Based on commentary by Chaplain (MAJ) Lonny Wortham, DPhil, Family Life Chaplain, Army National Guard Bureau
In an age of hostility sometimes fueled by religious beliefs, the concept of spirituality—and the need for it—may be getting a bad rap.
At its core, spirituality is a belief in a divine person, spirit(s), higher principle, or force. For more than 6 billion people worldwide, spirituality comes through their practice of faith. Rejection of these practices does not negate the fact that each person has a spirit/soul that needs to be nurtured.
Given evidence of a strong link between spirituality and good physical and mental health, there’s a great case for supporting Soldiers’ spiritual growth and development, regardless of religious beliefs. We must encourage, support, and maintain all of the necessary infrastructure to accommodate these opportunities.
Soldiers and spirituality in theater
Research shows that spirituality is positively related to Soldiers’ physical and mental health. In a deployment environment, 12,000 Soldiers were asked how they were able to remain healthy. Fifty percent of the men said prayer was the key, and 70 percent of female Soldiers said their faith and prayer was the key to remaining resilient.
Spiritual resilience kept them connected with deeply held values, beliefs, and faith practices despite the obvious challenges of their deployment environments. Spirituality can do the same for you when mobilized and in your day-to-day life.
Spirituality drives you
Think of spirituality this way: it’s the fourth cylinder of the engine that is your total health. Spiritual health works in concert with your physical, emotional, and social health to fuel your well-being and build resilience.
Spirituality is that intangible—and uniquely you—place you nurture through sacred, faith-based acts, whether praying, meditating, dancing, or however else you nourish your soul. Your search for meaning and purpose in life are profoundly spiritual. So is the human instinct to connect with others.
Three spiritual exercises
Just as you exercise to improve your physical fitness, consider using self-examination, contemplation and reflection as tools to improve your spirituality, and in turn, strengthen your spirit and soul.
Here are three spiritual growth exercises to get you started:
- Broaden your awareness of spirituality by reading, training, or studying a specific faith or belief system.
- Practice kindness and compassion through the values and beliefs that come from your belief system. For example, care for sick family members or volunteer to help others.
- Be consistent in embracing the practices your faith system supports. The consistency will strengthen your spiritual resilience.