The older I get, the more I find myself yearning for some kind of spiritual practice. I find myself wishing I had some kind of religious or spiritual practice or belief that helped me make sense of the world, gave me a feeling of connection and belonging as well as a higher purpose.
Spirituality–especially if you’re not religious–is a highly personal thing though. And even a solo practice you do at home can be quite beneficial to your spiritual wellbeing. It can keep you centered, grounded, and optimistic.
Here is what my daily spiritual practice looks like. The best part? It takes just fifteen minutes!
What do I mean by “spiritual practice”?
What even is spirituality? And who cares if we practice it or not?
Spirituality is a pretty broad and variable term actually. What I mean when I talk about spirituality is a sense of being part of something bigger than ourselves. Spirituality is the belief in or understanding of the purpose or meaning of life, the human experience, or the entire universe. Like what the hell is all of this anyway and what the hell am I supposed to be doing?
Spirituality is having a sense of belonging, interconnectedness, love for the world and all mankind. All of these explanations help define spirituality (and probably religion to some extent).
The operative word here is actually “practice.”
When my therapist first suggested the daily spiritual practice that I will outline for you below, I was pretty skeptical. I had tried various forms of meditations, gratitudes, positive affirmations and the like in the past and never experienced life-altering results.
She insisted that I follow this simple meditation practice for at least thirty days before I knocked it. Even if I hated it and felt stupid doing it.
Because engaging in spiritual activities like meditation once in a while, or even a few times a week, just isn’t going to cut it. The results of meditation are cumulative, which means they must be done more frequently, regularly, and for a long period of time before you see any results.
And I hadn’t really been doing any one thing frequently, regularly, and for longer than a few days before giving up in frustration because I am the most impatient person in the world. (I want results and I WANT THEM NOW!)
So while a single meditation or prayer or yoga class might make you feel good (which is great!), it might not. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that it’s not working. It just takes awhile.
What are the benefits of a spiritual practice?
Here are some of the most commonly touted benefits of even a simple daily spiritual practice.
1. It can provide clarity amidst stresses, worries, and anxieties caused by the demands of our everyday lives.
2. It is a reassuring and uplifting constant in an otherwise hectic daily or weekly schedule.
3. It can help you feel grounded and find your center not only during your practice but whenever you feel thrown off or upset.
4. It guides you to see the bigger picture and focus on the more important things in life, like love, empathy, and gratitude, rather than minutiae that can waste our time and energy if we allow ourselves to ruminate.
5. You can gain some really profound spiritual insight and guidance that expands your horizons in ways you never imagined.
Here’s what my simple spiritual practice looks like
Here is my four-step spiritual practice that I do (virtually) every day:
- Inspirational reading – 5 minutes
- Daily gratitudes – 2.5 minutes
- Daily intentions – 2.5 minutes
- Mindfulness meditation – 5 minutes
Yup, fifteen minutes is all you need!
Step 1: Read an inspirational text for five minutes.
If you’re trying to add inspiration and positivity to your daily life, it makes perfect sense to me to read something positive and inspirational that will lift your spirits. It can be a self-help book (I will give you a list of my faves in a future post), poetry, anything joyful or funny, or a spiritual or religious text.
Of course, if you’re not a reader, audio books and podcasts could be wonderful for this step too.
Step 2: Write down three things you are grateful for.
The science behind the life-changing impact of gratitude is everywhere. Just google it and in addition to studies, articles, and blog posts, you will find gratitude journals, gratitude trackers, apps for your phone, and more.
One tip: Frame your gratitudes as positive statements instead of negative ones.
DO: I am grateful for our queen size bed and clean sheets that make sleep a luxurious blessing each night.
DON’T: I am grateful I’m not homeless and sleeping under a bridge somewhere.
I don’t mean to say that you should not be grateful that you are not homeless! It’s just that framing things positively is essential to cultivating a sense of empowerment and abundance. And gratitude is all-important for feeling more content, confident, and empowered.
Step 3: Write down up to three intentions for the day.
Intentions were tricky for me at first. Why? Because intentions are not goals, and that’s pretty much all an over-achiever like me has known all her life!
