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NEWS | May 14, 2013

Dimensions of wellness: Spiritual fitness

By Airman 1st Class Victoria H. Taylor 633rd Air Base Wing

Editors note: This story is a part of a series about the different aspects of wellness.

Wellness is a demeanor. By its nature, it moves us toward a more proactive, responsible and healthy existence. Every decision we make, thought we think and attitude or belief we hold fits into the framework of four different concepts: spiritual, physical, social and mental wellness.

The idea of spiritual fitness involves strengthening a set of principles, values or beliefs that give meaning and purpose to a person's life. Because of the unique challenges that come with a military lifestyle, spiritual wellness is critical to a Service member's readiness.

The military stresses the importance of spiritual wellness because it enhances Service members' performance, allowing them to become more resilient and better equipped to deal with the rigors of military life.

Spiritual fitness is essential to an individual's resiliency, according to Chaplain (Maj.) James F. Richey, 633rd Air Base Wing deputy wing chaplain.

"The spiritual aspect really affects every part of your life," he said. "If you are spiritually sick or unwell, something is not right in your life."

Being spiritually fit can be attained through adhering to a set of ethics and morals, said Richey.

According to the National Wellness Institute, a person will know they're becoming spiritually fit when their actions become more consistent with their beliefs and values, resulting in a "world view."

"A Service member who is spiritually fit is free from guilt, understands death and has meaning in their life," said Richey. "I would suggest to every Airman to find their meaning in life."

Although many Service members find meaning through the practice of organized religion, spiritual fitness encompasses much more.

For Master Sgt. Brian Potvin, Air Combat Command advanced communications manager, spiritual fitness isn't about religion, but finding practices or routines which help to deal with stress.

"Spiritual fitness could mean transcendental meditation, or focusing on a connection with nature," said Potvin. "For me, the bottom line is all about the ability to overcome stressful situations or bad times, and being able to focus my attention on mission accomplishment."

Without being affiliated to a particular religion or a set of religious beliefs, Potvin practices mind-over-body exercises, ensures his family is cared for and treats others with respect.

Yoga, tai-chi or even meditation is also a great way for all people to stay spiritually fit. For Susan Hammock, Shellbank Fitness Center volunteer yoga instructor, incorporating common practices encourage a healthier spiritual stamina, allowing her to focus on her family.

"I'm a mother of three, and I know when I raise my tone with them, I need to go to yoga class," said Hammock. "I believe the physical part is extremely beneficial to your spiritual wellness.

"I [also] believe that meditation is extremely beneficial," she continued. "Even just ten minutes every morning can set the mood for the day. Getting unplugged from the outside world and just thinking about what you're grateful for sets off so many endorphins."

For Richey, whether through organized religion or other approaches, spiritual wellness is put very simply.

"You gain strength from people who have strength," he said. "When you're weak, you need people to be there to help you."

Having a lifestyle rich in wellness helps to move to a more resilient, purposeful and healthy existence as Service members, which then leads to a mission-ready force.

There are many methods of learning about and practicing spiritual fitness on JBLE:
Langley Chapel: (757) 764-3326
Fort Eustis Chapel: (757) 878-1316
Shellbank Fitness Center: (757) 225-8160
Air Combat Command Fitness Center: (757) 759-1896
McClellan Fitness Center: (757) 878-5556
Anderson Field House: (757) 878-2328

Or visit:
www.csf2.army.mil
www.amc.af.mil/caf