Why isn’t Spirituality a Source of Health?

During my self-care training programs, I am often asked, “Why isn’t spirituality a Source of Health (SOH)?” My answer?

Given the all-encompassing nature of spirituality, it didn’t seem correct to pigeonhole it as just another source of health. A colleague of mine, Luann Fortune, and I identified that participants in the self-care trainings we conducted were able to verbalize how spirituality related to ALL of their 7 sources of health. As you read these examples, please keep in mind that what is true for one of us, will not be true for all of us. So, please feel free to fill in options that are true for you.

Body (or physical SOH) can be viewed as a place that houses the spirit and should be maintained for that purpose.

Mind (or thinking SOH) can be used to engage in prayer or to commune with a higher power.

Emotions (or feeling SOH) can be used to open our hearts to be kind to and/or compassionate towards others.

Creativity (or intuitive SOH) can be used to express our higher selves.

Community (or connection SOH) is a way to get outside of ourselves.

Environment (or our physical location SOH) can include visiting sacred places or just communing with nature.

Finally, Life Purpose (or WHY we’re here SOH) includes looking outside of ourselves to identify how we can make a meaningful difference during our lifetime.

 

To further understand the role of spirituality in self-care, we need to define it. Considerable research has identified that spirituality encompasses four concepts: purpose, beliefs, connectivity, and rituals. It turns out that all four of these are evidence-based practices included in our self-care trainings!

Elkins et al. defined spirituality, which comes from the Latin, spiritus, meaning “breath of life” as:

A way of being and experiencing awareness of a transcendent dimension characterized by certain values we hold for self, others, nature, life, and whatever we consider to be a power greater than ourselves.

 

The culture of the organizations sponsoring and/or paying for self-care training will influence how and if spirituality is acknowledged. For example, we have designed corporate training programs for organizations who did not want to use the term “spiritual” in the trainings. This was true in spite of the fact that their leaders acknowledged the role of spirit and spirituality in both their personal and professional lives.

 

The conclusion? Spirituality cannot be contained or limited to one SOH equal to the others. Rather, spirituality, however we define it for ourselves, is woven throughout our self-care and our sources of health.

 

Footnotes

Bandush, M. R., & Cavanagh, G. F. (2005). Integrating spirituality into the workplace: Theory and practice. Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 2, 221 – 254; Burkhardt, M. A., & Nagai-Jacobson, M. G. (2002). Spirituality: Living our connectedness. New York: Delmar Thompson Learning; Daniel, J. L. (2010). The effect of workplace spirituality on team effectiveness. Journal of Management Development, 29, 442 – 456; Krishnakumar, S., & Neck, C. P. (2002). The what, why, and how of spirituality in the workplace. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 19, 153 – 164; Mitroff, I. I., & Denton, E. A. (1992). A study of spirituality in the workplace. SloanManagement Review, 3, 83 – 92.

Elkins, D. N., Hedstrom, J., Hughes, L. L., Leaf, J. A., & Saunders, C. (1988). Toward a humanistic-phenomenological spirituality: Definition, description, and measurement. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 28, 5 – 17, p. 10.