So, I repeat: Intentions are not goals.
Rather, intentions are mindsets or ways of feeling and being that you intend to demonstrate throughout your day (and life).
DO: I intend to be patient and compassionate toward my students today.
DON’T: I intend to grade at least ten papers today.
Ask yourself the following questions to help guide your intentions: What kind of person do you want to be today? How do you want to feel today?
I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s okay if you don’t perfectly embody your intention that day. I have had days where my intention was to be kind and affectionate toward my husband and I snapped at him before I even got out of bed.
If you act out of accordance with your intention, take notice that you acted in a way that goes against your intention, apologize if necessary, and do better next time.
Step 4: Do a five-minute mindfulness meditation.
There are various types of meditation, and mindfulness meditation is probably the least glamorous and least new-agey one out there.
But, it is also the one that studies show can reduce –sometimes even dramatically–anxiety, depression, and other stress-related illnesses.
So, what is mindfulness meditation? Simply put, you sit and notice your breath. You don’t change or control your breath. You just notice the natural ebb and flow of it.
When thoughts inevitably distract you, simply notice them without judgment. Then, revert your attention to your breath.
Now, as soon as my dog hears me say, “Hey Siri, set a timer for five minutes,” he bounds into the room and plops down on the couch next to me until I’m done.
Feel free to tweak this practice to fit your needs.
Religious devotees, or even those brought up with organized religion who don’t necessarily practice anymore, may scoff at the idea of a DIY spiritual practice. But that’s actually the best part of it, I think! Each of us has our own specific spiritual needs: some of us need a congregation or community; others of us need to hear or read advice or inspiring words to guide us through our days; still others need simply to hold space in their hectic lives for a few moments of silent meditation or prayer. Spirituality is not one-size-fits-all!
So, there are many ways you can play around with this fifteen-minute spiritual practice to make it truly your own.
For starters, perhaps you’d like to do it first thing in the morning before breakfast, as a morning ritual. I would personally love to create this habit, but I’m kind of awful in the mornings to be honest, so that’s been difficult for me!
I mentioned before that if you’re not a book person, you can take the first five minutes of this spiritual practice to listen to an inspirational podcast or watch a motivational video or TED talk. The idea is to lift your spirits and put a positive spin on the day, so if reading is going to ruin that, don’t do it!
As for the end of this routine, five minutes is kind of the bare minimum length of time for a meditation practice, so I am working my way up to a twenty-minute meditation to round out my daily practice. If you’re a total beginner who can’t sit still for longer than a minute, start with one minute! Who cares? Aint nobody here to judge. As you get better at bringing your attention back to your breath every time a thought floats in to distract you from it, extend the time.
I also considered adding some movement to my spiritual practice, like starting with a morning walk or some sun salutations to get my blood flowing. If you’re a more active person, that might be a good idea!
Just keep it simple!
The possibilities for designing your own spirtual practice are endless. So, my final advice–which I definitely needed myself–is to KEEP. IT. SIMPLE. Three or four components is PLENTY. You want it to be simple so that you can cultivate the habit of doing it every day. If you design a beautiful yet complex routine that takes an hour to complete, you’re probably not going to do it regularly! And that’s the whole point.
With that in mind, let me know how you choose to take this spiritual recipe and run with it!
Well, what are the results? Do I feel any different?
I’ve been doing this meditation daily for about two months now. Full disclosure: I missed about seven days in that time period (e.g., I had family over so I forgot, I was on my period and I hated everybody and everything and could not bring myself to do anything remotely nice, etc.). That’s still a pretty good run for me though!
Here are some changes I have noticed since adopting this basic daily spiritual practice:
- I feel good about being able to stick to something. I’m proud of my commitment and self-discipline!
- I flake on obligations and social functions less frequently, even when I feel overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed, which is a pretty big deal for me! Just ask any of my friends.
- My husband says that I am more resilient in times of stress. I haven’t flipped out in situations that he thought were sure to cause a meltdown. I’ll take that!
So, are you considering giving this a try? Have any questions?
Or do you have a spiritual or meditation practice already? What has or hasn’t worked for you?