• 6 Spiritual traits that Affect Your Stress and Pain

    Spirituality

    Think about the people you know who seem to have the easiest time adjusting to the curveballs that life inevitably throws at us all. Do they have anything in common? I’ll bet if you look close enough, they do.

    Spiritual But Not Religious

    I’m willing to bet that their spirituality and belief systems are fairly similar. Notice I said spiritual, not religious, beliefs. There is a huge difference between the two that’s important to understand.

    Religion is a prescribed set of beliefs with a corresponding set of rules that one must follow.

    Spirituality, on the other hand, isn’t concerned with rules and has no set of beliefs that one must embrace. Instead, it concerns itself with the experience of the Divine, however you define that, in everyday life. Spirituality is about love, connection, and experience. Love and connection are antidotes to stress and pain.

    Let me be clear… I’m not saying anything about or against religion. I’m merely defining my terms, because these two terms are often (incorrectly) used interchangeably. You can have religion without spirituality, spirituality without religion, or you can have a combination of both in your life. The point I want to make is that spirituality and belief can be a powerful tool against stress and pain.

    What’s In Your Spiritual Garden?

    Spirituality is a lot like a garden; in order to reap, you must first sow the seeds you wish to eventually harvest. It’s hard work, it takes a lot of time, and it’s messy. The secret that every gardener knows, and embraces, is that the work doesn’t end when you harvest your crop. The work is a constant cycle of preparation, sowing, tending, and harvesting. They also know that the constant hard work is worth every minute of effort if they want a healthy, bountiful harvest.

    When planning your spiritual garden, it’s important that you choose your crops wisely. You want your crops to be sustainable over the long term, and not deplete the nutrients available in your garden. Ideally, once the spiritual crops are mature enough, they’ll self-propagate and prevent weeds on their own. But what should you plant?

    To help you get started, here are a few things you’ll want to sow in your spiritual garden if you want to better manage your stress and pain:

    • Love – Spiritual love is unconditional. (Technically, all love is unconditional, but that’s another topic altogether.) This love recognizes that we’re all connected, that we’re all a part of the same humanity. It understands that we have more in common with our fellow human beings than we have differences. Spiritual love knows that unity and connection is healing, whereas division (us vs them, focusing on differences) increases stress, illness, and pain.
    • Self-compassion – You can’t have compassion for others if you don’t first have compassion for yourself. Now don’t confuse compassion with sympathy or pity. It does no good to feel sorry for yourself and no one wants your pity. Compassion is care, concern, kindness, tenderness, sensitivity, and/or warmth toward your own or another’s suffering.
    • Self-esteem – Simply put, this is a belief in your own innate worth and a confidence in your abilities. A key ingredient of self-esteem is self-respect. Self-esteem allows you to say no to choices that don’t promote your beliefs, don’t further your goals, or would distract you from your life’s purpose. It also allows you to fully express love and compassion to others.
    • Purpose/direction – Research has shown time and again that people who feel their life has a purpose or direction respond to stress better and have less chronic pain. Without purpose and direction, life is meaningless and it’s easy to feel lost. Feeling lost and meaningless won’t do anything but increase stress and pain. Finding your life’s purpose can feel more than a tad overwhelming, but fear not. Your purpose doesn’t have to be something huge like curing cancer. Instead, it can be something as simple as ‘being available when friends need me’, or ‘giving encouragement to those who need it.’ Once you know your purpose or direction in life, it can be helpful to set goals to help you stay on track.
    • Belief/faith – I’m not necessarily talking about belief or faith in a higher being, although that’s definitely covered by this category. Mostly what I mean is belief in something bigger than yourself: a purpose (covered earlier), a dream, an aspiration, anything. People who pursue their hopes, dreams, and aspirations tend to have more passion, excitement, and enthusiasm in their lives. Go figure. I know I won’t surprise you when I say that passion, excitement, and enthusiasm are all great tools to minimize stress and pain.
    • Hope/Optimism* – Hope and optimism can bring joy and excitement to your life. If ever there was an antidote to stress and pain, it’s joy and excitement. *I hope I don’t need to spell out that being optimistic or hopeful for things that are completely beyond your control or unrealistic (e.g. you’ll move to a new town where somehow you’ll magically not be shy anymore) can have just the opposite effect.

    Hopefully you already have a start on a few of these crops. If not, I’d say it’s time to start prepping your garden. Trying to cultivate all 6 at once may seem a bit overwhelming, so try starting with just one or two and then adding the others one at a time as you feel comfortable.

    Now it’s your turn. If you found this post useful in some way, won’t you please share. There are handy share buttons just below the post to make it super easy for you.

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