Spirituality, or looking for meaning in your life, is a personal thing. For some people it means religious belief, but many believe that spirituality doesn't have to be religious. Listening to beautiful music or appreciating nature may be spiritual experiences for some.
Spirituality and religion are not unrelated, but are not identical concepts.
One way of thinking about spirituality might be in terms of these four questions:
- What makes you tick?
- What keeps you going?
- What gets you through a crisis?
- What gives your life meaning?
Some of the answers to these questions might be about someone’s beliefs or values, or might be about their most important relationship, or could be to do with certain spiritual practices that are important to them. Spiritual practices could be more formal things like attending worship or practicing meditation, or simply activities like going for a walk, having a moment to sit in the sun, or doing something creative.
Spirituality is increasingly recognised as an important consideration in provision of healthcare. The Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of Nursing have both affirmed the importance of supporting the spiritual needs of people with mental health problems.
The Spirituality Flower has been created by a group of people to ensure that the spiritual needs of service users, carers and staff are both understood and met. This can be used as a means of finding a shared understanding of what we mean when we talk about spirituality, as well as being a tool for exploring people's spiritual and religious needs.
Why bother with spirituality?
- To be a human being is to be a spiritual being. Any care which is ‘person-centred’ will attend to spirituality – even if, for some people, that is simply to confirm that they do not wish to discuss it.
- Surveys carried out nationally and locally, confirm that many mental health service users wish to have spirituality considered within their care because it helps them to recover and keep well.
- Spirituality is at the very heart of the ‘recovery model.’ The Recovery ‘CHIME factors’ (connectedness, hope, identity, meaning and empowerment) all have a spiritual element to them
- Evidence supports the importance of spirituality and religion in understanding the causes of many mental health problems, and the potential benefits of considering spiritual and religious factors within treatment planning.
- The Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010 require all public services to make sure that people are able to practice their religion or beliefs and are not discriminated against because of them.
Service users have stated that for them, spirituality is not about a particular set of activities or interventions, but something which needs to run through the core of everything that happens in the provision of care.
If you are interested in learning more about Spirituality, we have launched a 'Spirituality & Recovery' course on the e-learning area of the website, where you can discover more about spirituality and complete various modules in your own time and at your own pace. Log in to the e-learning area by using the 'log in' button on the homepage of the website, or by using this link:
Real life experience
I guess I wasn’t aware that it was spirituality that helped me overcome some of the most challenging times in my life because I’ve never really defined it – I think it’s undefinable and the essence of a person is so hugely individual.
My spirituality led me to fall in love with myself, something that in my (many) years of wandering this mortal coil I had never achieved.
In allowing myself time and space to be with me I began to get to know myself and actually found out the things that mattered to me, that calmed me, lifted my spirits, gave me joy or left me breathless with wonder.
It wasn’t a sudden realisation, but a will to change and a wish to lead a life worth living that spurred me to look into my spirituality, which coincided with my enrolment at ARCH Recovery College. With their support and skilled guidance I began to regain my life and I guess rediscover my spirituality.
I began to go out walking in nature on my own (previously I would have found this daunting) and the overwhelming calmness and joy that I got from this helped me to see how important the things that make me feel connected and grounded really are.
Day by day I introduced more things that I had discarded and I felt like I was beginning to live. The effect on my life has been amazing, my relationships with myself and those I care for have blossomed, and I feel content that in being aware of my spiritual side I take care of my mind, body and soul, both physically and mentally.
My spirituality has played a major role in my recovery and now I have discovered the magic it brings, I no longer need to search and search for that elusive ‘cure’ or saviour in my life.
As Ben Howard says in ‘Keep Your Head Up’; "all I was searching for was me".