Ways to foster and enhance the spiritual dimension
The experience of active aging can be a doorway to spiritual practice, one that transcends any particular religion or faith. Lewis Richmond, in the book Aging as a Spiritual Practice, suggests that we all have a “lightning strikes.” These are moments where people stop seeing things as they wished they were and now see things as they truly are. Lightning strikes often occur when there is a loss of a loved one, loss of health, or a positive change such as the birth of a grandchild. Too often, people spend time focused on daily living and not on where they are heading or what their life means. Lightning strikes are “wake-up” calls in which a person begins to reflect on their experiences and chooses to take action to improve their spiritual growth.
Practice coping strategies
Coping strategies are used to manage and adjust to life’s stressors, such as loss, pain, chronic illness, and uncertainty. Spiritual activities and religious beliefs are used to cope with stress by providing support, confidence, and hope. Beneficial coping strategies include:21
- Reframing the experience: changing thoughts and perspective on the situation, lowering expectations, challenging previously held beliefs, and maintaining positivity.
- Getting support: asking for help and assistance from someone, keeping a secure connection with family and friends.
- Problem-solving: changing the source of the stress, discovering ways to adapt, eliminate the distress, review and analyze the problem and search for a solution
- Using stress management activities: meditation, exercise, and laughter are some ways to cope with stress.
- Changing the environment: often, a simple change of venue to a more peaceful, beautiful, positive, or upbeat environment can help someone transcend the difficulties they perceive and face.
- Viewing the problem through a religious and spiritual perspective: reflecting on the purpose of having the stressor in one’s life, prayer, focusing on hope, and attending church and church activities.
Developing coping skills help to achieve a happy, healthy life. Getting someone involved in activities in the spiritual dimension of wellness can help them cope with life’s challenges and achieve inner peace and harmony.
We all have a deep and meaningful purpose that we need to discover, and this purpose in life often changes. However, living without purpose is all too common among older adults. Post-retirement frequently brings a void of purpose. Life events such as moving, chronic illness, or loss of loved ones, can cause older adults to struggle with finding meaning and purpose in their lives. Depression and isolation which can lead to illness, come from not having purpose in your life. There is a strong need to play a valuable role in someone’s life. Finding purpose can be challenging. Many people think about the existential questions, “What am I here for?” “Why do I exist?” Despite the benefits, there are far too few wellness programs that help older adults find a purpose in life.
When designing activities that help your customers find purpose, note that the choice of purpose-driven goals can lead to different health benefits. Purpose-driven goals that are prosocial are different than those that are focused on self. Wellbeing was significantly higher in people who choose prosocial goals that helped people rather than goals that focused on self.
CIM and physical activities
Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and meditation are considered complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) and use mind-body practices. CIM activities have been increasing in popularity. Although CIM was initially used to promote health and wellbeing, studies found benefits related to managing medical conditions and stressful events that lead to anxiety and depression. Walking meditation, yoga, and Tai Chi are some of the ways to restore spiritual wellness through physical movement. Activities that enhance the spirit includes working on the mind and spirit through mental work such as meditation. Improving spiritual wellness can be done through carefully planned, collaborative wellness programs.
Nature is a source of spirituality and comfort for many people. Although getting out in nature at this time, is not advised or possible, there are ways to bring nature indoors. Plants and pictures can provide a visual appeal in the immediate environment. There are also many online programs that can bring in the sights and sounds of nature to us. See ICAA’s COVID Response Center’s Resources tab.