Have you been screened lately for spiritual wellness? Most of us haven’t. Our wellness checkups and screening tests tend to focus on physical health, with maybe some attention to mental health. Our health maintenance plans tend to do the same.
But what about spiritual health? Is there such a thing? Is there a way to measure it? I’ve been asking myself these questions lately and did an Internet search looking for answers. I discovered that defining or describing “spiritual health” comes with challenges, as the term tends to be quite ambiguous. But there really is something called spiritual health, and scales have been developed for assessing it.
Seeking Spiritual Fitness
There are also ways to strengthen our spiritual selves. That’s basically what I was looking for. I wasn’t really interested in an academic description of spiritual health or a summary of related research. I wanted something that would offer some guidance on how to become more spiritually fit. I also wanted something to help me assess my current spiritual health status.
While I found several different types of spiritual health surveys, I decided to develop an assessment tool of my own—one that reflects my own understanding and priorities about spirituality. The survey I developed has just ten items, allowing me to complete the assessment in about five minutes or less. The next step takes a little longer, however, as it involves the development of a spiritual wellness plan.
A Plan for Spiritual Health
I think of a spiritual wellness plan as a prevention measure for spiritual health. For physical health, I sometimes measure my weight or take blood pressure readings. For mental health, I assess my social connections and outlook on life. If things seem “not quite right,” I make adjustments accordingly. I may choose to eat differently, exercise more, or find ways to broaden my social connections.
[Read: “Spirituality, Mental Health, and Therapy: The Mind-Body-Spirit Connection.”]
Finding ways to address any concerns after completing my spiritual health assessment usually requires a bit more thought. It helps to realize that there are no right or wrong ways to go about this. For example, at one point during the height of the COVID pandemic, I gave myself a rating of 1 for where I stood with question #10 on the survey (see below to download). COVID-related restrictions made it difficult to spend time with people who share my values and beliefs. I felt isolated and frustrated. I found this to be both mentally and spiritually draining.
Since I had no control over the social-distancing restrictions, I looked for other ways to connect with like-minded people. Zoom conferencing was helpful but lacking in the richness and comfort of face-to-face interaction. I thus decided to increase the frequency and depth of phone and email conversations with people I’ve come to know as soulmates. This helped; I felt spiritually nurtured by these interactions.
Spiritual Health Assessment Tool
The spiritual health assessment isn’t something I use every day or even every week. I generally feel comfortable about knowing where I stand with different items on the survey. I do find it helpful, however, to go back to the scale every now and then.
I know that spiritual health—like physical or mental health—can fluctuate over time. I expect changes and want to make adjustments before I feel myself spiraling downward in one or more of the spiritual health indicators. Achieving a perfect score in every indicator of spiritual health isn’t something I anticipate. That expectation would probably be an indicator of delusional thinking.
For anyone interested in using a spiritual health assessment, I’d like to offer the following tips:
- Develop or adapt a spiritual health assessment that works for you. Limit the indicators to no more than ten.
- Record the date each time you complete an assessment. This will give you a sense of how your spiritual health changes over time.
- After completing an assessment, develop a plan for addressing one or two (not more!) of the areas where you scored low. Why assess your spiritual health if you’re not interested in improving it?
- Don’t expect your spiritual health assessment or plan to provide a complete picture of your spiritual fitness. Spirituality really isn’t about assessments, scores, or plans. It’s about awesomeness and mystery. Attention to your spiritual health through assessments and plans may deepen your experience of this awesomeness and mystery.