With the recent influx of various programs, stand-downs and mandatory training emphasizing total health, are you as confused as I am? All these concepts and approaches are well and good, but so what? How can another program benefit me, you might be wondering?
Let’s look at what this means in being healthier and stronger persons.
To be totally healthy means striking a balance in our personal lives. The balance is between three major areas: mental, physical and spiritual.
The first and second areas, I understand. A heightened mental awareness of stressors, challenges, worry and other feelings tells me to seek help when life seems overwhelming. Physically when the scale indicates I have eaten one too many donuts, my Class A’s are snug and sit-ups are not quite to standard, then more physical activity is necessary — got it.
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The third area in this trio, spiritual, is difficult to describe, yet most of us have a sense of its importance to maintaining overall health. Trying to define spiritual is like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree. Spiritual means something different to everyone, and the nice thing about it is each definition is correct.
While mental and physical fitness can often be quantitatively analyzed, spiritual health has a much more qualitative aspect — as it should.
Something as personal and unique to our very essence cannot be mandated or structured into a “one size fits all” form. Not only is America founded on this understanding of the free exercise of religion, but individually each person is unique and at a different stage of his or her journey on earth.
Studies indicate a spiritual connection tends to contribute to more resilient lives. Resilience is the ability to grow and thrive in the face of challenges and bounce back from adversity in a more healthy way. Who wouldn’t want that?So why is this spiritual thing so hard to develop and strengthen?
I believe one reason is a misunderstanding. History, culture and just plain individualism tend to make many defensive when the spiritual word is mentioned. “Nobody is going to tell me what to believe,” is a common response to the “S” word. Here again, this is a correct response. Nobody is telling anyone what to believe, rather providing opportunity for growth in an area of life that makes one healthier.
OK, so what is spiritual?
Spiritual pertains to the connection of the human spirit and transcendence.
Each person has a spirit that is the essence of existence. This is what energizes, enlivens, gives purpose and makes us the unique individuals we are.
Transcendence is the feeling in our gut that there is something bigger than us, a meaning we cannot fully grasp or understand.
These two concepts seem to be common throughout the world, indeed, throughout history. Reflect for a moment; you most probably agree this is a truth deep within.
Understanding this relatively simple definition, we can then begin to develop our personal spiritual dimension by seeking that which speaks to our uniqueness while recognizing that there is something “bigger” than us to help determine meaning and purpose for our lives.
For some this is traditional religion; others find a contemplative practice more meaningful; yet others may experience this transcendence in some other form of expression, commitment or activity. Human beings have been seekers since the beginning of time, and we also are part of this quest. Use the learning resources being made available at your post enabling you to also be a seeker.
The important thing to remember is this: to become healthier, a balance is necessary between the mental, physical and spiritual realms of our lives. Having a tough time? Feel like you are out of focus or life has no meaning? You are probably already striving to live healthy mentally and physically. So try living out the “S” word — get back in balance.
See your military chaplain for direction and assistance.