Are you new to spirituality? If so, then this post is for you. If not, this post is still for you. These four spiritual practices are for everyone! Even if you don’t identify with a particular religious sect, you can still be spiritual. When you practice spirituality regularly, you live your life in parallel to your core values and you are generally happier with yourself. Keep reading to learn about four spiritual practices anyone can do.
Prayer is one spiritual practice that anyone can do: talking to the great creator of the universe. It’s all about you connecting with your higher power—whether you call this God, Mother, Allah, Yahweh, Divinity, or something else doesn’t matter. You can pray anywhere at any time, which is why it’s one of the most versatile spiritual practices:
“Prayer can take many forms. Some people kneel to pray, some clasp their hands, some raise their arms above their heads. People have prayed to various gods for thousands of years. There may be different reasons for or different methods of praying among different times, religions, and cultures, but the general idea is the same everywhere: People pray to commune with the divine, and they keep praying because it makes their lives better.”
Divinity is all around us, but prayer helps us to see it more clearly. Here are a few benefits of prayer:
Prayer invites guidance for making decisions.
Making decisions can be stressful and difficult. Should you take that new job? Is it a good idea to pursue a certain romantic relationship? Prayer can illuminate your path in questions like these. Your higher power wants to help you become the best version of yourself, and they will guide your decisions if you ask for help.
Prayer gives you hope
While different religions have different traditions, prayer is something that people of all faiths can share together. People pray for their sick loved ones. They pray for aid during natural disasters, they pray for comfort when a friend passes away. Whether or not prayers are answered the way you’d prefer, the act of praying widens your perspective, giving you faith and hope for the future.
Prayer opens the door for communication with God
How incredible is it that you, one among billions of people, can talk to the universal creator? Think about that. Your higher power is always available. You don’t need to wait for the right time to pray. You always have the option to talk to God, the one who listens.
If you’d like specific help with making your prayers more sacred experiences, check out this article on contemplative prayer. Or read these five powerful prayer stories. Another option is to download the Skylight app and follow along with the guided prayers there, such as a prayer on calm (2 mins) or a prayer on inner peace (2 mins).
Journaling is a spiritual practice because it connects you to your authentic self. Your journal is a place where there are no expectations to curate your words to perfection or to explain yourself to anyone. When it comes to defining journaling, no one can truly tell you what’s allowed and not allowed, or how to journal properly. The only rule is to capture your genuine experience. It’s your journal, and you can write (or draw, if that’s your style) whatever you feel best captures your thoughts.
In general, what you write in your journal shouldn’t just include what happens; it should also include how you relate to what happens. What thoughts went through your head after reading the news this morning? What emotions did you experience when you broke up with your partner of five years? What hesitancies do you feel in regards to your future? A journal is a safe place to keep all these thoughts. Making sense of the events in your life, or at least trying to do so, is more beneficial than simply recording what happens.
There are several mental health benefits to journaling. One study concluded that regular journaling was associated with decreased mental distress, including less depressive symptoms and anxiety after one month. Journaling helps you avoid ruminating on your negative thoughts. When you ruminate, you overthink, your anxiety levels increase, and you’re unable to get past what’s troubling you. Rumination forces your problems to the forefront of your brain, making it almost impossible to focus on anything else. It also makes you feel like your issues are unsolvable because you can’t get out of your head. Similar to the effect of venting to a close friend or going to a therapy session, journaling helps you work through those thoughts in a safe place.
Need some motivation or inspiration to get started journaling? Try the free journal exercises on the Skylight app, such as this for spiritual self-care (2 min) or this for a great start to your day (4 min). Or take the Mindfulnessa’s five-part journaling course. You can even try journaling on a beach in Hawaii (14 min) or journaling with a yoga flow (29 min). Keep reading for two more spiritual practices anyone can do.
