Spiritual wellbeing is the ability to experience and identify our sense of meaning and purpose in life. It includes the beliefs, values and ethics we hold personally and how we apply these in life. Having a good balance in our spiritual wellbeing can increase our sense of optimism, inner peace and self-fulfilment.
Our spiritual wellbeing is our connection to something bigger than ourselves – this can be connections with others, community, culture, art, music, literature, nature, religion or a power greater than one’s self.
Developing a sense of spiritual wellbeing can help us deal with stress more effectively and therefore can help us to feel happier.
Living a life in balance, is more than just successfully allocating time between work and home. Lagom is a force for good and considers human relationships, community and our relationship to the world around us.
Here are our suggestions for managing your spiritual wellbeing using the principles of lagom:
1. Do something charitable
Doing nice things for others makes you happy. There is a study by Liz Dunn and Mike Norton where they walk up to people on the street (strangers) and hand them some money and they ask these people, by the end of the day, to either “please spend this money on yourself” or “please spend this money to do something nice for someone else.” Their study found that people report being happier when they spend the money on other people rather than themselves. They also did an experiment to show that this is not, however, people’s intuitions. They asked another group of subjects ‘if you were in this experiment, would spending money on you or someone else would make you happier?’ People strongly thought that it would make them happier if they spent the money on themselves. Our intuition is going to be telling us to treat ourselves, but in fact the science shows that to be happier, doing something for ourselves isn’t going to work as well as simply doing something nice for others.
Here are some ways that you could do something charitable:
- Participate in a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity through your work
- Donate to charity – this could be a donation of money or your time
- Volunteer – support a community team or local initiative like a community litter pick
- Offer to help a neighbour – do they need shopping, some DIY or their dog walking?
- Surprise someone – let someone know you are thinking of them with some fresh flowers or home baked cookies
2. Identify your values and/or strengths
When was the last time you considered what your values truly are? We often gain beliefs and values from our upbringing but often don’t take the time to consider why they are important to us as adults.
Living a lagom life means living with intention, questioning if a decision is the best one in whatever context we find ourselves in and for the communities we live in. If we don’t truly understand our personal beliefs, values and ethics then making these decisions can be more challenging and can cause us stress.
Values are the things we consider important in the way we live our lives. When we honour our personal core values consistently, we experience fulfilment. Our strengths are the positive parts of our personalities that make us feel authentic and engaged. Imbalance in our social wellbeing can occur when we are living in a way which doesn’t align to our values.
Researchers such as Allport, Vernon and Lindzey theorized that we all have some combination of six different values types, whether it is just one dominant value type, a combination of two or three, or some aspects of all six. The below list is a modernized version of the 6 types they identified and are taken from Psychology Today:
- Social values – such as family & friends, community values and socialising
- Realistic values – such as hard work & diligence, pragmatism and financial security
- Political values – such as competitiveness, career and power/influence
- Aesthetic values – such as appreciation of beauty, appreciation of different art forms and originality
- Theoretical values – such as innovation, intellectualism and knowledge
- Traditional values – such as compliance, conventionality and stability
If you are unsure of your personal values you can take an online test (most give you a free summary with the opportunity to purchase a fuller report for a small cost) or work through a process such as Scott Jeffrey’s 7 steps to discover your personal core values
Take a look at a core value list to identify which values resonate with you. When you know what you value, you can live in accord with those values, making decisions in a mindful and lagom way.
3. Practice gratitude
“It’s not happiness that makes us grateful, it’s gratefulness that makes us happy.”David Steindl-Rast
There is always something to be grateful for, even on the darkest or most stressful of days. It might be as simple as food in the cupboard, running water or a roof over your head. It maybe something that someone has done for you or witnessing something that made you smile.
Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean your life is perfect and everything is great, it means you appreciate what is good in your life and you’re grateful for it. The more we practice gratitude the more we spot things to be grateful for and the more positive and optimistic we become.
Try spending 10 minutes each day, either at the start of the day or before you go to bed thinking about 3-5 things that you are grateful for. Once you get into the habit of thinking about things you are grateful, try expanding it to acknowledge why you are grateful.
