Include the ‘S’ word to get a healthy life balance

| February 26, 2010 | 0 Comments

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Scott Weichl
Behavioral Health Program Manager
U.S. Army Public Health Command (Provisional)

WASHINGTON — Are you as confused as I am with the recent influx of various programs, stand-downs and mandatory trainings emphasizing total health? All these concepts and approaches are well and good, but so what? How can another program benefit me, you might be wondering?

Let’s look at what this means to all of us interested in being healthier and stronger people.

To be totally healthy means striking a balance in our personal lives. The balance is between three major areas: mental, physical and spiritual. The first and second areas, I understand.

A heightened mental awareness of stressors, challenges, worry and other feelings tells me to seek help when life seems overwhelming.

Physically, when the scale indicates I have eaten one too many donuts, my Class As are snug, and sit-ups are not quite to standard. More physical activity is necessary. Got it.

The third area in this trio, spiritual, is difficult to describe, yet most of us have a sense of its importance to maintaining overall health. Trying to define spiritual is like trying to nail Jell-o to a tree. Spiritual means something different to everyone, and the nice thing about it is each definition is correct.

While mental and physical fitness can often be quantitatively analyzed, spiritual health has a much more qualitative aspect — as it should. Something as personal and unique to our very essence cannot be mandated or structured into a “one-size-fits-all” form.

Not only is America founded on this understanding of the free exercise of religion, but individually each person is unique and at a different stage of his or her journey on Earth.

Studies indicate that a spiritual connection tends to contribute to more resilient lives. Resilience is the ability to grow and thrive in the face of challenges and bounce back from adversity in a more healthy way. Who wouldn’t want that?

So why is this spiritual thing so hard to develop and strengthen?

I believe one reason is misunderstanding. History, culture and just plain individualism tend to make many people defensive when the spiritual word is mentioned. “Nobody is going to tell me what to believe,” is a common response to the “S” word.

Here again, this is a correct response. Nobody is telling anyone what to believe, rather providing opportunity for growth in an area of life that makes one healthier.

OK, so what is spiritual?

Spiritual pertains to the connection of the human spirit and transcendence. Each person has a spirit that is the essence of existence. This is what energizes, enlivens, gives purpose and makes us the unique individuals we are. Transcendence is the feeling in our gut that there is something bigger than us, a meaning we cannot fully grasp or understand.

These two concepts seem to be common throughout the world, indeed, throughout history. Reflect for a moment; you most probably agree this is a truth deep within.

With this definition, we can begin to develop our personal spiritual dimension by seeking that which speaks to our uniqueness, while recognizing that there is something bigger than us to help determine meaning and purpose for our lives.

For some people, this is traditional religion; others find a contemplative practice more meaningful; yet others may experience this transcendence in some other form of expression, commitment or activity.

Human beings have been seekers since the beginning of time. Use the learning resources available at your post to aid your quest.

The important thing to remember is this: a balance is necessary between the mental, physical and spiritual realms of our lives to become healthier.

Having a tough time? Feel like you are out of focus or life has no meaning? Get back in balance and add spiritual health to mental and physical health. 

Visit Hooah 4 Health, Spiritual Fitness at or the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine at,, and click on the link for Religion and Spirituality.






Category: Community

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