“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3 NIV
Brightly colored hot air balloons gracefully drifting upward remind me of rising above our challenges and choosing joy. Sometimes difficult, yes, but possible if we are spiritually well.
What is spiritual wellness? It is different for each of us as it is centered upon values and beliefs that give each of us purpose. Spiritual wellness involves making time every day for:
- Relaxation, which may include play, exercise, meditation, prayer or other spiritual practices
- Reflection about our beliefs and how they guide our actions
- Gratitude, forgiveness and compassion
- Altruism and service to others
Nurturing our spiritual lives in this way allows us to build reserve so that when challenges arise, we have the resilience and perseverance to rise above them.
By MaryAnne Toepperwein
“So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key”. ~The Eagles, “Already Gone”
When reflecting upon personal growth, I believe what is hardest to grasp is that we can change. I also believe we all have things we wish to hide from other people and even from God. We enjoy watching personal transformation happen in others, but we take comfort in staying in the shadows ourselves; it is difficult to bring those things we view as “faults” into the light for everyone to see. Yet, stepping out of the shadows, accepting God’s grace, and being mindful of the help He sends our way makes us more powerful and able than we know.
In his book Fully Human, Fully Alive, John Powell writes that we “do not have to change, grow or be good in order to be loved. Rather, we are loved so we can change, grow, and be good.” Believing this is an important first step in finding the courage to come out of the shadows and into the light, where we can get help to make successful changes in our lives.
Even when we finally feel ready, our brains are wired to maintain the status quo, which can be a barrier to making those positive changes. The good news is that taking time to think differently can cause new pathways to form in our brains. These new pathways gradually hardwire new behaviors and thoughts into our minds. Thinking can help us break out of old habits and establish new ones in their place. Our brains are highly teachable!
So, with God’s grace, help from others and mindfully retraining our habits, we do have the key to making positive changes in our lives.
By MaryAnne Toepperwein
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong”. –Gandhi
The mind-body-spirit connection has been known for a long time. Negative thinking can zap us of motivation and energy while a positive outlook does just the opposite. Holding a grudge is negative thinking and therefore has serious implications for our mind, body and our spirit.
Information from the Mayo Clinic indicates that the process of forgiving affects our physical and mental health profoundly. It can result in lower levels of stress, blood pressure, anger, and depression and can improve immune function and cardiovascular health. Spiritually, forgiveness opens us to relate more fully to others and to allow God to act more fully through us.
Forgiveness is an oft-discussed topic and has powerful positive effects on us but what, exactly, is it? Derived from the Old English word forgiefan, “to forgive” means to renounce anger and punishment against someone. It means to change your thinking and let go of your desire for revenge and anger. It does not (necessarily) mean reconciliation, forgetting, condoning, or excusing what happened.
It is our choice to make. Definitely not an easy one, but well worth the effort. The mental, physical, and spiritual benefits are powerful inspiration, but perhaps the most compelling reason is that each of us is forgiven by God and are called upon to pay it forward. Certainly, this is time in which we need more forgiveness.
“Let your heart guide you. It whispers, so listen carefully.” ~ Littlefoot’s mother, Land Before Time
So how do we learn to listen carefully? For me, learning to nurture positive thoughts about who I am, who the people in my life are, and what I feel is a crucial first step. We all have self-doubt and it’s easy to become focused on it. Since our brains are NOT hardwired, they constantly change as we experience life. Negative thinking over time will become a habit and will ultimately transform our brains. The good news is that the opposite happens as well; positive self-talk can also become habitual and transform our brains – in a good way!
A large part of spiritual growth is getting rid of negative thinking about who we are and about the world in which we live. A great way to begin is to learn to reframe things that are happening around you and the thoughts you have about them. In other words, step back and look at things through another lens. Try to positively reframe upsetting events, actions, or relationships. Try to see actions of others as unintentional or motivated by factors other than you. If these explanations clearly do not apply, simply “let it go” to maintain your own inner peace and spiritual wellness.
Reframing can change your body’s response to stress. Learn to visualize what you want to be and how you want to respond. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and focus on positive thoughts and images. Over time, the positive thoughts and images (self-talk) will become “etched” into our brains and our behavior. So, in your quest for spiritual wellness try positive reframing – before long, you will be listening more carefully!