Spiritual Wellness: Death

I tend to be the type of person that needs to listen to something to fall asleep. For the past few months, I put on an episode of Freaks and Geeks and fall asleep within the first 15 minutes of the show. I struggled sleeping last night as it was insanely hot in my apartment from it being almost 90 degrees outside yesterday. So as I was tossing and turning, I was listening to Freaks and Geeks and listening to Lindsey and Sam’s dad use the good old scare tactic approach to parenting. He kept telling them that he knew someone who had done a devious behavior and that person died “because” of it and it got me thinking…

Is death really a scare tactic? We don’t know anything is certain in life except death. Father time is unbeaten. You can go your entire life and live as healthy as possible and you will still die. Sure you can make arguments about your quality of life but to me that is a different discussion. When people say smoking will kill you and that’s why you shouldn’t smoke, is that really the best scare tactic to use? Because I could be sitting here typing up this blog post and could die at any moment or I could go out and sky dive and die. Sure there are things that can increase your chance of dying sooner but regardless of what you do in your life and how you live your life, you are still going to die.

It seems a bit morbid, doesn’t it, to talk about death? The one thing that every single human being experiences – all humans experience life and death and you could argue that those two things are our only true shared experiences in life. From a baby dying a moments after birth to an elderly person passing away peacefully and every single death in between. Once we are born, we are just passing time until we die. What you do with that time makes your life special and unique and I don’t want to make it seem like it doesn’t matter – it does. But death is inevitable. So why does Lindsey and Sam’s dad use it as a scare tactic? Why do we keep trying to outrun it? Why do we feel so scared by it? Why does talking about it seem so taboo?

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Spiritual Wellness: Passion

As I am typing this, a storm is rolling through. I love storms. When I know I’m missing a storm because I’m at work, my whole being just aches. I love the thunder rolling through, the cracks of lightening dancing across the sky, the feel of the air, the smell of rain. It’s weird because it wasn’t until I moved out to Kentucky for grad school that I really fell in love with storms. Sure I went storm chasing in Iowa, but in Kentucky, I fell in love with them. I let go of my fear of storms and started to appreciate the beauty that they bring. Obviously, the have the potential to bring destruction as well…but, I still can’t help but see the beauty in storms. The aftermath, not so much but during…

I’m not always sure how to write “Spiritual Wellness” posts because as I have said time and time again, I’m not religious. But last week at work I was listening to an amazing podcast from NPR:  Ted Radio Hour about success (it’s an old one, so if you are looking for it, you will have to go back a few months). It was amazing. Mike Rowe (the guy from Dirty Jobs) said something in his snippet of the podcast that felt so profound to me, that I wanted to share it, but I wasn’t sure the right context. Perhaps “Occupational Wellness” would have been more fitting…but I digress.

Mike was talking about the workers he meets on Dirty Jobs and that the people who seem the most happy and most successful in their lives aren’t the ones who followed their passions but are the ones that brought their passions with them in their lives. My little story above discusses how much I love storms, but I am never going to follow that love of storms into a career, but I bring my love and passion for storms in every state I live in and town I visit. I think that sometimes, especially for new professionals, it can be hard to land that dream job and so being able to bring your passion with you to your first job/career can help guide you instead of just following your passion.

This could all just be me. I was known in grad school for reading a theory or concept and just latching on to it and not being able to drop it. Sometimes I get tunnel vision when I read something that I relate to or have an opinion about.

What are your passions? Are you following your passions? Or bringing your passions with you?

Spiritual Wellness: Traveling

Spiritual blog posts on this blog won’t be like they would be on others. I’m not religious, at all. For me, experiences and endorphins tend to be my “religion”. One thing that I love so much is traveling and exploring new areas or getting to experience old memories. I love to travel and I love to just get lost in a city. Whether it is actually lost or just lost in the crowd. One of my favorite trips was an ~18 hour trip to NYC where I spent more time in airports than I spent in the city (not really, just felt that way). My sister and I had planned to meet up in the airport and take a taxi to the hotel we were staying in. She was in the city for business and invited me to tag along. My flight ended up getting cancelled so little small-town Vanessa, never been to NYC had to get a cab herself and get from La Guardia  to Times Square by herself.

But then, once I got to Times Square, I got to walk around and experience the city (and smells). And that’s an amazing high. And a trip full of experiences and memories that I will never forget.

New York Times posted an article of the 52 Places to Go in 2014 and while I won’t be going to near that many places or any of those places in 2014, it just gets me excited about future trips and brings back the memories of past trips. It also made me think that even if you aren’t going to all these 52 places, there are probably places that you can go near you to experience something new. I know in Kansas City, they just brought in a King Tut exhibition that I am eyeing up hardcore to go and visit.

What are some of your favorite trips that you have gone on? Favorite memories? Funny stories? Experiences that will be with you for a lifetime? (I for one will never forget the smell of Central Park in the summer…a lot like vomit and trash)

Spiritual Wellness: For Good.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I am working on a side consulting project. Last week, I had to express my religious views, which for those of you that don’t already know, I am not religious. By choice, I do not believe in a higher being or an all knowing force. (Read:  that absolutely does not mean that I do not respect those that have chosen to be religious. The overwhelming majority of my closest friends and family are religious.) One of my main hangups with religion and one that I have spoken about in great detail with religious friends is the sense of hypocrisy that seems to go with religion. “Love all…except this certain demographic”…it always feels like, to me, that someone or some group is getting persecuted because they aren’t in the “selected” group.

