Looking for ways to cultivate spiritual practices in your life, but not quite sure where to start? There are myriad ways to integrate spiritual rituals into your day that are inexpensive, simple, and meaningful. And what’s more, spirituality meets you right where you’re at, with no prerequisites to get started. All you need is an open and curious mind to begin. Let’s dive in!
Meditation can be defined as a family of complex strategies that have to do with regulating attention and emotions. Meditation has gained significant popularity in the West in recent years due in large part to the high volume of scientific studies that have found evidence of its holistic health benefits. Some meditations, such as transcendental meditation, mindfulness meditation, and Vipassana meditation, can improve your cardiovascular health, help with stress management, ease menopausal symptoms, help decrease substance abuse, and more. In a world of constant overstimulation with the continual evolution of technology, cultivating stillness in our lives has never been so vital. Meditation helps the mind develop inner peace; it influences our brain activity and the structure of our brains. While researchers previously thought that practicing meditation would bring about changes in the autonomic nervous system, their findings suggest something else: “electroencephalogram (EEG) and neuroimaging studies suggest that meditation is associated with active states of consciousness that involve cognitive restructuring, learning, and changes in the structure of the brain itself”.
Finding a quiet moment during our day regularly, even just for a few minutes, can significantly improve our mood, sleep, and even our relationships. For most of us, meditation apps and guided meditation activities are right at our fingertips, whether you’re a novice or an experienced meditator. As you practice, you’ll be able to observe how meditation helps you deal with life’s challenges and how simply taking a pause in your day to get away from the constant noise enhances your wellbeing.
Journaling is another meditative ritual that can be used to get to know your inner world. Writing your thoughts down is a powerful way of giving the restless mind a break. In one study, an author examined the effects of expressive writing and whether it improves emotional adaptation to a stressful event, either by minimizing intrusive thoughts invoked by that particular event or by numbing people to those thoughts. In the study, participants in the experiment group were told to write down their deepest thoughts and feelings about a specific stress-invoking event, and within a month, they showed a decline in depressive thoughts. Within a similar time frame to the experimental group, they instructed the control group participants to write about an insignificant topic. They discovered that the control group maintained a high level of depressive symptoms, and that expressive writing didn’t affect the number of their intrusive thoughts.
Therapists often give their patients journal writing tasks to help alleviate and cope with stress, anxiety, and trauma. You can use this ancient practice in multiple ways depending on your goals. Journaling can serve as a tool to record your thoughts, help reduce intrusive thoughts, remind yourself what you’re grateful for, work through and solve problems, and so much more! You can experiment with different mediums and journal prompts until you find your preferred way of writing. Journaling as a spiritual practice can be a cathartic experience for you and can help you understand yourself better. As the philosopher Socrates once said, “to know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”.
Moving our bodies is a powerful way to develop ourselves spiritually. Dancers, martial artists, psychologists, and yoga practitioners have used movement as a healing modality and a method for improving one’s physical and mental health for millennia. In one study, yoga has been shown to promote calm and positivity, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as improve sleep. Similarly, we can use dance and other physical activities like martial arts (Qigong and Tai-Chi) to manage stress and anxiety, emotionally regulate, release negative emotions, and improve our mood and problem-solving skills, each of which are important for our wellbeing. You can try dancing to your favorite song to help you connect with your body or use other forms of movement, like yoga, as a spiritual practice. When practicing yoga, you learn how to synchronize your movement with your breathing, which is an effective tool for getting out of your head and getting in touch with your body. Similar to meditation, you’ll find that the internet is bursting at the seams with resources for yogis from the beginner to advanced levels. With so many forms of movement to choose from, it’s important to find your own rhythm and style that helps you build a healthy relationship with your body.
Spending time in nature connects our inner world to the vast universe outside ourselves. And when we connect with nature, we naturally feel a deep sense of awe for life and reflect on something bigger than ourselves. With its innumerable benefits improving our wellbeing from physical to mental health and beyond, nature offers an effortless way of getting us in tune with our spiritual nature as well as other aspects of our health, such as:
- Physical health: stress reduction, reduced blood pressure and headaches.
- Mental health: improved mood, reduced anxiety, improved self-esteem.
- Cognitive health: improved attention span, improved capability to perform on tasks, and increased productivity.
- Social health: better social cohesion and support, enhanced social empowerment, positive effect on communities.
- Spiritual health: heightened inspiration and spiritual wellbeing, more gravitational pull towards spirituality.
It’s no surprise that so many people feel rejuvenated even hours after spending time in nature. An ancient practice called “earthing” is a simple way of connecting with nature. Earthing is achieved by removing our shoes and walking barefoot on the soil. In turn, our feet absorb the earth’s electrical charge, restoring our connection to the earth. If you are looking for an easy way to lift your spirits, earthing, mindful walks, and outdoor yoga are just a few ways to reconnect spiritually.
5. Spiritual Learning
An integral part of developing your spiritual growth is learning, and the internet has made learning materials more accessible than ever. Listening to podcasts and audiobooks, watching interviews, attending seminars, and reading books are invaluable resources for developing our spiritual practices. The third practice in Buddhism philosophy is to develop what they call prajna, meaning wisdom, insight, discernment, and enlightenment. Through time, discipline, and continual spiritual practice, you’ll sense a shift in your spiritual growth. Another way you can learn is by getting fully immersed in a spiritual practice with the guidance of a teacher. Whether that’s going to a yoga retreat or doing an intensive meditation course, this will help you improve your spiritual health. This can also serve as an opportunity to meet new people and make friends. Having a supportive community one can rely on is an integral part of one’s spiritual wellbeing. All of these resources have the potential to accelerate your spiritual growth and inspire you to continue your various spiritual rituals.
And there you have it. There are many practices you can choose from to develop spiritually. Observe which ones you look forward to every day, and the effects these practices have on your life. Adriene Mishler, an accomplished yoga teacher who has inspired millions to start an at-home yoga routine, says it best: “We humans crave practice, ritual, and routine. But the hardest part can simply be to begin.”