By Ashley Shulski, Military Spouses of Strength Director of Programs
The word “spiritual” is often used today but we do not always know what it truly means or how we can be spiritual and have spiritual literacy in our lives. It is a term that often has a common understanding when we talk about it; but in all honesty, we don’t know what it truly means. Take for example, the word “God”. We know what that means but it will mean different things to different people depending upon their worldview.
Have you ever wondered why some people are more spiritual or have more spiritual resilience? There are many factors that make people stronger than others and having spiritual fitness can and will affect an individual’s resilience and readiness to perform any duty asked of them. According to Rand Corporation “being spiritually fit can influence resilience and well-being by buffering stress.” Having the ability to adapt assists us when we help others’ spiritual resilience improve.
Spirituality is an effective way to build our resilient worldviews. It is merely one area of resiliency but a very important one because for many generations, spiritual resilience has been a primary source of resiliency for individuals, families and even communities. Being spiritually resilient does not hinge on whether or not we attend religious services; but rather, it is the way we experience life. It is what sustains us and leads us to new experiences in other areas of resiliency. Having a spiritual worldview leads us to a general overall well-being and psychological health.
Hackney and Sanders’s (2003) meta-analysis found a strongly positive relationship between “institutional religion,” or the “social and behavioral aspects of religion,” such as attending religious services, participating in religious activities at a church, and mental health. Most evidence points to the role of spirituality and religion. Koenig, King, and Carson (2012) found the relation between spirituality and it leading towards “less positive attitudes toward suicide, fewer suicide attempts, and fewer completed suicides.”
Spiritual beliefs may influence our outlook on the world, offer solace in difficult times, or provide support from like-minded people. Bern Williams said, “man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” Spiritual is defined by the Air Force as “the ability to adhere to beliefs, principles, or values needed to persevere and prevail in accomplishing missions.” We can even say that certain types of non-religious values fall under spirituality, such as service and sacrifice to others. There is a relationship between spirituality, religion, and suicide within military families. This definition can be utilized throughout the military in general; and more specifically, with military spouses.
We need to look at whether there is evidence for a relationship between measures of spiritual fitness and the ability to cope with stressors. Why is it our stress increases when faced with problems? Is there a way for us to overcome adversity in our lives in a healthy way that leads us to a greater awareness and self-realization? Each of us has an innate self-righting tendency, which is a capacity for resilience. The way it is connected to our spiritual nature is through a few different ways, but one important way is through counting blessings. Each day recount or write down three important things that happened in your life the day prior. “Count” your blessings. Through this daily exercise, we can better equip ourselves to face adversity make it through in a healthy positive way.
Having an authentic self-esteem and life success is finding ways to live our strengths and to use them as often as possible. Gallop research (Buckingham & Clifton, 2001) states “Too many individuals hide in their ‘sundials in the shade’” Why don’t we stop obsessing over how to correct our weaknesses and focus on how our strengths can work for us? “Become an expert at finding and describing and applying and practicing and refining your strengths.” Use our focus and hone in on improving spiritual literacy and resiliency. When we are resilient, we tend to relax more, think for ourselves more, and trust in others and in our own lives more. It is our attitude about life that helps us deal with and respond to a crisis constructively.
Be YOUR expert. Find YOUR faith in something greater and then HELP OTHERS find ways to cope with their unique situations by finding their faith in their strengths and inner resources.
Buckingham, M., & Clifton, D. O. (2001). Now, discover your strengths. Simon and Schuster.
Hackney, Charles H., and Glenn S. Sanders, “Religiosity and Mental Health: A Meta- Analysis of Recent Studies,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 42, No. 1, March 2003, pp. 43–56.
Koenig, Harold G., “An 83-Year-Old Woman with Chronic Illness and Strong Religious Beliefs,” Journal of American Medical Association, Vol. 288, No. 4, July 24/31, 2002, pp. 487–493. As of June 22, 2012: http://www.gvsu.edu/forms/ahf/JAMA%20July%2024,%202002.pdf
Yeung, Douglas and Margret T. Martin. Spiritual Fitness and Resilience: A Review of Relevant Constructs, Measures, and Links to Well-Being. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2013. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR100.