Spirituality, Stress Relief, and Holidays: What’s the Connection?

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It is interesting that the holiday season is for many people a stressful time of the year because practicing some form of spirituality is associated with stress relief.

Thinking about this might cause some of us to reconsider our holiday rituals.

Spirituality fosters stress relief when it arises from a connection to our self and others, involves personal values, and adds a sense of meaning or purpose to life. It places our own story in a context that is compatible with our deepest yearnings and loftiest aspirations.

Spirituality, Connection, and Well-Being

Having a vital spiritual dimension in our lives - whether it involves meditation, art, religious observance, nature, or something else - supports well-being and reduces stress by providing a sense of connection and actual person to person connections. Even our individual purpose, if we have one, usually involves our self making a difference in the world of others.

A philosophy, idea, cause, ritual, place, group of people, or an activity can be the focal point of our spirituality, yet whatever it is will include us in something beyond the self. Practically speaking, this benefits us in at least five ways.

  1. Feeling connected to something beyond the self or to other people fulfills one of our basic human needs—that of belonging. A sense of belonging strengthens people to cope with difficulty and wraps times of aloneness, or of loneliness, in a web of connection.
  2. Many people make and maintain friendships when practicing or pursuing their spirituality. It puts us in touch with people that share similar values and maybe similar interests or sense of purpose. Spirituality tends to expand social support networks.
  3. Decisions become easier when people have an established sense of meaning or purpose to guide their steps. If clear about what is important to you, unimportant or insignificant things and activities are easier to ignore or let go of.
  4. People can more readily release the need to be in control when they feel connected to something bigger than the self. We all know there is much we cannot control in life but when we feel alone and disconnected, the need to maintain control can be intense.
  5. Feeling connected stirs-up the innate strength and courage in most people. It is often easier to be strong and daring for others than for the self. Dependency seems to come from a lack or distrust of connection, but people tend to take more risks when they feel connected to a greater whole.

Silver Bells, Shopping Malls, and Connection

The holiday season, when we are inundated with ads and commercials enticing us to buy gifts, is actually a good time to examine our personal sense of spirituality. The contrast of the meaning behind Christmas and the bright lights of a shopping mall reminds us to compare our heartfelt values to our typical daily behaviors and choices.

Even the giving of gifts, though we may sometimes go overboard, is at its core an expression of connection and caring. We take great pleasure in giving pleasure to others through gift giving—to people we know, and some we will never meet. Sharing is a natural expression of connection.

So, whether it is December or July, stress is reduced when we focus on connections to valued ideas, ideals, activities, and people that add meaning to our life. When doing this it seems natural to respect all forms of spirituality and maybe someday we all will.

Inspired by: Mayo Clinic
Photo credit: David Stanley / flickr creative commons

 
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