Healing your emotions and feelings is an ongoing process – there is a conscious beginning, but no end. The good news is there are things you can do to nurture your spiritual self. We hope that some of the exercises and practices here will help ease your mind so that you can find the support and guidance you need to help yourself heal your soul.
As you explore these self-care strategies, you may find that you’d like to talk or email with a chaplain. We invite you to connect through our free and confidential service, Chat with a Chaplain.
Immerse Yourself in Nature, Music & Art
Have you ever taken a mountain hike or a walk in the woods and found yourself marveling at the beauty that surrounds you? Or maybe, slid on some headphones and listened to your favorite music? Or felt that sense of freedom in driving down a long, clear road?
While they may not seem like “spiritual practices,” they can often help to reduce your stress, anxiety and soothe your soul. They can help to cleanse your mind and bring you back to the moment.
Spend Time With People Who Love You
Regardless of whether or not you think or feel that your family and friends understand your military experience, they, most likely, love you and want the best for you. It is important to be around those people who fill your lives with joy – they can nurture your spiritual well-being and help you to cope, physically and emotionally. The opposite is also true – you may need to avoid people who are toxic to your spirit.
Enjoy Nature Through Guided Imagery
When you are unable to physically get yourself into nature, you can bring it to yourself – in your mind. We call this guided imagery. Just as an actual experience in nature brings a sense of calmness to our mind and body, guided imagery does the same. Visualization and suggestion may work because they speak directly to our experiences of the world before we had words to describe it. Guided imagery is based on our "mind-body" connection. This connection lets us have experiences by thinking about them. Concentrating on an image, engaging all your senses, helps us experience what we're thinking about.
Example: “Take yourself” to a beach or river side. Use all five senses. Visualize the blue-green water. See the white caps in the distance, the green waves gently rolling toward you. Hear the roar of the waves as they break on the shore. Smell the salty air. Feel the wind on your face, the sun on your skin, the grains of sand running through your fingers. Smell the freshness of the water. The wet scent of the plant life. Feel the water at your ankles as you walk along.
Example: “Visit” a wooded area. Look at the trees surrounding you and the dappled sunlight as it glints through the leaves. Listen to the sounds of the birds rustling through the branches or wheeling through the air, singing and chirping, the sounds of squirrels running up and down trees. Smell the freshness of the pines, the mossy scents of the plants growing on the rocks. Feel the hardness of the rocks, the jaggedness of the bark of the tree trunks. Sit quietly and let a sense of peace pervade your surroundings.
Try Meditation & Breathing Exercises
Negatives memories from our past can often be overwhelming. The goal of meditation and deep breathing is to quiet your mind and bring yourself to the present moment. You only need to concentrate and be mindful. A disciplined meditation practice can help you to find peace of mind, increased gratitude and joy, and can promote better health outcomes.
There are many ways to meditate. The best meditatoin technique is the one that works for you. You can sit quietly and close your eyes (or leave them open) and gently chant or focus on your breathing.
Eastern tradition often focuses on the word "Ommmmm." Jewish meditation can use the word "Shema" from Hebrew prayer. Christians may meditate on Christ or a Bible verse. Muslims might use a phrase from the Koran. Regardless of your religious tradition, you can pick a word or phrase and repeat it again and again, whether that is “love,” “be here now” or a word or phrase that brings you comfort. What you say or do or don’t do is less important than your focus, which can help clear your mind.
Like healing your soul, meditation practice is ongoing. It will take time to establish good habits. Even five minutes a day can be helpful – and for some of us – even that is too long. Start with one minute. Try to meditate regularly. Quieting your mind and cultivating mindfulness can bring a sense of inner peace and spiritual wholeness.
Breathing is spiritual. People can live days without water and months without food, but we die quickly without breath. In Biblical Hebrew, the word nefesh means two things: breath and soul. How you breathe makes a difference. Simple breathing exercises can help reduce blood pressure and heart rate. Do you notice how people pant and gasp for breath when they feel anxious or nervous? The opposite is also true. Breathing deeply and slowly is calming.
Example: Try "three-part yoga breathing." Sit as straight as you can in a chair, or upright on your bed. Relax your body. Breathe in through your nose. Fill your abdomen with air as you breathe. Then let the air fill your middle chest, and then your upper chest. Try to breathe in on the count of six, and then out again on the count of six. Repeat. As you get comfortable, expand your breath more. Try breathing in on 10 and out on 10.
Regardless of our religion, or whether or not we have a religion, many of us have found that prayer can help us feel more relaxed and connected to our soul – and thus our spirituality. There are as many sources of prayers as there are people – and you can create your own prayers. This can be as simple as a gratitude list – thinking of five things for which you give thanks. You might find sacred texts and liturgies from your own and others’ traditions to be healing. You may find words come to you that you spontaneously say out loud, or perhaps you’d like some guidance on prayers that may inspire your soul.
Here is a small sample of healing prayers:
May the One who brings comfort surround you with goodness and strength.
May your Spirit be calmed and renewed.
May you find wisdom to guide you in your journey.
May you and your loved ones know hope and peace.
Source of all life and healing,
Be with me in this time of physical, emotional and spiritual need.
Help me cope with the challenges I am facing.
Comfort and encourage those who love and care and whose lives have been unsettled and disrupted by illness.
I pray for patience and for understanding.
I pray for strength and wisdom.
I pray for healing and for inner peace.
The light of God surrounds us;
The love of God enfolds us;
The power of God protects us;
The presence of God watches over us
Wherever we are, God is.
And all is well.
You might consider speaking with a professional chaplain for more ideas and suggestions or seek the interactive spiritual and self-care support through Chat with a Chaplain.
Your Connection With God
How do you name that which is greater than us? God? Higher Power? The Universe? Spirit of Life? Whatever name you use to connect is okay. Thinking that God (as an all-encompassing word) wants you to find comfort, meaning and help you heal your soul might give you strength to live your life.
Emotional anguish, spiritual distress, and physical pain don’t have to be faced alone. If your beliefs tell you that you are being punished by God and that belief is causing you worry or distress, explore that belief with the help of someone you trust. Consider speaking with a professional health care chaplain. Chaplains accept without judgment your faith and practice as well as your doubts and misgivings.
You might consider speaking with a professional chaplain for more ideas and suggestions for self-care strategies or seek the interactive spiritual care support through Chat with a Chaplain.