It’s been a challenging year, and it’s not even a quarter of the way in! On the back of over two very ‘challenging’ years, the need to to raise our spirits is greater than ever. But how to lift them, and why we so desperately need to?
Body, mind and spirit
When I was studying naturopathy in the late 1980’s, the phrase body, mind and spirit was regularly talked about. Caring for the body, mind and spirit remains at the core of our philosophy but in the age of evidence based medicine talking about ‘spirit’ has been nudged to the side.
The body is the most relatable of the trio. We’ve all experienced pain, discomfort or bodily functions going awry. Almost everyone who consults a naturopath presents with a physical ailment from fatigue or skin problems, through to life limiting conditions.
Our ability to talk comfortably about our state of mind is improving, as the stigma around mental health decreases. We’ve known of the e mind-body connection for a long time and finally science is validating it. No surprise really as basic physiology elegantly explains in underlying biological process.
Mindfulness practices can help us be aware of this connection. In meditation we still the mind by being in the moment within our body. With practice, it’s easier to notice how thoughts trigger bodily sensations, changes in appetite, muscular pain or a chronic condition flaring. Peri-menopause is a good example, when women become aware of how a stressed thought can instantly cause a hot flush, the connection is unmistakable. It becomes an opportunity to reduce these symptoms, through the mind not just the body.
We’re often uncomfortable talking about the spirit, it’s nebulous and open to variable interpretation. It’s challenging to quantify the link with mind and body. Spirit is historically annexed by religion and dressed up in dogma – taking spirituality a long way from its roots in a celebration of and connection with nature. In this age of scientific rationalism, the role of the spirit in wellbeing is a bit of a grey area, despite it being an integral part of indigenous culture around the world.
What does it mean to lift our spirit?
Lift (one’s) spirits
To make one feel happier or more carefree.
For our spirit to be lifted, it helps to explore what spirit means to us personally. It might be part of your theological or philosophical identity, or as simple as practicing yoga or spending time in nature.
When living in a man-made environment of concrete, artificial light and air conditioning, its not surprising we can lose our connection with nature. So often we live apart from, or even at odds with it.
Ways to reconnect with spirit
Belonging: Our social environment is also integral to our spirit. Feeling connected to others and being part of a community are basic human needs. Pre-pandemic it was estimated a third of Australians experienced loneliness and social isolation at some time in their lives. But when the world entered lockdown, this figure skyrocketed. Reconnecting with others can be as simple as initiating contact with a friend you’ve not seen for a while, or volunteering some time in a community organisation.
Nature: what raises your spirit the most – being around plants, birds, animals, water or the desert? Even finding a pocket of urban bush land for a spot of forrest bathing can be incredibly uplifting. Part of the experience might be immersing your senses, not just what you see but smell, hear and touch as well. I can sit and watch the sea for hours, breathing in the salt air and meditating on the rhythm of the wave.
Music: whatever the genre, connect with the sounds that uplift and transcend you. Ask friends to share the playlists that lift their moods if needing inspiration.
Gratitude: we can feed on the tragedy in the world, or look for the light. Dig down to acknowledge something small each day that you’re grateful for and explore a range of gratitude practices.
“Gratitude is a balanced response to a life filled with highs and lows.”
Need more than gratitude and connection?
When raising your spirits is not enough, get help from an appropriate professional. Consult a psychologist (our see your GP for a Mental Health Plan for a Medicare rebated referral) if feeling helpless or depressed.
You can also work with a naturopath for nutritional and herbal support, along side your psychological/medical care.
This article has been updated from an earlier post in 2007