I recently attended the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Working Stronger conference and although there were many highlights, one conversation is stuck on repeat in my mind. It’s like that pop song you hear on the radio and can’t stop singing for days. The group was reflecting on spiritual wellness and how, despite it being a critical dimension of wellness, it’s often left out of conversations around creating healthy workplace cultures. It’s almost as though there’s a fear of even talking about it. This got me thinking that perhaps there’s more to this than just a catchy chorus.
I think this topic struck a chord because I have a pretty solid spiritual practice—outside of work, that is. Just as the group at the conference discussed, there have been many times I’ve felt uncertain about how to integrate aspects of my practice and attend to my spiritual wellness at work too. After reflection and contemplation, I’ve realized that perhaps it isn’t all that complicated. In fact, we may be tending to our spiritual wellness more than we think.
What is Spirituality?
I found it helpful to revisit definitions of spirituality with a specific lens on how it may translate into the workplace. Spirituality is a broad concept with room for multiple perspectives. A good general description is that it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves and, typically, it involves a search for meaning in life. I particularly like this as it echoes characteristics of resiliency noted in the Harvard Business Review. Both spirituality and resilience are highly personal and universal experiences. It’s the ripple effect of these experiences that contribute to the environments and the cultures we’re a part of.
Pause, Reflect and Connect
Creating new habits takes patience and humility. Just like making changes to your eating habits or starting a new workout routine, simple always wins. Small, consistent practices can have profound effects on both ourselves and our efforts toward fostering healthy workplace cultures.
Here are a few ways I’ve succeeded in bringing spirituality to work:
- Practice presence. What if we functioned from a place of believing that we are exactly where we need to be at each moment? Try leaving your phone, to-do list, etc. at the door during your next meeting and fully engage with the people and the conversation. You might actually find that you leave feeling more creative, inspired and less stressed. Research shows that we’re actually terrible at multi-tasking. The more we can tend to one task at a time, the more our productivity and sense of accomplishment increases.
- Being versus doing. Contemplative practice can have widespread effects not only towards spirituality but on physical and emotional health as well. Take time to pause, breathe and check in with yourself. Journaling and meditation—or just stopping to take five deep breaths between tasks—can be great tools to support this practice. Reflecting on the idea of ‘how am I being?’ can bring insight and compassion to your interactions and behaviours.
- Trust the process. This is perhaps the most helpful and aggravating advice I have ever received! As someone who ‘appreciates’ a good amount of control and knowing what to expect, surrendering does not come easy; however, I do truly believe that things happen for a reason. Knowing when to let go and trust in something bigger to sort out the details can help you focus on the elements where you, or your team, can make the most impact. Learning when to trust and roll with what happens is a core contributor to healthy, resilient individuals and organizations.
- Connect. Seek connection through nature or music. Spending time outside can reduce stress levels and improve connections with others. Taking a walk at lunch or after work can be a great way to notice the synergy at play in nature. Likewise, whether it’s listening to an album or playing an instrument, music has been shown to incite feelings of connectedness, purpose and hope. Music can also be great when you just need to Shake it Off (guilty pleasure revealed).
While spirituality is one aspect of wellness that can be subtle in practice, the impact to who we are and how we work can be vast. Ultimately, it’s our collective behaviours that influence the culture within workplaces. So, I encourage you to get curious about how spirituality shows up in your work and at your workplace.