What makes YOU Feel Good? Getting in touch with your Spiritual Side.

Do you take care of your spiritual self? We all know how important it is to take of our body and mind and we do this by eating healthy food, exercising or taking time out to relax. But when it comes to nurturing to our spirit, we often fall short.

Spiritual self-care is often the one area in our lives that we neglect, yet taking time to nurture our spiritual selves can make a big difference to holistic health.

Read on as the Feelgood Health team talks about Spiritual Health and how you can incorporate this into your daily Feel Good regime, no matter what religion you follow! 

What does being spiritual mean?

Being spiritual means different things to people. For some, it means been connected and feeling the presence of a Higher Power, God, Allah or Buddha which gives them a sense of meaning or purpose for life. 

Practising religious beliefs and observing certain rituals provide a spiritual support system that many people come to depend on.

In many ways it is this spiritual tradition which defines who they are. Others may find spiritual meaning in non-traditional ways such as connecting on a higher level with themselves, with other people, through nature, music or even art.

How often do we hear that people ‘lose faith’ or turn away from their spiritual beliefs when they are struggling and find themselves at a low point?

Losing your spiritual connection is not uncommon but making an effort to find it again will help you to fill an emptiness inside, give you a deeper sense of purpose, provide reassurance that a Higher Being is at play and change your view of others and the world.  
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How spirituality affects your health

Spirituality has amazing benefits for your health and physical self. Whatever your spiritual belief is, studies show that people with a spiritual foundation experience less illnesses, anxiety, stress, depression and a more balanced mood.

People with strong religious beliefs were found to recover quicker from illnesses such as heart attacks, high blood pressure, asthma as well as cancer than those with no spiritual connection.

It is believed that a strong sense of spirituality helps to reduce the stress that triggers these illnesses, thereby promoting quicker recovery times.

One explanation for this can be found in the principles of Holistic Health – an approach which highlights the importance of the WHOLE person, instead of focusing on a part only (for e.g. the heart or the lungs).

When we feel spiritually secure, this helps to reduce stress levels, which in turn helps the immune system.

In addition, psychologists have long known that the ability to find meaning in life’s events can make a big difference to mental health and happiness Existential Psychology) – and we all know that physical and mental health are connected! 

Being spiritually connected often helps people to make sense of adverse events in their lives and see ‘the bigger picture’, thereby learning and growing from their experiences, instead of being reduced by them.
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What you can do to nurture your spirit

There are a number of ways to care for your spirit. The key is to find what works for you and fits with your spiritual beliefs and then to commit to nourishing your spirit.

1. Meditation

There are different types of meditation – find one that works for you! It can involve sitting quietly with your eyes closed and focussing on your breath. You can also use a guided meditation CD to visualise, clear your mind and bring about a sense of inner peace.
(Visit Feelgood Health at Unit 6, Westlake Lifestyle Centre, Westlake, Cape Town for their wide variety of “feel good” CD’s)

Repeating a mantra, for example, a soothing word such as “Love” or a phrase such as ”I am at peace”, while taking deep breaths will help to relax you and still your mind. You can even meditate on a Bible verse or a phrase from the Koran if that will provide you with the peace or comfort you are looking for.

Learning to meditate doesn’t happen overnight. Meditate for one minute and gradually increase it to two minutes until you eventually reach five minutes. It’s hard at first and requires ongoing practice.

However, once you quiet your mind and can shut out the world, you will be able to feel that sense of inner peace many of us yearn for. 

As with most good and healthy habits, the key is consistency to achieve best results.

Make a time for yourself every day and you will soon experience the Feel Good results!
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2. Prayer

Prayer can be very healing for the soul and can be very similar to meditation. It’s a personal conversation between you and God, Allah, the Universe or your Higher Power. Being able to focus on a Higher Power will give you the comfort, peace, joy or inspiration you need.

Use a prayer book, daily devotional or create your own prayers to help you to find a deeper spiritual connection. Pray while on your knees, when you are driving, during a gym work out or shopping.

