How Distraction from Suffering Causes More Suffering

Dr. Jill Harrison Landsman
August 2, 2022 / 5 mins read

Defining spiritual hygiene is difficult, as it is a broad concept with many perspectives. “Spiritual” means the idea of a connection to something greater than ourselves and can involve a search for a deeper meaning in life. “Hygiene” refers to the creation and reinforcement of good habits that promote health — no different than brushing our teeth or exercising.

Why do you use the word “hygiene” when you’re talking about emotions and spirituality?

We talk about good physical hygiene as having regular habits that promote good health, such as getting adequate sleep, eating well, regular exercise, cleanliness, and keeping up with dental health. Maintaining good emotional hygiene operates the same way.

There are habits we can choose from that promote emotional health and well-being. This can take the form of talking about your feelings with a trusted therapist or friend, regular journaling, or attending a support group. A daily meditation practice, like sitting and quieting the mind while following your breath, can be game changing — even if for only 10 minutes each morning. Most of us find it helpful, even necessary, to do these practices regularly.

I can understand healing the body, and even the mind… but what exactly does it mean to heal the spirit?

There is no cookie cutter answer. Spirituality is truly individual. Everyone has their own experience of what it means to cultivate a spiritual life. Some common examples include: having a regular meditation practice, mindfulness, creative visualizations, drumming circles, reading inspirational texts, attuning to nature, having stillness and or silence, being of service and, of course, prayer. Physical practices such as Qi Gong, Tai Qi, and yoga can fall into all three categories: body, mind, and spirit.

What if you’re an atheist or agnostic?

Being of service, communing with nature, or cultivating inner quiet and peace are all part of spiritual health and don’t require a particular faith. It doesn’t have to have any connection to a religion or belief in God. In fact, there are a number of practicing Jews, Buddhists, Catholics, and Muslims who consider themselves atheist or agnostic.

What are the benefits of a regular spiritual practice?

Meditation is the spiritual practice whose benefits have been most studied and documented. Conditions of many kinds, including chronic back pain, headaches, and eczema are greatly improved with regular meditation. A regular meditation practice can also alleviate anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

While the research and documentation isn’t as thorough, prayer, visualization, affirmation, chanting, and gratitude lists are also a few examples of regular spiritual hygiene practices that have been shown to have similar results.

What’s the best way to get started on a meditation practice?

Notice the word “practice.” The first thing to know is that meditation, while simple, is not easy when first starting out. One of the biggest roadblocks is that folks think it’s supposed to be easy, so when it’s not, they think they are doing something wrong and get discouraged.

There are hundreds of ways to begin to learn and practice. The choices can be overwhelming. A few that I like to suggest are: Pema Chodron’s book, How To Meditate: A Practical Guide To Making Friends With Your Mind or Jack Kornfield’s book, Meditation For Beginners. There are also wonderful apps such as: “10% Happier” with Dan Harris, Mindspace, or free podcasts with talks and guided meditations with teachers such as Tara Brach.

Mindfulness meditation is another way to begin. Choose a few activities that you’d like to do mindfully this week. I might choose to practice mindful eating, mindful driving, or mindfully taking a shower. The moment I realize that I’m in the past or the future, I take a nice conscious breath and notice where my feet are. I like to take note of light, shadow, and colors -- these simple acts bring me back to mindfulness.

Aside from mindfulness and meditation what else can I do to improve my spiritual hygiene?

Clearing your body and/or clearing your environment of stagnant or negative energy can really assist in one’s spiritual wellness. There are many things that we can do to keep the energy, or “qi,” flowing in a healthy manner.

The Chinese practice of feng shui urges us to look at our living and working environments to find balance with the natural world. Get rid of the clutter! When we have piles of “stuff” in our space that we don’t need or have use for, we are creating stagnancy in our environment.

Smudging is another way to energetically cleanse a space to invite positive energy. When smudging a space, you burn plant material such as sage or palo santo. These plants and barks expel unwanted energy.

Your cleansing routine is very personal. Take a look at what’s out there to find what’s best for you. If you can spend just 10-20 minutes each day to cultivate spiritual hygiene in your life, you will be more grounded and have increased clarity. During this time in history, we need it more than ever. But these practices will dramatically improve the quality of your life for as long as you live.