Spiritual wellness has a crucial impact on our physical health and life and impacts the decisions we make, our values, and behaviour

Just touching 46, Mallini was overcome by a sense of emptiness. Life seemed to be getting out of hand. Irritability and anger were building up within her, leading to strained relationships. Meanwhile, she was diagnosed with hypertension, and began to experience bouts of unexplained and recurring headaches. Was mid-life crisis the reason for Mallini’s trauma? Or the empty nest syndrome? Or maybe… was it spiritual ill-health?

Well, most of us associate spirituality with religion and worship, and consider spiritual wellness to be largely irrelevant to everyday life. If you figure among this group, give it a re-think. Spiritual wellness encompasses non-theocratic aspects of the human personality too, and has a crucial impact on our physical health and life. Spiritual wellness encompasses the meaning we attach to life and the purpose we hold for our lives; peace and harmony within ourselves; the capacity to show love, compassion, forgiveness and empathy; and our outlook towards other living beings and the universe. Obviously then, spiritual wellness impacts most of the decisions we make in life, our values, and behaviour.

“Of course, crossing a milestone age and seeing children move away would be traumatic for any one. So would retirement; or passing out from school or college and leaving behind old friendships. But with sound spiritual health, the impact would be far less. Mallini, for instance would have been able to view those events that tormented her as a natural progression in life, and turn her attention to open a new chapter in life, such as community service, taking up a course she had been interested in, or follow up on a hobby or a career that had been left midway,” points out consultant psychiatrist Dr. K.N. Sudhakar. Effects of spiritual ill health manifest more when there is no pressing work to hold people’s attention, and people are forced to confront themselves rather than focus on their targets. “That is why many people end up with depression during holidays/retirement,” adds Dr. Sudhakar.

While positive spiritual health enables a person to take the ups and downs of life in stride and look onwards rather than backwards, at the organic level, it helps us cope with stress, which in turn empowers us against infections and psychosomatic disorders such as the ones that troubled Mallini. Positive spiritual health keeps our minds relaxed and our systems functioning well. Not surprisingly, modern definitions of wellness, such as those of the U.S.-based National Wellness Institute include spiritual wellness as one of the six dimensions of wellness.

The indicators

Of course, spiritual health is a non-tangible quality and one can hardly measure it on a scale. But generally, four factors are held to be good indicators of spiritual heath. A spiritually well person is someone who would have taken time for mediation or prayer ever day, despite demands on his time.

Depending on his interest, he is likely to be involved in community service, or some other activity that fascinates him and connects him with the universe such as gardening, art, etc. Or, he might be engrossed in the study of philosophy, natural history, psychology, etc, which enables us to think beyond ourselves. Mentions neuroscientist, psychiatrist and geneticist, Dr. Diane Hennacy Powell who researches on human consciousness, the mind-body connect and other phenomena, “The spiritually well person is also likely to be living out his ideals; for instance, he would rate job satisfaction over job designation. He would be guided by his values in decision making. And while he may have his own contrary views, he would not look down upon others’ views or refuse to hear their views”.