A gratitude practice involves deliberately recognizing what you are grateful for. You can say these things aloud, tell them to your higher power in prayer, or write them down. The key is to actually take the time to slow down and express gratitude. Gratitude is spiritual because when you feel thankful for things in your life, you start to recognize that at least some of these things come from outside of yourself. Practicing gratitude directs your thoughts to God, and it’s been proven to make people happier. It’s not always easy to be thankful for your circumstances, but you can always be thankful in your circumstances:
“It’s impossible to be grateful for violence, war, oppression, exploitation, illness, and other excruciatingly painful parts of this world. Claiming that a gratitude practice will heal you from the frustration caused by these things is absurd. And what about the everyday ups and downs that come with being human? Simply saying what you’re thankful for each morning can’t change your circumstances.
“In fact, some people even have negative experiences practicing gratitude because they use gratitude to invalidate their experiences. For example, if you’re a student and you fail an exam, you’ll probably feel lots of things—shame, sadness, smallness, etc. However, if you tell yourself that you shouldn’t feel those emotions by saying, ‘Well, at least I have a roof over my head’ in an effort to be grateful, you’re missing the mark. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being grateful to have a roof over your head! But that gratitude is being expressed in the wrong context. It shouldn’t replace the real feelings that need your attention in that moment (failing a test comes with its own battles). Misusing gratitude as a means of numbing painful emotions is unhealthy.
“ One important shift we must make is in what gratitude means to us: having naturally grateful moments vs. living gratefully. There are moments when gratitude happens naturally: when you hug a family member after months apart or when you receive the promotion you’ve worked so hard for. But a sustainable gratitude practice does not rely on naturally grateful moments alone—it has a wider scope. It acknowledges that naturally grateful moments are sometimes few and far between, and it honors the interconnectedness of the whole world.
“True gratitude sees each moment as an opportunity to enjoy your aliveness in its (sometimes messy, sometimes heartbreaking) entirety.”
The Skylight app has loads of content on gratitude. You can watch this video to learn why laughter is so central to gratitude (4 min), listen to these morning gratitude affirmations (1 min), or say this prayer of gratitude (3 min). Other options are to be guided in this gratitude breathing exercise (5 min) or to write some mental gratitude postcards in this visualization exercise (2 min).
Walking outside has a magic effect on your body, mind, and spirit. Going on a walk without a destination in mind can be a deeply spiritual experience. Some people struggle meditating because they have so many racing thoughts, and doing nothing only makes things worse. Walking is a perfect introduction to meditation because you’re doing something, but with the same intentions as meditating, so you can let your thoughts play themselves out without things becoming too overwhelming. When you walk just to walk (without music, podcasts, audiobooks, etc.), you give yourself space to sort out whatever tension is trapped inside of you—physical, emotional, or spiritual.
Walking in the outdoors is a move forward towards your true self and towards God. You’ll be surprised what happens when you go on a spiritual walk. A daily walk is a great way to practice spirituality regularly:
“You want your daily walk to be a sacred time for you. Sure, it might be easier to mark off your daily walk when you hike up five flights of stairs to work every morning, but does that leave you feeling rejuvenated? Are you being deliberate about each step you take? Do you feel like you can move as slowly as you’d like? These are questions to consider when you’re planning your daily walks.
“Going on a daily walk has benefits for your physical, mental, and spiritual health. Among the physical benefits are improved circulation, strengthened bones and muscles, and better sleep. People who walk daily have lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of stroke. As for your mental health, daily walking leads to improved mood and lessened anxiety. A daily walk is a great place to sort out your thoughts and let your brain take a break. Daily walks also have spiritual benefits, such as a deeper connection with yourself and a stronger relationship with God. Getting outside can lead to dramatic improvements in your overall health.”
On the Skylight app, you can find several free walking meditations. Just put on your headphones, press play, slide your phone in your pocket, and enjoy the spiritual strength that comes from walking. Try the power walk (20 min), peace walk (26 min), or aware walk (4 min). Or listen to a meditation while walking the dog (15 min).
You don’t have to pick up all four of these spiritual practices at once. Identify which one stood out the most while you were reading this article. If you want to take it to the next level, create a sacred space to practice. Whatever you choose and however you do it, your life will transform when you tune in to your spiritual side.