What is Spiritual Fitness?
I was caught off guard recently when I was listening to someone, probably on YouTube, and them mentioning 'spiritual fitness.' I have heard the term years prior, but never really gave it the thought that it deserved. I wasn't in a place in my spiritual journey where something like spiritual fitness would become a hot-button item. Well, now I am! I figured if the idea of spiritual fitness can open my mind as much as it has, maybe others are feeling the same way and could benefit from me putting my thoughts on paper. First, let's take a quick look at spiritual fitness and what pieces make it up. In broad terms, spiritual fitness is the practice of actions that strengthen your feelings of meaning, connectedness to a higher power, and purpose in your life. In this instance we mean your connectedness to the Lord and the purpose of living a life in Jesus' footsteps.
While most who know of spiritual fitness can leave the definition at that, I personally think there are more pieces to it. I believe to reach your potential fitness within your own spirit, two other things have to be true. You have to understand your physical fitness and where it plays into your life, and you have to have a grasp on your mental fitness to ground yourself in your truths. In the following few sections, I will break down these ideas and do my best to show you how physical fitness and mental fitness lift up our spiritual fitness. And how all three combined can lead you to a more meaningful, connected, and purposeful life.
Physical fitness and how it relates to spiritual fitness
Coming out and saying that physical fitness goes hand in hand with spiritual fitness has the potential to be a controversial statement. Let me first explain what I actually mean when I say physical fitness. I do not mean running a marathon every week, lifting Olympic medal-type amounts of weight, or trying to win a Crossfit competition. I know that almost everyone cannot do that because of age, physicality, time commitment, or any multitude of reasons. What I mean is more of the average person’s view of physical fitness, like going for a walk or a hike, hitting the gym for an hour a few times a week, playing a round of golf, riding your bike with your kids, or cutting firewood. I hope I am making sense.
Now, here is how physical and spiritual fitness, joined together, makes sense to me and sparks my interest to learn more about it. Take a second and think about yoga. What do most people know about yoga? Nearly everyone who has heard of yoga knows that it is a form of physical fitness that molds to any age or ability. They also know it relates the breath and mind to grounding the body to the present. Think about what I just said there. Someone can use their mind and breath to bring their body to the present. When I hear that and try it for myself, I realize that during a workout a person can push past any physical anguish and ground themselves to their being. They can connect to the present and to the purpose of being in that very moment. This sounds like what we strive to do while reading the Word of the Lord. Or what we strive to do while reaching out to the Lord in prayer. We are trying to ground ourselves in the present with Him and we are trying to connect our being with His spirit. Working out, while good for our physical health, is one of the easiest ways for a human to practice that level of spiritual and physical connection together. Working out allows us to practice connection and learn our meaning or purpose. That level of being able to connect leads down a less obstructed path towards Christ. In the simplest way I can put it, the mental benefits of working out can teach us ways to strengthen our relationship with Jesus.
Mental fitness and how it relates to spiritual fitness
As stated at the end of the previous paragraph, physical fitness can have mental benefits. I would classify those benefits under mental fitness. Now, the question is, 'what is mental fitness and how does it relate to spiritual fitness?' Let’s work through this one together, much like we did for physical fitness. Mental fitness can be described as the ability to regulate your thoughts and emotions while keeping a healthy brain. Most of us know that a healthy brain is all about our exercise, diet, and mental challenges (like reading new types of books or solving different types of challenges around the home). That part is pretty simple in the grand scheme of things.
The part I want us to focus on is the regulation of thought, emotions, and just how difficult and daunting that sounds. Even to me as I type this out because it seems so out of the ordinary to think about that regulation. Therefore, let's take this slow. What is one thing you do when your thoughts or emotions start to spiral that helps you ground yourself back to the moment? Something I like to do, and have found great success doing, is gaining the perspective of someone else. See the problem through their eyes; it will give you an insight into how someone with no emotional attachment views your problems. For me, that helps my emotional highs start to settle back down to my constant. What if I can't ask another person to put it into perspective for me? Well, here is our first tie to spiritual fitness. The Bible gives us countless problems through stories that are partially meant to help us gain perspective and strength to work through our struggles today.
Now that we have mentioned emotional regulation, what about the regulation of thoughts? As in, when our thoughts start to spiral. I hope to soon have an article about what the Bible says about anxiety and how it can help you, but for now, we will just take a surface view. One thing that helps me the most when my thoughts start to scramble is writing them down in a notebook. It is similar to journaling, but really is just writing down my thoughts in bullet point fashion. It has done me wonders through high school, college, and now the adult world. When my uncontrollable thoughts run wild, I control them by grabbing a notebook and a pen. My rule with myself is that once the thought is on paper, I no longer need to think about it. If I need that thought, and it is important, then I will just reference the paper at a later date. This allows my mind to be clear and free of distractions. It took a while for this method to work, but once my brain followed along, it became a Godsend.
The final question is, 'I get that we can do these to help, but what does all of this have to do with our spiritual fitness.' Well, I will tell you. We said spiritual fitness is gaining meaning, connectedness to the Lord, and living life in the Lord's footsteps, right? To do that, we need to develop a relationship with Jesus. One of the easiest ways to do that is to reach out to Him in prayer while having a clear and open mind. Free of distractions. Are you seeing the connection? Mental fitness allows us to control our thoughts, which helps us open our minds and clear it so the Lord can leave His impression on us. This is something we should all want.
How is spiritual fitness something we should all strive for?
I would argue that spiritual fitness is something we should all strive for each and every day. It absolutely is a challenge, but a challenge that can bring us to a more meaningful and Christ-connected life. With a clear mind, controlled emotions, and strong health, we are more open to receiving the words the Lord is trying to give us. Many have heard, 'your body is a temple, and you should treat it as such.' But I believe our bodies, minds, and souls are all temples which the Lord blessed us with. We are all unique, but we all can connect to Him in our own way. That is the beauty of spiritual fitness. Really, there is no 100% correct way to do it, as long as it betters our relationship with Jesus.
Steps you can take to be spiritually fit
After diving into mental, physical, and spiritual fitness, you may have come out on the other side with some tips and tricks. Let's review some of the things mentioned in the article and understand how they can help you and how you can pass them on to others. The first tip we talked about was doing your best to ground yourself to the present during a workout. That could be with your breathing, meditation, or just taking a second in silence while you workout. After that, we discussed asking for others' points of view on a problem to ground our spiraling emotions. Give ourselves an understanding of the other side. And finally, we discussed writing down thoughts that begin to build and allowing them to leave your mind once they are on paper. These are all things you can do yourself and can pass on to others. Be there for others with a different point of view when they need it. Have a pencil and paper handy for someone whose thoughts are beginning to drown them, and ask someone if they want to do a workout with you with no music. All these things are simple to do but take practice. Start today with one of them and see where it takes you. These have helped me over the last 5-6 years, and I hope they can give you some guidance as well. Remember it all boils down to making us more connected with the Lord and allowing us to follow in his footsteps.
If you are reading about other topics from us then we suggest, “Incommunicable Attributes of God,” “What Are the Five Love Languages?” and “What is Sin?”