Tell me something…how is the health of your spirit?
These days we so deeply understand physical hygiene to support our health and the health of those around us. Wash your hands. Six feet apart. Coughing? Stay home.
We’ve gone to great measures on this front. Masks are becoming more fashionable. Hand sanitizer is at the front of every store. The social distanced air-hug is the new awkward goodbye.
We are physical hygiene warriors.
But what about the health of our spirit?
Are you also practicing your spiritual hygiene?
Don’t be that kid. Make your hygiene a priority for the benefit of yourself and everyone around you!
Here are 9 ways to start caring for the health of your spirit right now (and yes, these can all be practiced at a safe distance!)
1. Turn off the news – You are not a bad citizen if you decide to not watch ALL OF THE NEWS. There is an endless supply of news at our fingertips – newspaper, TV, car radio, social media; it is up to us to decide how much to consume. Do you eat the whole bag of potato chips or one serving? Do you eat them every day or just on some days? When you do eat the whole bag, how do you feel? Heavy and bloated? Is that a great way to start your day? Is that a great way to prepare yourself for sleep? Apply these principles to your news consumption.
Pick a day each week to go 100% news free or limit your daily consumption to one small serving. Try to avoid the news as the very first or very last thing you do with your day. Our nervous systems are not designed to deal with this much constant low grade stress – see point #2.
2. Shift into parasympathetic mode on a regular basis – We are equipped to deal with tigers. They appear, we shift into fight-or-flight mode, we fight or flee accordingly, the tiger is no longer a threat, we rest. When our “tiger” is the constant stress of a pandemic during an election year in the middle of intense race riots while your family is suddenly home with you and you’re not getting your alone time – there is no rest period. It’s a tiger that won’t go away, and that stress takes a huge toll on our health (physical, mental, emotional AND spiritual!) When that rest period doesn’t happen naturally, it’s up to us to make it happen. Teach yourself to do this, teach your kids to do this – make it as much a part of your daily hygiene as popping a breath mint or slapping on extra deodorant when you’re stinky.
When you’re stressy? Do this: take a deep breath all the way down into your belly – put your hand on your belly and make sure you feel your belly expand as you inhale and gently contract as you exhale. Don’t just breathe shallowly up in the chest, as this creates more anxiety. Deepen that breath, lengthen it out, and slow it down – then do that 10 times. Goodbye, tigers!
3. Connect to your intuition – “It was just a hunch,” “I had a gut feeling,” “A mother’s intuition always knows,” “I don’t know how I knew, I just knew,” “I get a bad vibe from him,” “I was JUST thinking about you before you called!” Our intuition happens outside of logic, reasoning or even feeling. We often attach logic or feeling to our intuitions in order to make better sense of them, but this deep inner knowing happens on such an instinctual level that it’s sometimes easy to ignore this source of wisdom all together.
And it’s especially hard, or even impossible, to connect to our intuition when we’re in that stressed fight-or-flight mode. Even more reason to make time to shift into the parasympathetic “rest and digest” mode every day!
Just imagine having a source of deep wisdom that’s always there with your best interest in mind, helping to guide you through tough decisions and challenging times in your life…well, you do! Slow down, get quiet, and listen.
4. Make time for creative pursuits – It turns out that creativity and intuition share some things in common. When we slow down and get quiet enough to hear our intuition, we also shift into the same state that helps to increase our creative thinking. Creativity isn’t just for some of us; we all have a creative lifeforce inside of us. Our souls long to create. Sometimes we fill this void by creating more life (children!) and then we teach the children how to create and we forget about ourselves. What do you long to create? A painting? A business? A cake? What is inside of you that is banging on the door of your skinsuit to get out? Words? Pictures? Art? Movement? Dance? Song? Ideas? Inventions? Culinary creations? There is something there, I promise you.
There are no rules or right or wrong ways to create. If it’s been awhile, think back to what you loved to create as a child and start there. My childhood best friend Nicole and I were serial entrepreneurs. We were always coming up with some weird new business, club, or nonprofit! When I finally began to create my own adult business a few years ago I felt myself tapping into this intense stream of creativity and felt compelled to birth this thing into the world.
What do you long to bring into this world? Turn off the news, spend some time in quiet, connect to your intuition and maybe you’ll find out! Then, go create.
5. Reconnect with your inner child – Just as we give our children plenty of space and encouragement to express their creativity, we also give them plenty of space and encouragement to play. But as adults, we tend to forget about this. Our inner child is that part of us that is still believes in – or wants to believe in – wonder, and magic, and joy. What did you have to leave behind in childhood in order to “grow up,” “become responsible,” and “get on with real life?” What is it that you LOVED more than anything? A holiday? A food? A feeling? Staring at the clouds? Doing cartwheels? Traveling to exotic locales in your mind or living room? In addition to starting businesses, I was obsessed with unicorns. I decorated my room with giant purple unicorn posters, shelves of unicorn figurines, and this beloved unicorn wallpaper border that circled the top of my walls.