I find religion fascinating. Some of my favorite conversations are simply learning about religion and having respectful conversations about differing views. One of my nearest and dearest best friends is Mormon and I remember visiting her in Alaska and asking her and her now husband about their religion and just simply wanting to learn about it. Not because I was interested in becoming Mormon, but because I wanted to learn about her religion. I follow the Dalai Lama on twitter, not because I am Buddhist or interested in becoming Buddhist, but because I am fascinated by him and his religion and want to learn more. But at the same time, I cringe at the thought of placing my life in someone else’s hands. I see friends all the time with status updates about putting a decision in whoever they believe in’s hands.

The summer in between my freshman and sophomore year of undergrad, I took a few college classes at a community college. One of my classes was a psych class and almost immediately my professor recognized that I have a very strong internal locus of control (meaning I control my actions and what happens in life; my success are a direct result of the work that I have done). We actually took locus of control test in his psych class and when we finished, he immediately asked me what my score was. It was a 3. Low scores indicate an internal locus of control. Upon hearing my score he said, “I figured it was around that range.” (Side note:  apparently doctors tend to score in the 10 and under range for this) (also if you are interested in taking the survey, you can HERE)

The point of this is that, even though I find religion fascinating, I will never be a religious person, and that is ok. But respecting others that are religious is important. And I believe to my core that religion is something that should support good things and not something that people use to persecute others. But I know that’s not the case.

Spiritual Wellness: Find Your Way.

One of my first blog posts was on spiritual wellness and detailing how running is my way to hit the reset button on my day and find my calmness. Since then, I have not written about spiritual wellness because, much like social wellness, spiritual wellness is a topic that I often have “impostor” syndrome. I don’t know a lot about it and even though religion is a topic that fascinates me, I am not religious by any stretch of the imagination. I guess religion isn’t want fascinates me as much as people’s differing views of the world and how religion shapes that (if that makes sense).

So why am I writing a blog post about finding your way in spiritual wellness? Beats me, but sometimes I like to just start the conversation and see where it goes. Even though I’m not religious, I try to not be close minded about religion and respecting of those around me who chose to be religious (to an extent-I mean I’ll be respectful but please respect my decision to not be religious and don’t recruit me into your religion). I like to open those conversations but in away that doesn’t make someone feel like they are being attacked for having a belief or being laughed at/judged for having a belief that is different than mine. I’ll admit, I struggle with it. I come from a scientific background so sometimes it is hard for me to wrap my head around religion. (Uh, disclaimer, this post may just be me word vomiting all over the place…)

So, my question to you, is how did you find your way with spiritual wellness? Did you just grow up in the environment or did you chose the spiritual path as an adult? What factors went into your decision making process? Did you want to keep tradition alive (ex. everyone in your family is Christian, so you value family and tradition and you are Christian as well)? How do you approach someone who is of differing religion/faith/spirituality than you? Why do you keep in your religion/faith/spirituality? What keeps you active in it? What doesn’t?

So many questions. I’m a curious mind. I always have been. I like to pretend I’m still a 2 year old that always asks, “why”. And more than that, I have found that talking to individuals about their views on spirituality is more exciting than reading research on it.

Spiritual Wellness: What’s Faith Got to Do, Got to Do with It?

For some reason, I am all about reading articles this week…hopefully ya’ll enjoy a mix of personal posts and posts reflecting on either research or published articles. Today’s article that I found discusses the affect that faith can have on therapy. While I am not religious, I can see the parallels in faith and therapy. There tends to be a negative stigma that is attached to therapy and I can see how having a strong belief in a higher power could contribute to having belief in therapy. Dr. McCabe linked faith and therapy really with belief. It all stems from one’s attitude and it seems, from some of the research presented in this article, that when you have a strong belief in God (or any other deity) it can have a positive impact on one’s progress in therapy.

Dr. Rosmarin offered further explanation for why religious faith might aid psychiatric treatment. “There’s a vulnerability associated with physicality,” he said. “I think people, psychiatric patients in particular, might recognize that vulnerability and recognize that things can’t be counted on. “Sometimes medications don’t work, and sometimes psychotherapy doesn’t work,” he continued. “But if someone believes in something that is metaphysical, if someone believes in something spiritual, which would ostensibly be eternal, permanent, unwavering, omnipotent, then that could be an important resource to them, particularly in times of emotional distress.”

Obviously it is going to be hard to do extensive research with a good research design since you cannot just randomly assign participants to a faith/no faith condition and it depends on the strength of one’s faith as well as what one is in therapy for…there are just a great number of conditions that cannot be controlled for in this research, but it is an interesting concept.

What are your thoughts on faith and therapy? Do you think there is a link?

Spiritual Wellness: A Different Path

I’m quickly approaching Saturday which means that pre-race nerves have officially settled in and almost completely taken over my thoughts. I have butterflies, my heart is pounding, is that sweat?

I have to remind myself to calm down. This is just another half-marathon. This isn’t a job interview, it isn’t a huge presentation at work. It’s running. And I love running.

I have had this thought numerous times in my running life and it definitely was not thought up by me. A girl I used to be friends w/ on Facebook (but since deleted after going through a minimalism spree back in grad school to declutter EVERYTHING in my life) one time posted something about the trails being her church and the run being her sermon (or something along those lines). Every since then, I would re-frame my thinking on at least one run a week to make it be one that isn’t about pace or distance or time. It was about me having some quality time with the trail/road and just enjoying the run. Being able to center myself whether that means clearing my mind or thinking through whatever is on the plate stressing me out that week.

Some people go to church once a week to fulfill their spiritual wellness, I hit the trails with nothing more than maybe a good Pandora station.

ImageThis was from a “sermon” a couple weeks ago.

At least once a week, do something that helps you center yourself, helps your reset yourself, helps you feel at peace. Whether it is going to an actual church, hitting the trails, meditating…just do something that feeds that spiritual need.

Happy Friday!