Although most medical doctors don’t discuss the need to nourish your spirit for good health and well-being, some very specific benefits are associated with spiritual well-being. Just as toxic childhood experiences are associated with negative changes in your brain, spirituality and religion are associated with positive changes in your brain, which can reduce your risk for depression, for example and also improve your recovery from depression. This benefit can have direct effects on your eating. Being out of touch with or disconnected from your spirit can lead to spiritual depletion.
Toxic relationships, betrayals of trust, and chronic illness in yourself or a loved one are other experiences that can cause your spirit to be depleted. Being spiritually run-down can sneak up on you, and you may not even recognize the signs. Spiritual emptiness is a sickness that has signs and symptoms just like any physical illness. It’s important that you recognize the signs so you can address the causes of spiritual depletion with as much com- passion and care as you would any other illness.
If you feel as if you’ve lost your passion and purpose in life, you may be in dire need of spiritual nourishment.
You may feel a deep longing for there to be more in your life, and you may feel like you’re not living up to your potential or that you need to find a bigger purpose in life. Or you may find yourself asking existential questions such as, Why am I here? and What is life all about? All of these are symptoms of the need for spiritual nourishment. Viktor Frankl wrote about his experience in the concentration camps in his book Man’s Search for Meaning (1992). He defined the primary purpose of life as the search for meaning in whatever circumstance you find yourself. According to Frankl, if you have purposeful work, love, and courage in the face of life’s difficulties, your life will have meaning.
You can find meaning in many aspects of your life and also in suffering.
The way in which you address suffering in your life is what gives life its meaning, according to Frankl. Having courage in the face of difficulty is not always easy. If your life feels out of control or overwhelmingly stressful or if you feel backed into a corner with nowhere to go, Frankl’s ideas urge you to remember that you still have the freedom to choose how you respond to the situation you find yourself in. As you choose how you respond, as you dig for courage to heal, and as you care about others and perform meaningful work, you will be nourishing your spirit.
How do you know if you're spiritually depleted? Below is a list of some of the most common signs of spiritual depletion:
- melancholy, despair, hopelessness
- feeling tired or exhausted for no reason
- inability to make decisions
- a lack of joy
- abuse of alcohol, drugs or food
- feeling unmotivated; restlessness
What are some of the major causes of spiritual depletion?
- chronic stress (#pandemic)
- grief or loss
- chronic illness in yourself or a loved one
- sudden life changes
- trauma - either past or present
- being overworked
Research shows that if you have a spiritual practice, it can have a beneficial effect on your health.
Nourishing your spirit involves the use of daily spiritual practices. Practices that inspire awe and involve acts of forgiveness tap into your passion and offer times for contemplation and relaxation (Harrington 2014). CAM therapies can offer many of these benefits, as can walks in nature and speaking with a close friend. Other ways to nourish your spirit include getting a massage, being out in nature, practicing breathing exercises, yoga, prayer and meditation.
Ask yourself what can you do today, this week, this month to start nourishing your spirit.
Hopefully you can see how important it is to be aware not only of your physical and emotional health but also your spiritual health and the patterns that contribute to spiritual depletion. It takes commitment to yourself to take the time away from work or other stressors to replenish your spirit. Don’t keep putting it off. Because spiritual depletion can lead to burnout and once you reach burnout, it’s not so easy to get your health and well-being back.
Below are some questions that you can journal about as a way to get in touch with how well your spirit is doing:
- Describe below the circumstances that caused you to lose your passion or purpose, what you felt about this situation, and what thoughts you had that changed your passion or purpose.
- Next, ask yourself what it would take for you to get your passion or purpose back. How could you restore yourself to wholeness?
- What have you learned from these past experiences that you can use now?
All the best,