Why do some people experience increasing joy and happiness while others become more anxious, stressed and unhappy? The difference has to do with inner flourishing. Those who evolve into considerate, gracious humans have the innate ability to continuously elevate and deepen their lives.
Here are five ways to elevate your spiritual health and, in the process, become a happier, more content person.
- Prioritize spirituality. Think about how you can prioritize your spiritual health and growth. Commit to daily prayer, spend time in silent meditation, join a Bible study, serve the poor in your community, go on a pilgrimage.
Author Linda Monitello wrote in U.S. Catholic (April 2014): “For many years I have traveled to Trappist, Ky., to be a guest of the Cistercian monks for a week, or sometimes just for a weekend. … The monks have taught me that we all need to spend time in silence with the Lord, no matter where we are. The monastery wall is not to keep out the world but to provide a place of quiet. The cloistered religious, as professionals of asceticism and prayer, can teach us how we can better communicate with God.”
- Fertilize gratitude. Amid life’s difficulties or complications, continue to find ways to appreciate the many good things in your life to ensure that you remain open, spacious and positive.
Daniel Cozort, a retired religion professor, was struck head-on by a car while riding his bike on a country road in Pennsylvania. The accident left him paraplegic and in chronic pain. While he was hospitalized, a psychiatrist asked him if he was angry or sad.
Cozort’s response, written in Lion’s Roar (January 2022), can guide any of us when unpleasant and unwelcome issues come into our lives: “Was I angry? I thought about the woman who had struck me. I thought she made an error of inattentiveness or poor judgment. But how many times had I driven with lapses of attention, or speeding, or worse? She too was in the accident, and I had no doubt it was hard on her. … Stuff happens when you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. No, I wasn’t angry.”
He also wasn’t sad: “I thought about how lucky I was to have survived at all. I felt fortunate to have been able to live with my full physical capacity for 57 years, longer than many human beings have in a complete lifespan. I was especially grateful not to have brain damage.”
- Cultivate solitude. The traditional spiritual discipline of solitude is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the quality or state of being alone or remote from society.”
Jesus spent ample time in solitude and frequently encouraged his disciples to do the same: “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place” (Mark 6:31-32; New International Version).
An important aspect of solitude is silence—listening to God or simply enjoying being in God’s presence.
An important aspect of solitude is silence—listening to God or simply enjoying being in God’s presence. It’s strongly supported in Scriptures, including: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), “Let him sit alone in silence” (Lamentations 3:2) and “Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7).
- Embrace change. Avoid remaining frozen in place. Be open to changing your mind, your direction or your relationships that have run their course. “Know when to move on,” advised writer Diana Lu in Daughter of the Yellow River (Image Global Impact, 2006). “Sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances that work against our best interests. When we no longer have the chance to grow or to perform to our capabilities, or when a situation is toxic to our emotions, body, mind or spirit, then we should leave.”
Should you experience anxiety and fear when an unwelcome change enters your life, recall Jesus’ comforting words: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. … Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
- Expand compassion. Mother Teresa urged: “Have a great compassion for people. … Especially be kind, be loving to the poor. … Do you want to do something beautiful for God? There is a person who needs you. This is your chance.”
An encounter with a dying patient led nurse Sandra Clarke to expand her compassion. One night during her initial rounds, the patient asked, “Will you stay with me?” Clarke responded, “Yes, as soon as I check on my other patients.” More than 90 minutes passed as Clark checked vital signs and made assessments for the other six patients. “When I returned, [the man] was dead; no family, very old, end-stage multi-organ disease,” she said. “Now he was gone, and I felt awful.”
This life-changing moment spiked her compassion for those close to death. She started No One Dies Alone, a program of compassionate presence that provides dignity and respect for those in the final hours of life (how-we-die.org).
Yes, our lives are busy, but there is still time for spiritual elevation and growth. Be mindful of this wisdom from Jesuit priest and author Henri Bouland: “Never say you have no time. On the whole it is those who are busiest who can make time for yet more…. What we lack is not time, but heart.”