Is spirituality the same as religion? And why do we need to work on our spiritual self-care quotient? Find out!
Summertime brings with it vacation and leisure time, the perfect time to learn a new hobby or spend time doing something you love. This month is all about how hobbies can help your self-care quotient. If you’re not convinced you need self-care, take the free assessment at the bottom of the page.
“It’s a beautiful day,” I told Eira as I looked at my weather app. “In fact, this will be the last sunny day for a week.”
She sighed and thumped her tail in response.
“I know,” I told her. “I’m talking out loud to a dog. That happens after spending a week with just you.”
She grinned knowingly.
“I wanted to get a lot of writing done today,” I said, “but we need to take advantage of the gorgeous blue skies. Let’s go on an adventure!”
Eira stood up and perked her ears, as if misbelieving my invitation to adventure. Once I made the decision, I felt no regret for playing hooky. I did doubt my ability to keep Eira on her leash, wrangle binoculars and camera, and hike all at once.
But I needed to get outside. I didn’t want to leave Eira in the house by herself all day, so she’d have to come along with me. If it turned out unmanageable, I could always go on a long drive and stop occasionally to bird while Eira ran around.
I had an itch only nature could scratch.
By 10 o’clock, Eira and I stood looking at the trailhead sign. “I don’t see any keep-your-dog-on-a-leash signs,” I told her. “You get to run around, and I’ll look for birds.”
She lolled her tongue and trotted off down the trail.
“Wait!” I called after her. “Don’t get lost, stay away from bears, and don’t fight with any other dogs.”
She gave a short howl.
As we moved down the trail, I gazed around in wonder. Lush greenery soaked everything around me. Tall, craggy peaks pushed out of the green carpet and reached towards the cerulean sky. Snowpacks marked the crevices and fed gurgling streams. Off to the right, a small valley sported a series of ponds and stick huts, courtesy of the beaver colony.
I breathed deeply and felt myself relax from the inside out. Whiffs of wildflowers tangled with the smell of green. Off in the distance, a hoary marmot whistled in alarm. My breathing became a rhythm of stress out, beauty in. I expelled the hurts and failures of the past year and inhaled the beauty of Creation. Creation only a creative God could imagine.
What started out as a day of playing hooky turned into a day of quiet worship and wonder. I sang fragments of praise and worship songs as I hiked. Not because I have a beautiful voice, but because they poured out of me. Bear scat on the trail helped confirm my choice to sing, even if I couldn’t remember all the lyrics or sing a song from beginning to end.
What IS a Spiritual Self-Care Quotient?
According to Louise Delagran, MA, Med, “Spirituality is about seeking a meaningful connection with something bigger than yourself, which can result in positive emotions, such as peace, awe, contentment, gratitude, and acceptance.”
All humans have a spiritual element, but we all feed it in different ways (or ignore it altogether). While they share similarities, spirituality and religion aren’t the same. Religion seeks to define morality and the choices we make as humans. Unfortunately, religion often gets caught up in rules and regulations to the exclusion of relationships and common sense.
To improve our spiritual self-care quotient, we need to spend time thinking about the bigger picture. In our homes, jobs, or relationships, we can narrow our focus so much we forget we aren’t God. We forget our needs, our requirements, our way of doing things represents one of many acceptable ways to live.
The little picture demands our focus, and we forget to take time to step back and acknowledge the bigger picture. We play one small part in the universe. If we want to improve our spiritual self-care quotient, we need to take time to acknowledge both our significance and our insignificance.We need to take time to acknowledge both our significance and our insignificance. #spirituality #selfcare Click To Tweet
That sense of significance/insignificance can come to us at any time, in any place. But for me, it happens most in nature. I’ve felt it while mountain biking through the red spires in Sedona, rappelling down a waterfall in North Caroline, or standing on a mountainside in Alaska.
Occasionally, I get the feeling in church—usually during the praise service.
Maybe this explains why I believe we can improve our spiritual self-care quotient by choosing outdoor hobbies.
Hacks to Help You Find Outdoor Hobbies
Outdoor hobbies not only provide opportunities to get blue or green exercise, but opportunities to experience awe, gratitude, and wonder. Whether you snorkel in a reef, hike in the rain, or walk around your neighborhood at sunrise, you have the opportunity to clear your soul and think deep thoughts.
1. What if I Hate Going Outside?
I get it. If I lived in Oklahoma, I’d have a rough time going outside because of the heat, humidity, and chiggers. But when I visited Oklahoma, the benefits of forcing myself outdoors outweighed the desire to sit next to the air conditioner all day.
Make a list of what holds you back and another list of possible benefits. When I visited Oklahoma, the chiggers and heat made me want to stay inside, but the possibility of finding a Prothonotary Warbler or a Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher outweighed the anticipation of discomfort.
Don’t fall for the narrative of inactivity or, “I couldn’t do ___ because ______” (you fill in the blank). One year, I passed an amazing hiker near the bottom of the Grand Canyon. A birth defect had given him extremely short legs and he needed crutches to move.
The more opportunities we give ourselves to encounter wonder and awe, the more we will nurture our spiritual self-care.
2. What if I Live in the City?
Cities have green spaces, too. Find a botanical garden and focus on the wonder of a butterfly’s wings or the intricate action inside a flower. Use the macro setting on your camera or take along a magnifying glass. Who knows? Macro photography may turn into a satisfying hobby for you.
Put out a bird feeder and watch who shows up. For the past decade, a Red-Tailed Hawk pair has nested on towers next to an athletic field at Cornell University. Thousands of fans watch the bird cams and follow along during each nesting season. You can find birds everywhere—even cities.
Start by exploring your local parks (the Oh, Ranger! app can help you find parks all over the United States). If we look, we can find awe-inspiring things anywhere in Nature.
3. Schedule in Green Time
If you haven’t made a habit or a hobby out of spending time outdoors, any time is a great time to start. But if you don’t schedule it, you might struggle to get outdoors. Remember to schedule in the big things first, and all the little things will fit into the nooks and crannies.
Schedule time outside daily. Even ten minutes in the fresh air will help. Aim for spending an hour or more outdoors on the weekends. Go for a hike, take a photo walk, or rollerblade in a park. If you have kids, enlist their input and take them along, too.
Take advantage of the National Parks system and plan yearly trips to a National Park. Buy a blank journal and stamp it at each visitor’s center and journal about what awe-inspiring things you saw while there. National Forests, state land, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land also provide amazing places to explore.
Growing up, my parents blessed me with hundreds of camping, backpacking, and bicycling adventures. You can do the same for your kids or grandkids. The time together in nature will not only provide opportunities for developing your spiritual self-care quotient, but it will also create memories and family lore for years to come.
4. Snap a Photo
When you go out in nature, carry along a camera—whether you use the one on your cell phone or a fancy DSLR doesn’t matter. Take photos of awe-inspiring scenes and keep them in a folder on your phone. Looking at the photos later will bring back the awe, gratitude, and wonder of the moment.
What About You?
Whether you go for a hike with a four-legged family member or your toddler, remember to make time for outdoor hobbies if you want to improve your spiritual self-care quotient.
I’d love to hear from you! What awe-inspiring places have you visited? Do you have any unique or unusual outdoor hobbies that nurture you spiritually?