Then, at some point in time, I forgot about them completely. Until one day, decades later, they started to reappear. The hubs bought me a unicorn picture from a thrift store, my childhood bestie sent me a unicorn birthday card, a new-old friend sent me unicorn tattoos in the mail. The piece de resistance was a routine shopping trip to Target with the hubs that ended in a mad spree through the children’s section from which I am now the proud owner of two sparkly unicorn shirts, one unicorn skirt, and a pair of unicorn flip flops.
What whimsical delight does your inner child miss? How could you bring some of that wonder, magic and joy back into your life?
6. Practice gratitude and joy – Let’s make this even simpler…since gratitude is the direct pathway to joy, all you really have to do is practice gratitude. Let the joy follow on its own! Gratitude is like a muscle, the more you work it, the stronger and more natural it becomes. But you do have to work it. I recommend a gratitude journal or jar. The basics: get a tiny journal so it’s not daunting. Aim to write in it most days. If using a jar, all you need is the jar and some scraps of paper or post-its. What to write: one sentence, a couple sentences, a single word OR make a list or draw a picture. About what exactly? Anything good that happened that day, no matter how small or insignificant it seems. Anything you’re celebrating, no matter how minor. Anything you love in your life, people, places, things, animals. Something you like about yourself, even if feels a little silly or vain. That’s it. Do it regularly for a month and then assess, see how you feel about your life and the world.
Best time to start it? Like, right now. Seriously, you don’t need this practice when everything is going really well, you need it like crazy when everything is falling apart. The Full Moon is energetically a perfect time for expressing gratitude and celebrating the good in our lives – fresh off the heals of Thursday’s Full Moon, you’re perfectly aligned to kickoff this new practice.
7. Acknowledge feelings as sacred messengers from your soul – Um, what from the who? You’re not alone if emotions feel foreign, dauntingly messy, or generally unnecessary. Collectively as a culture we are not great at emotions. Many of our leaders do not model emotional intelligence for us. Most of us didn’t grow up with instruction in this field. But individually you can be great! The awesome thing about emotional intelligence is that we can learn these skills at any time and can significantly raise our EQ simply by having a desire to do so (and then doing so). Where to start? Start with a practice of emotional awareness that grounds you into your physical body. At least once a day, pause wherever you are and do a body scan. Are my shoulders tense? Are my palms sweaty? Does my stomach feel heavy? Is my chest tight? Is my jaw clenched? Look for any and all clues in your physical body – in the form of physical sensations – that might help to clue you in to your emotional state.
Emotional awareness is beginning to be aware of everything we are feeling in every moment. Not just the pleasant sensations, but the unpleasant ones, too. We start to move out of our head and that intellectual place of logic, rationale, practicalities and into a space of remembering that we are feeling beings as well.
Gary Zukav says at the beginning of his book The Heart of the Soul: “the longest journey that you will make in your life is from your head to your heart.” The longest, and perhaps one of the most important. At least once a day make it a practice to stop and ask, what am I feeling right now?
8. Spend less time on social media – Escape from the echo chamber of social media and have a conversation with someone who doesn’t share your exact set of beliefs. Let it be about learning and getting to know someone’s story, and sharing yours as well. The new documentary on Netflix called The Social Dilemma points out how we’re getting so used to everyone agreeing with us on social media (if they don’t agree we can just remove them from our consciousness with one click) that we’re becoming more and more intolerant of anyone that disagrees with us. As if our culture isn’t already polarized enough, here’s a tool for dividing us even deeper. When we talk to real humans in our lives, we have the opportunity to get to know them as individual beings, not as members of some opposing group.
I love this quote from Paulo Coelho: “When I read about clashes around the world – political clashes, economic clashes, cultural clashes – I am reminded that it is within our power to build a bridge to be crossed. Even if my neighbor doesn’t understand my politics, he can understand my story. If he can understand my story, then he’s never too far from me. It is always within my power to build a bridge.”
9. Turn off the dang news. Yes it’s worth repeating!
Send me a note and tell me which one of these you’re excited to integrate into your life, I love to hear from you!
Are you needing some Spiritual Hygiene 101 in your life these days? Check out a Yin Yoga + Mindfulness Meditation class – 2 left in the fall session! Get some time away from the news and the socials, learn the skills for shifting into parasympathetic “rest and digest” mode with ease, and enjoy plenty of time for tapping into your intuition, your feelings, and your gratitude!
Here’s to proudly practicing our hygiene in more ways than one!
Sending love and whimsical delight (sparkly unicorn shirts optional…but encouraged).
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