What does Spirituality have to do with health?
After years of nursing practice and personal experience my health care philosophy has shaped itself to include spirituality as an essential component of health and wellness. I’ve spent most of my career working with Aboriginal people and had been introduced to the Medicine Wheel teachings. But it wasn’t until I started my own wellness journey that I realized the importance of spirituality as a component of overall health and wellness.
The Aboriginal teachings of the Medicine Wheel believe that health and wellness require balance in the four directions which include emotional, mental, physical and spiritual dimensions. When there are imbalances, we get symptoms in one or multiple areas. When people struggle with anxiety, they rarely present to me saying “I’m anxious”, they generally complain of chest pain, dizziness or palpitations. Chronic pain sufferers can describe feelings of low mood, hopelessness, insomnia, or poor appetite which can all be indications of depression.
When we only focus on physical symptoms and ignore the other dimensions, we are not helping our patients in their journey to wellness. They will continue to live in a state of illness, never fully resolving patient concerns. I've experienced this personally and seen it professionally more times than I can count.
My journey to health and wellness has been a humbling experience and one that has made me realize that if I only use the medical model as my healthcare philosophy, I’d never achieve wellness, nor would my patients. The medical model is a diagnostic approach that uses symptoms to identify physical injuries or illnesses. It supports the idea of dualism of health or illness and focuses on patient’s weakness or deficiencies versus a patient’s abilities and strengths. It also places the medical system on a pedestal where it is powerful and all knowing, undermining patient empowerment and input into the plan of care (Swaine, 2011).
I learned quickly that to achieve health and wellness I needed maintain balance in the four directions. This is a never-ending task which is why I refer to it as unmasking and evolving. I don’t think I’m alone with feeling like traditional medicine alone has failed me. But swinging to far the other way using only alternative medical therapies didn’t sit right with me either. I wanted to use both, but I felt a pull between the two, like two small children pulling me in opposite directions. I felt guilty for not committing to one or the other. I was embarrassed to share my beliefs with my physician colleagues, who would think I was bonkers for doing anything not backed by solid scientific evidence.
I think this is a relatable battle for most people. This podcast blog will use a very wholistic lens to approach health and wellness and it will include both tradition medical approaches as well as alternative therapies. The idea is to use all tools available to achieve wellness so that we can step into our power and live authentically.
Why is spiritual wellness important?
Spiritual health is the aspect of our well-being that focuses on the values, the relationships, and the meaning and purpose of our lives. Most people equate