Live Well Part IV – Enhance Your Well-Being Through Spirituality and Religious Practices

I have experienced a colossal number of traumatic events, starting in 1991 with the death of my 9-month-old daughter. In 2018 my son died by suicide and in between the death of my children, both my parents, my sister and brother are both gone. Other traumatic events include 2 horrific car accidents, and a nasty divorce.
When my 9-month-old died, both my mom and sister did their best to wrap me in their believe in God. They invited me to attend church. I wanted nothing to do with it. I did not see the need.
However, since then, I have been on quite the religious and spiritual journey. Practicing both may seem like an oxymoron – that there is not a connection between the two. Both have had a profound impact on my well-being, However, there is often confusion between these two concepts.

What is Spirituality?

Spirituality is a term that refers to a person’s inner search for meaning and a purpose for life. It goes beyond sensory and physical experiences hinting that there is something greater connecting all beings to each other and the universe.

What is Religion?

Religion is a system of beliefs, rituals and practices that are followed by a group of people. It is the belief in and worship of a superhuman power or powers, deity, or deities. Religion provides a sense of community, common beliefs, structure, and guidance for its followers while also answering life’s big questions.

Connecting Spirituality and Religion

There is an undeniable connection between spirituality and religion. Many people, like me, turn to religion for spiritual guidance and seek to deepen their spiritual practice through religious traditions. Religion can serve as a source of encouragement and provide a foundation for spiritual growth. A person’s religious journey can be enriched through their spirituality, deepening their faith.
Mindfulness or meditation is a practice found in both spirituality and religion. Mindfulness can be used to change or avoid destructive habits by learning to observe your thoughts, without judgment or reaction to them. Practicing mindfulness is a powerful tool for your religious and spiritual journey.
Prayer is practiced in both spirituality and religion. Prayer is used to express gratitude, seek guidance, or request assistance from a deity.
Ultimately the goal when practicing religion and or spirituality is to find inner peace, joy, and purpose in life. They are intertwined.

Reasons to Become Spiritual or Religious

Trauma often prompts people to seek answers to the unexplainable or that life is difficult to manage, discovering that you need help, and that people aren’t able to give you the guidance you seek.
As I navigated each traumatic event in my life, I questioned my purpose in life, how I could move forward and was determined to be a better person.
I decided to attend church because I saw that my sister was happy. She had peace and joy, something I felt I was lacking and something I so desperately wanted. It was FOMO – Fear of Missing Out.
My true quest to deepen my faith and spirituality awakened after my son’s suicide. I was beaten down, broken, and needed help.

How Practicing Spirituality Improved my Well-Being

The three main types of spirituality that I practice are meditation, being in nature and gratitude.
In my mediation practice, I let go of problems, focus on the present moment, and lay aside expectations.
As a young girl, I found reprieve in nature, yet I didn’t understand the impact hiking or running had on me. I just knew I loved being outdoors. As I grew older, I made the connection between my happiness and being outdoors.
Gratitude is a new form of spirituality for me. Expressing what I am grateful for takes the focus off the negative and what I don’t have to focus on the positive and what I do have. This simple, yet effective shift in my thoughts has the power to improve my mental well-being.

How Being Religious Improved my Well-Being

With my sister’s encouragement, I started attending church. I didn’t immediately find a connection to God, nor did I get the peace I was looking for. It has been a journey which I still travel. Some days I am more connected and feel His presence, others, I rely on my own willpower and strength.
Regular attendance imbued community that offered material, emotional and social support helping foster good mental health. I started to find meaning and purpose.
Research has shown that higher levels of religiosity (religious belief and practice) are associated with lower rates of depression, anxiety, substance use disorder and suicidal behavior.
My mental health is one piece of the puzzle to Live Well for the rest of my life. Spirituality and religion – I believe in God, is one piece to Living Well. Both can be practiced gaining peace, joy, happiness, finding purpose and meaning and being the person you are meant to be.
I highly recommend that you explore each of these concepts, incorporate them into your daily activity so you can Live Well.
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