Five ways physicians can be more spiritual

March 8, 2019
Jeff Davidson

Spirituality has been linked to improved health, less stress, lower incidence of hypertension, and greater psychological well-being-and does not necessarily equate with religiousness.

Spirituality has been linked to improved health, less stress, lower incidence of hypertension, and greater psychological well-being-and does not necessarily equate with religiousness. Some people regard spiritual individuals as a bit more gracious than average, often compassionate, and more likely to make time to savor life's experiences. If even a tiny bit of all this is true, isn’t it to your benefit to explore further?

Here are five ideas to help you become a more spiritual person:
    
1) Practice spirituality behind the wheel

Sociologists tell us that when people get in their cars, they think they're in some type of invisible vehicle. No one sees them as they motor down the road. If you curse or scream, who's to know? Obviously, you're not invisible and the way you conduct yourself as a motorist potentially impacts other motorists as well as pedestrians.

The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, fails to use their turn signal properly, or otherwise engages in improper (but not dangerous) driving, practice maintaining your composure. Don't curse, don't scream, don't honk your horn, and don't engage in one-upmanship. 

Often, the other person knows what he or she did wrong. If he or she doesn't, venting your spleen is not likely to change the behavior.  

Each time you can remain composed, you increase the probability that you will be more composed in other aspects of your life. Perhaps you'll even be kinder to people in face-to-face encounters when they commit a transgression.  

If you travel frequently, say as part of your job, and often traverse high traffic arteries, chances are you'll have an opportunity at least several times a week to practice engaging in small displays of spirituality. As a goal, why not establish for yourself one composed response per week?

2) Serve as part of a group

Volunteer once a month to serve a meal at a local shelter for the homeless. If you're a busy career type, perhaps serving dinner will work best for you. Whatever your preconceived notions about this might be, once you actually serve dinner to real live people, you'll see that reality is different than you thought. 

Perhaps you think that people would be reluctant to speak up for what they wanted. Or worse, they'd be groveling, and you would have to do your best to remain humble. Perhaps you feel like you'll seem to be some kind of "goody-two-shoes," dispensing dinners with an overly pleasant, "And how are you this evening? Here's a nice dinner for you."

Actually, it's much more matter-of-fact than you might imagine. Person to person, you simply serve another, as if you were in partnership. They're appreciative but not groveling. Some of the people who show up at a shelter are well-dressed. Perhaps they're temporarily unemployed or had a financial emergency they were not prepared to handle.

The more often you serve others in this way, the easier it becomes to do it again. You start to get the notion that there are a lot more similarities between human beings than differences. 

3) Look for the good in others

Will Rogers, a political satirist, entertainer, and beloved figure in the first half of the twentieth century allegedly said, "I never met a man I didn't like." Many people have interpreted Will Rogers to have meant that he could find something admirable in everyone he met. So, too, can we all.  

Is there a co-worker with whom you have had a nasty relationship? Is there something good about this co-worker that you can draw upon, so that you can actually say something nice to him/her at your next encounter?

Is there a neighbor with whom you have had a continuing squabble? What would it do to your relationship if you sent your neighbor a card or a brief note that said something along the lines of, "I noticed how lovely your garden was the other day and wanted to let you know that I appreciate the work you've done in maintaining it." Too syrupy, or, pardon the expression, too flowery?  Guess again.  

You're on this planet for finite amount of time. Do you want to go through your life trading hostilities with people, never having the where-with-all to restore some semblance of civility to the relationship?

Try thinking of and listing five people who you may not have a good relationship with but can acknowledge. Next to each person's name, write what is good about them. Do they maintain a nice garden? Here are some ideas for you in case you're drawing a blank. This person...  

    * Is kind to the receptionist at work.
    * Turns assignments in on time, and hence, supports the team.
    * Walks softly past your office, so as not to disturb you.
    * Greets you in the morning when you arrive.
    * Maintains his or her office well.

    Away from work, here are some ideas for finding the good in others:
    * Keeps the street in front of the yard free of debris.
    * Is respectful of others' needs for quiet.
    * Dresses well.
    * Has well-behaved children.
    * Drives safely in the neighborhood.
    
4) Become a better listener to others

Listening is one of the most underrated skills. Your ability to listen and give your full and undivided attention to another person can be an act of spirituality, particularly if the other person needs someone to listen to him/her. In this rush-rush world, too often we want people to summarize everything they say.  

There's a running joke that if Moses came down from the mountain with the ten commandments this afternoon, the evening news cast, instead of citing all the commandments, would report only the top three.  

Human beings have a profound need to be heard. When you give others your full and complete attention, you're telling them that you value them as a people. All activity and concerns in your life stop as the words and emotions of another person take on paramount importance.  

Consider the people in your life who have mattered the most to you and, chances are, they were the people that listened to you best. 

As a goal, why not decide to listen in earnest to one person per week in the work place that you would not have otherwise given such time and attention?  At home, give your significant other one good listening to per day, and I promise things will go better. Do the same with each child.

5) Judge situations and deeds, not people

It's likely that you judge things, including others, all day long. Judgment is a necessary and practical skill. After all, if you want to choose the employment opportunities appropriate for you, friends that share similar values, and the professional, social, and civic groups that you will enjoy being a part of, you need to make some judgments.

Take care not to judge others too harshly. Everyone can learn from each other.  It is so easy to fall into that game, as Carl Rogers articulated, of "mine is better than yours." It is too convenient to conclude that people who walk, talk, or look differently than we do, must be vastly different, and by extension, inferior. 

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" and a thought leader on work-life balance issues. He speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the work-life balance of their people. Visit breathingspace.com for more information.