I find that the stresses associated with the holiday season can often make it easy to focus on the things that drive me crazy about this time of year. The never-ending line ups, the throngs of cranky people, and an increased level of expectation placed on consumers that seems to run counter-intuitive to the ‘spirit’ of the season.
The real challenge at this time of year is not surviving the mall or a weekend with the in-laws, but instead, in reflecting on the true meaning of what that ‘holiday spirit’ signifies for each of us. For many, the holidays are a time closely associated with religious beliefs and traditions, and these often shape seasonal practices. For others, it may simply be a time to connect with family and friends or to get some much needed rest. Personally, though I am not particularly religious, I have always felt a very deep connection to something larger than myself, especially at this time of year.
It can be difficult to distinguish religion from spirituality, especially since these terms can mean something different to each individual. An article in the Journal of Advance Nursing provides the following definition:
“Spirituality is an inherent component of being human, and is subjective, intangible, and multidimensional. Spirituality and religion are often used interchangeably, but the two concepts are different. Spirituality involves humans’ search for meaning in life, while religion involves an organized entity with rituals and practices about a higher power or God. Spirituality may be related to religion for certain individuals, but for others, it may not be.”
Spiritual health is an integral component to our overall wellbeing; however, we often avoid talking about it because of how deeply individual and personal our spiritual beliefs can be. Spiritual factors can benefit our health through positive impacts on health behaviours, increased social support, and a sense of control and self-efficacy.
I like to think of spirituality as the ability to discover meaningfulness in our lives through happiness and self-awareness. Are we open to new experiences? Do we take time out to be grateful for what we have? Do we try our best to be non-judgmental? Do we reflect on how we treat others? Are we connected to our beautiful natural surroundings? The UBC Live well to learn well site provides a wonderfully open definition to spirituality: “take the time to discover more about yourself by writing in a journal, playing music, or painting as a way to let the creative juices flow and become more comfortable with yourself. Community involvement and volunteering are also great ways to foster spiritual growth.”
This December, I invite you to reflect on what the holidays mean to you personally. What is this time really about? Are you using it in the most productive way? For me, the holidays are a time to heal and to restore a part of myself that has perhaps been forgotten over the course of the year. I welcome the holidays, as I use this time as an opportunity to restore my faith in humanity, to allow me to slow down, and to remind me that there is hope and light and good in the world.
Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season.
All my best,
Tanyi, R. A. (2002), Towards clarification of the meaning of spirituality. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 39: 500–509.
Thorense, C.E. (1999) Spirituality and health: is there a relationship? Journal of Health Psychology, May; 4(3):291-300.