We like to write our daily gratitude in a journal and on dark days we can refer back to them for inspiration or just to realise that even though it may not feel like it, there is always something good in the world.
4. Take time for yourself for reflection and self-awareness
In our busy lives it is too easy to forget to take time for ourselves – you spend so much time caring for others (family, friends, colleagues, clients) that by the end of the day there is no time left for you. But just like the oxygen mask demonstration during the safety briefing on a plane, you must make sure your own mask is fitted before helping others – the same applies to life – you need to take care of yourself first in order to be able to care for those around you.
Linnea Dunne in her book Lagom, the Swedish art of balanced living says “We need to know how we feel about certain things in order to make sound decisions, yet without allowing the feelings to take over completely. Being in touch with your feelings in a lagom way is thought to be linked to good mental health and making sound decisions.”
We don’t have to spend hours in self-reflection to see a great benefit to our spiritual wellbeing. Consider if there are 5-10 mins each day that you could set aside for you. Could you get up 10 minutes earlier or spend 10 minutes less on a TV show or social media? Whilst these other activities may seem like a nice way to ‘de-stress’, just taking a few minutes each day to listen inwardly, to become aware of emotions and thoughts can help you achieve self-awareness, providing opportunity to make positive changes in your behaviour, better deal with the challenges of life, increase your self-confidence and ultimately feel happier.
Here are some suggested activities to help increase self-awareness:
- Meditation – one of the best tools to promote self-awareness. When you meditate, you assess what is happening inside (emotions, thoughts) and outside (present situation, the actions of others that affect you). We use the guided meditations apps Headspace (Amy) and Calm (James) but there are lots of free guided meditations on platforms such as YouTube.
- Conscious breathing – if meditation sounds to ‘woo woo’ for you, how about taking some time to just focus on your breath. Focusing on the breath can relax the mind and spirit while helping you overcome anxiety and negative thoughts. It helps you become more aware of your body as you focus on nothing besides the breath entering and leaving your body. We find this also a great way to help us drift off to sleep at night.
- Yoga – although there are many physical benefits to practicing yoga, the benefits of yoga reach far beyond your physical body. Yoga can help you work through psychological changes, emotional stress, and connect with a higher power as well. The word yoga translates to union and when practiced correctly, the mind, body, and spirit of a person can become aligned. Amy has an (almost) daily home practice following Yoga with Adriene and when she can, she attends a class at the local leisure centre.
- Set goals – having goals (personal and or professional) helps you to focus on your purpose and direction. For each larger ‘life’ goal, break it down into smaller attainable goals that you can achieve along the way. Write your goals down and aim to make progress towards them every week – crossing them off as they are achieved to have a visible record of your accomplishment and progress. Make sure the goals are realistic and something you can achieve within a timeframe. The more specific the goal is, the easier it will be for you to find the actions you need to take to achieve it.
- Journaling – simply writing down whatever comes into your head. Journaling is a record of your thoughts, feelings and events in your life. If you like to keep your journals it can also allow you to look back on events that occurred, how you felt at the time and see how you have developed since. If you find it hard to know what to write, try these prompts to get you started
- What makes you smile?
- What activities spark you/lose track of time?
- When do you feel content?
- What makes you feel good about yourself?
You could also try including your gratitude practice with journaling and end your journal with 3 things you are grateful for that day.
5. Enjoy the here and now
A great strength of lagom is mindfulness – non-judgemental awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness helps you to accept the things you can not change. Through living mindfully and with intention, you can build trust in your experiences and encourage authentic living.
The future and the past are not in your control. It is good to have goals for the future and to take small daily actions to achieve those goals, but there is no point in worrying about the future as we truly don’t know what it has in store. If you were asked in 2015 where you would be in 5 years, who would have predicted that we would be living through a global pandemic which has de-railed so many plans for some and opened opportunities for others.
Holding on to grudges and past negative experiences is only going to affect your peace of mind. Learn to forgive (yourself and others) and let go of the past. It can be useful to apply a growth mindset when thinking about the past. Don’t take things that didn’t go to plan as failings, but instead take the opportunity to reflect on what you’ve learnt and how you can do things differently next time.
Aim to live in the present – make peace with your past and don’t try to control the future – you’ll find that you will be living in a place of acceptance.