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What is spiritual health?

Spirit and spirituality can mean different things to different people across many cultures. A person’s spirit or spirituality is hard to define, but broadly it is the non-physical part of a person, it is the source of our emotions, our character and even our soul.
In our spiritual selves is where we find our sense of belonging, our connections with certain people or groups of people and with places.
This section discusses what spirit can mean to people and discusses the connections between spirituality, belief systems, religions, culture and individuals.

What is spiritual health?

What is Spirit

Māori have always recognised the significance of wairua (spirituality) for wellbeing and good health in general, and this really applies to all people.

Spirit describes the capacity to have faith, and to recognise the links between you and others and the world around you. It doesn’t necessarily mean having a religious belief, although this might be an important part of your spirituality.

Spirit is also reflected in places we feel a connection to - the place you grew up, the beaches you surfed, lakes, mountains and rivers or the lands your ancestors fought for - all will have spiritual significance.

You will also have spiritual connections to certain social groups such as whānau, friends, your unit, hapu or iwi. These are powerful bonds that can help you maintain your ‘belonging’ with these groups even when things are not going well or you are far away.

Understanding Spirit

Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experience—something that touches us all. People may describe a spiritual experience as sacred or transcendent or simply a deep sense of being and interconnectedness.

You may hear words like, ‘faith’, ‘spirituality’, ‘belief, and ‘religion’ and assume they are the same thing. But these words do have different meanings, differences that can actually be quite enlightening and helpful for you in making clearer sense out of the different aspects of your own faith journey. 

Let’s look at some of the differences between these common terms:

Faith is having trust or hope in what is unseen.  To be a person of faith, or to have a faith, is to have trust in something that isn’t tangible. 

Spirituality speaks of the feelings we carry, our belief in or connectedness we feel to that which is beyond the seen or tangible world.  It can describe the meaning we attach to social groups, places, our religion or faith. 

Belief represents the inner truths you have built up as a result of your spiritual journey and the experiences you have had.

This can be described as the service and worship of God or the supernatural.  A personal or institutionalised system of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices (Merriam-Webster dictionary). A summary comparison of world religions can be found here.

Of course, you are free to use whatever terms you want, but it can help to know that there are actual differences between them.