What is spirituality? Does it have a role to play in mental health and/or addiction wellness and recovery?
There is a recent mental health model that takes into account we are biological, psychological, social and spiritual beings. This approach suggests mental health and addiction problems involve more than just one aspect of our being. For example, depression may involve genetics (biological), loss of a loved one (psychological), and a tendency to be overly self-critical (social/spiritual). You might change one part of this model by taking meds to improve your mood, but the diagnosis will likely persist until you address the other areas as well. For instance, you might decide interact with more people to also improve your mood, but what does spirituality involve?
Spirituality for many is linked to a religious framework, but modern definitions tend to apply the term more broadly. Spirituality can refer to a sense of connection to something greater than us and a desire to make our life experiences meaningful in that context.
Four Explorations for Spiritual Wellness
Meaning Making by understanding how we fit into the bigger picture and knowing what ideas help us find hope. It involves introspection, beginning with discovering where you feel empowered and where you give up your personal power. Taking responsibility for this by becoming more self-aware connects you to yourself, to others and to your life, opening up new possibilities.
Spiritual Experience is a personal interpretation of how you make sense of unusual experiences. This can involve a sense of connection to your heritage and ancestors, or an experience so significant it has shifted your world view, for example. It is important to feel safe and honoured in this experience, which often leads to some kind of awakening, or sense of inner peace or knowing.
Community Engagement is sharing activities with others that provide you with a sense of comfort. By just “being” in these activities, you can give support and in just being/accepting yourself as you are you also receive support. Nourishing yourself with activities that give you sustainable support also benefits those you care about in their recovery.
Spiritual Experience is a personal interpretation of how you make sense of unusual experiences.
Spiritual Activities are those outlooks and values that shift you into feeling joy; they are a source of inner strength helping you cope when the going gets tough. These may involve meditation and prayer; reading sacred texts; walking in nature; listening to soothing music; creating art and taking the time to reflect.
You and Your Love One’s Spirituality
Sometimes when confronted with the mental illness and/or addiction of a loved one there is a desire to fix things or a belief that only professionals can interact with them. Still others may turn away because of the stigma or because they don’t know what to do. If we were to consult our inner wisdom, perhaps we would find all that is needed is a commitment to just BE there. It is a choice to not fix, but rather to show compassion and acceptance. In this way, we can all create a listening space that encourages connection and healing.
Spirit of Recovery
Check out our website at bcsspg.org to find more information about self-empowerment and to take the Spiritual Wellness Inventory Checklist.–Kim Dixon, BA, MSC, Area Manager 2017