Spiritual Well-Being

What Is Spiritual Well-Being?

In general, well-being is more than the absence of disease or infirmity; it involves multiple physical, mental, and social factors (known as dimensions of wellness, often visually presented as a wheel or cycle). An individual’s health and quality of life can be adversely affected if one or more of these dimensions are neglected.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Spirituality means different things to different people; it is usually something that provides purpose and meaning to one’s life. It is how one connects with others and finds meaning within one’s self and through others. Spiritual well-being can be defined by one’s morals, values, beliefs, religious faith, and ethics. Without spiritual well-being, in some form or shape, total well-being will be hard to obtain. According to familydoctor.org, the spirit, mind, and body are connected and “the health of any one of these elements seems to affect the others.”  There is also some research showing that a person’s sense of well-being and beliefs are connected and that a person’s spiritual health may promote healing.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving spiritual well-being. Spiritual well-being may be enhanced by any of the following:

  • appreciating the arts and music
  • appreciating nature
  • attending a religious service
  • participating in community service or other form of volunteerism
  • practicing acceptance
  • practicing meditation
  • practicing mindfulness
  • practicing self-reflection
  • practicing yoga
  • praying
  • reading inspirational books
  • singing devotional songs

Assessing Spirituality and Spiritual Well-Being Offerings on Campus

While campus ministry is probably the first department/office that one thinks of when discussing spirituality, chances are that some, if not all, of the activities for achieving spiritual well-being may already be offered on campus through campus recreation, the health or wellness center, and other departments.

Duplication of services may be beneficial to students, as it may allow more flexibility for scheduling. There should be group as well as individual sessions for services such as meditation and mindfulness. Work collaboratively with other departments who offer various services. Keep in mind that massage may promote physical well-being but it can also contribute to spiritual well-being. Be open to programs targeted to other dimensions of well-being, as they are all interconnected.

Consider Additional Services

After reviewing well-being programs across campus, you may decide to start a new service at your health or wellness center or in collaboration with another department. Assess the financial impact and the need for additional resources, including new staff, equipment, and materials. Some programs may require little to no additional expenses. For example, it may be easy to set up space for a prayer/meditation/reading room at little-to-no cost. At the other end of the spectrum, a yoga class will usually require hiring a certified instructor or contracting with qualified individuals and purchasing yoga mats and other equipment. Refer to the article on “Establishing New Services” for more detailed information.

Promoting Spiritual Well-Being as a Part of Overall Health and Well-Being

Whether or not your health/wellness center or other campus department(s) offers spiritual well-being programs, your website should contain information about the subject. Include general information about well-being and spirituality, as well as links to resources where students can learn more about the topic. Be sure to reinforce that their spiritual well-being, or lack thereof, can impact their general health and well-being.

Provide a means for students to self-assess their spiritual well-being. This can be as simple as providing a few questions or a more complete survey or assessment with a scoring mechanism.  Open-ended questions can include the following:

  • What gives your life meaning and purpose?
  • What gives you hope?
  • How do you get through tough times? How do you find comfort?
  • Do you take time to relax during the day?
  • If you belong to a religious community, how do you connect with them?

Illinois State University and California State University, Fresno offer self-assessment tools that are quick, self-scoring, and designed to give the student insight into their spiritual health. They are not a substitute for any professional health or menthal health assistance that a student may need.

Offer programs designed to promote spiritual and the other dimensions of well-being.  Programs may be offered o-line, individually, or in a group or classroom setting, as appropriate.  Illinois State University offers a program titled “Live Well with Eight at State” which is an incentive program for participation. In addition to in-person offerings, o-line classes such as UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) I for Daily Living may be useful. The web is an excellent source for discovering guided meditations; some are even free. Mindful.org lists the “The Top 10 Guided Meditations 0f 2018.” There are also many apps available, such as Calm, which is free for teachers through the Calm School Initiative.

Incorporating Well-Being into the Design of Facilities and Wellness Space

Your facility should be conducive to the type of wellness/well-being services offered. For example, a room for prayer or meditation should be located in a space that allows one to tune into oneself and to enjoy the experience. Consider locating these types of services away from a busy main corridor. Lighting in the area should further enhance one’s experience (e.g., low wattage table or floor lamps rather than overhead fluorescent lighting). Natural light is also conducive to mindfulness. A labyrinth designed within a quiet garden space may offer solace and inner peace. The University of Maryland labyrinth is a part of its Garden of Reflection and Remembrance. The University of South Carolina has a space titled “C.A.L.M. Oasis Space” for mindfulness and meditation options.

Established Campus Spiritual Well-Being Information and Programs

The following are some examples of campus spiritual well-being programs:

University of California, Davis: Spiritual Wellness

University of Northern Iowa: Spirituality & Your Health 

University of North Carolina: Student Wellness Spiritual Module 

Iowa State University: Spiritual Wellness 

Salisbury University: Spiritual Wellness