Doing the work of spiritual nurturing will give you opportunities to connect with new people who have similar interests. Take advantage of the opportunity to build or add to existing support networks. It’s also a great opportunity to learn more from multiple perspectives and identify chances to nurture your own spirit by helping others.
Volunteering isn’t a selfless act. Anyone who has ever volunteered their time, skills, or labor to accomplish something good in the world knows that their contribution – though uncompensated in money – paid off in terms of spiritual well-being.
Achieving and Maintaining Spiritual Balance
The list of practices that we’ve covered runs the gamut from esoteric to pragmatic. It has offered you tools to help understand what has been keeping you from attaining balance and identified daily practices that will help you address those challenges.
As you embark on your journey toward balance and work on nurturing your spirit, it is important to remember that every individual is unique. The combination of daily practices that fit your life and fulfill your needs will be unique as well.
Don’t be afraid to try new things if the things you’ve been doing have not led you to a balanced life and spiritual wellbeing. Don’t be afraid to move on from a practice if it doesn’t provide you with what you need.
Begin where you are and continue until you’ve arrived. Help others along the way—whenever, wherever, and however, you can.