Steer clear of two topics, they warned us – Religion and Politics. Too edgy, and not the easiest to navigate in mixed company. But what are we afraid of, exactly?
Life is edgy right now – people are stressed with the state of the world. Trying to stay healthy while navigating new norms in life, work, and school have us stretched more than ever. So maybe the present moment is exactly calling for us to dive in to the spiritual. (I’ll leave the politics to you.)
Professionally speaking, people with spiritual beliefs tend to be more resilient to life’s bumps than those who don’t have a belief. Spirituality ups your bounce-back-ability. It gives added oomph to your capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, or adapt to life’s adversities and cope with the stress of everyday living.
In other words, having a higher power is, well, empowering. It sets you free from the minute-to-minute worry that can ruin your life. It frees us immensely when we realize that we don’t have to handle all of this living business on our own.
And there’s science to back this up!
Fun fact! Studies find that 92 percent of Americans’ believe in God or a Universal Spirit. Surprisingly one in five of those call themselves atheists. More than half of Americans polled pray at least once a day. (Prayer is just simply being in a conversation with your higher power.) Those who don’t have a belief? They are more likely to be stressed and have a harder time handling the life’s big pitfalls.
My professional and personal opinion is that it doesn’t matter which “team” you’re on. Whether you are Team Jesus, Team God, Team Goddess, or Team Universe… it doesn’t matter to your emotional resilience. It only matters that you have a belief, and that you take the time to enhance your connection to a higher power! For those who don’t feel drawn toward a particular spiritual path, belief in the goodness of humankind and having hope may have similar effects.
Personally, I am Team Jesus. I rarely talk about how immensely my beliefs and practices help me, because wow!, it IS really edgy for me to make public. Things get tricky for me when I want to talk about God because I seem to be too “out there” for believers, and too “faithy” for non-believers. My intention, here, is to take any shame or embarrassment out of sharing your beliefs, and to inspire you to enhance your relationship with your higher power.[Important side note: This doesn’t mean that you can’t be resilient if you are atheist or agnostic. There are 8 other emotional muscles you can build and use to thrive just fine. But if you are open to it, strengthening your connection to your spiritual side can provide you with strength and comfort.]
Guess what? You don’t need to start going to your church or synagogue in order to be emotionally resilient! (2020 might make that a challenge right now anyway.) But connecting with like-minded people and a higher power is a huge boost for many people.
Specifically, a spiritual practice lowers stress hormone levels for those who use their faith and prayer to cope with stress. The health benefits of religion and spirituality are not limited to physical well-being. Being a spiritual person also influences mental health. Qualities like faith, hope, and forgiveness, and the use of social support of like-minded people and prayer have a noticeable effect on your mental health.
Need a place to start? Here’s a simple, creative way to break the ice.
• Start a prayer journal. Make it a letter to your higher power.
• Approach prayer as you would a trusted friend. Begin with gratitude for what you DO have in your life. There’s always something to be grateful for.
• Be yourself. Bring all of your emotions to the party and lay it all out there. The reality is we were designed to be in community with our higher power – all of you is welcome.
• Ask for what you need. Be specific. This isn’t your Christmas List for Santa, but if you were asking a friend for help you’d be specific. You wouldn’t say “Can you please help me with something sometime?”… you’d spell it out. Get good at asking for what you need.
• As you move through your life, actively look for the answers to those things you’ve requested help with. Record those as gratitude the next time you start your journal entry. Keep it going!
Whether this information inspires you to rediscover a forgotten spiritual path, reinforces your commitment to an already well-established one, or simply provides interesting food for thought, I hope you are inspired to build some spiritual muscles.