There is no right or wrong way to pray…simply pray!
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3. Join a religious institution

Many people find spiritual meaning and nourishment when they join a religious institution or group such as attending church or Buddhist sessions.

Being able to worship together with others often provides a stronger spiritual connection through prayer and other spiritual gatherings and also provides a sense of community and social support – definitely a Feel Good factor! .
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4. Keep a gratitude journal

Being grateful is a key to experiencing deeper levels of joy and happiness.

Write in your journal every day about the little things that make you feel good, inspire and bring you joy and laughter.  It can be the smell of the rain, a phone call from your bestie, your dog welcoming you home, fresh linen on your bed, the laughter of a toddler or a big, bear hug from a loved one.

Be conscious about not repeating the same things when you write in your journal and learn to focus on the things that really matter – your daily blessings.

Practising daily gratitude helps you to feel good because it  helps you to focus more on the positive than the negative!
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5.  Visualisation

Visualisation is a very powerful technique and useful in helping you to prepare for certain situations. Start by closing your eyes, relaxing and imagining your environment.

If you are feeling stressed or anxious and want to feel relaxed, visualise a calm and serene place like the beach.

Zone into it completely by using all your senses, feel the sand under your feet, listen to the waves against the rocks, smell the crisp sea air. As you visualise this imagery, your mind and body is also connecting and this helps you to become more focused and to concentrate better.

Visualisation can be incorporated into your daily meditation. If you do it often enough, you will be able to reach your ‘happy place’ easily by simply closing your eyes and taking a deep breath!

What a wonderful alternative to prescription drugs like anti-depressants and tranquilisers!   
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6. Find your passion

Do something that you love and that brings you joy to awaken your spirit. Discover what excites, inspires and touches you! These are the tiny indications that will lead you to your passion.

If yoga, running, painting, scrapbooking, making jewellery or cooking ignites your passion, then spend more time doing that.

When you do more of what you love, it not only centres you but lifts and rejuvenates your mind, body and soul! As they say ‘Energy goes where energy flows’.

If you take more time to focus on what makes you Feel Good, then your health and happiness levels will definitely improve! 
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7. Take one hour a day for yourself

Commit to the one hour a day rule for yourself. Take time for yourself by going for a walk, enjoying a long, relaxing bath in soft candle light, listening to music, reading a book or having a massage.

By just taking one hour a day for yourself doing something you enjoy, you will be practising self-care. This is not selfish or a luxury!

When you choose to be good to yourself first, you are then able to give more of yourself to others.
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8. Surround yourself with nature

Are you always stuck indoors watching TV, on your lap top or cellphone? Spend more time outdoors, it really is good for the soul. Take a walk in the forest, hike up the mountain, have a picnic in the park or simply eat your lunch outside instead of in the office.

Start to become more aware of the birds in the trees, how pretty the flowers look and smell, appreciate the natural beauty of the sea and mountain.

Immersing yourself in nature will lift your spirit, soothe your soul and keep you calm when things get a bit frantic.
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9. Be kind to one another

Being kind and compassionate or doing a good deed for someone also helps to nourish your spirit.

Smile at a stranger, compliment a colleague, offer to babysit for a single mom, buy a homeless person lunch, give someone a gift for no particular reason or volunteer your time at a non-profit organisation – these are all little ways that you can practice kindness.

Doing a good deed for someone else makes you feel good inside and more often than not, kindness will be returned to you. As they say – ‘What goes around, comes around!’
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10. Spend time with people who you enjoy being with

So often we simply ‘go with the flow’ and end up spending the majority of our time on things and with people that bring no benefit to us!

Make time for the people in your life who really matter. Surround yourself with family and friends who love and adore you and who you enjoy being around.

Choose to be around people who only bring out the best in you and celebrate your strengths. By being around these people will help to feed your emotions and spiritual wellbeing.

If you find that you are stuck in a pattern of being around people who drain you and bring you down, consider consulting a therapist who will assist you and support you through the process of making healthy choices for yourself.

Let this be the year that you decide to follow your heart, listen to your gut and get in touch with your spiritual side.  It can make you happier, healthier and open your world to new possibilities.
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