This blog post is Part 2 in a 4-part blog series on Integrated Faith. (If you missed the first blog post, you can find it here.) In this blog series, we are taking a look at aspects of our spiritual lives that might be out of step or disconnected from the rest of our person.
One common way that people can struggle with integration involves the connections between their mind, body, and spirit. I tend to take a holistic view of life, and view emotional health (i.e., mind), physical health (i.e., body), and spiritual health (i.e., spirit) as interconnected. If you are healthy in one area, it helps you to maintain health in the other areas. On the other hand, if you are experiencing a problem in one area, it can negatively affect the other areas as well.
Sometimes people think that they can separate the spiritual part of their lives from their emotions and physical body. The ‘spiritual stuff’ is seen as something distinct, separate, and perhaps more important. But if you split off the spiritual part of your life into its own section, you probably struggle with integration.
Sometimes religious people don’t pay too much attention to their emotional or physical health. Depressive thoughts or feelings might be viewed as a ‘dark night of the soul.’ Lack of boundaries might be viewed as ‘having a servant’s heart.’ Being a workaholic might be viewed as ‘doing the Lord’s work.’ Having unhealthy eating habits or being overweight might be viewed as ‘not caring about the vanity of appearances.’
The relationship can go the other direction as well. For the most part, research has found that being religious is linked to positive mental and physical health outcomes. However, there are ways of being religious that negatively impact your health. For example, coping with an illness by ‘leaving it up to God’ instead of following the doctor’s instructions can lead to disastrous results. Persistent spiritual struggle or anger at God that is not worked through can lead to depression and anxiety. Certain religious viewpoints can promote prejudice and discrimination. It’s all connected.
The first step toward integrating your mind, body, and spirit is to check-in with yourself in each of these areas. First, how is your emotional health? How have you been feeling lately? Are you in touch with your emotions? Do you have people in your life with whom you can share how you are doing on a deep level? Do you have people who support you when you are struggling? Have you been feeling depressed or anxious? Maybe this is a good time to see a counselor to work through some things.
Second, how is your physical health? Are there any major health problems you need to address? How are your exercise habits? What about your eating? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you avoiding drinking too much alcohol and using drugs? Have you had a checkup recently with your primary care physician? How long has it been since you saw the dentist?
Third, how is your spiritual health? Are you spending time alone in solitude in reading, meditation, or prayer? Are you involved in a church or other type of religious/spiritual community? Are you serving in a church with your gifts and talents?
Discussion: What stood out to you when you did the check-in? Take a look at yourself holistically. What are the connections between your mental health, physical health, and spiritual health? Where are you experiencing disconnection? What area of your life might need some work right now? What is one step you could take to address an issue or problem you are having in this area of your life?
Click here to read Part 3: Integration of the Shadow