How to Be Spiritual When You Haven’t Before

There are some moments in life that change us deeply: the death of a loved one, the birth of a child, or other less obvious moments can cause your life to simultaneously fall apart and come together. You may feel, as a result, an expanded desire, even a need, to become more spiritual than you are now. But how? What if you’ve never been that way before?

The beautiful thing about spirituality is that it is personal. There is no formula to “being spiritual.” In fact, spirituality is quite fluid–how it looks changes from day to day and from person to person. But this is one reason why starting to practice spirituality can be so daunting. Personally, I would love a simple checklist to know exactly how to be spiritual. And although spirituality can’t so linear, having some practical ideas is a good place to begin.

Set Spiritual Intentions

No matter what your spiritual practice will eventually look like, it’s a good idea to start with setting goals. Take some time to think about and organize your overarching intentions. When you imagine your most beautiful and connected life, what does it look like? Focus on feelings you want to embody or attributes you want to develop. While deciding to meditate every day is an excellent goal, why do you want to meditate? What central goal will it accomplish?

For example, my current spiritual intention is to find ease in all things, and I practice yoga to accomplish this. Identifying a word or phrase that encapsulates your intention will guide the smaller, more actionable goals that you uncover later. Don’t worry about these smaller goals yet–it may take some exploring to know what will work for you. Stay simple, as you don’t want to overwhelm yourself with too many intentions at once. Once you have an idea of your spiritual visions, write them down and keep them in a place where you can see them often. For example, put a sticky note on your mirror or make your intentions your phone background.

Connect to Your Emotions

It’s difficult to be spiritual when you are disconnected from how you’re truly feeling. We have a nasty tendency to numb out of painful, and even joyful, emotions. And while distracting ourselves temporarily mitigates discomfort, it does us no spiritual favors. Can you really learn something valuable about yourself when you’re caught in an Instagram vortex? Is it possible to connect with another person when you’re under a toxic influence? What can you learn about a higher power when your mind is trapped binging a TV show? This kind of numbing hinders spirituality.

Emotions are closely interwoven with spirituality. When I feel stress, instead of running to a numbing mechanism, I choose to tune into myself and meditate. Meditation doesn’t instantly melt away the anxiety, but it does help me find stillness in the discomfort. You can try something similar. The next time you find yourself turning to a distraction when you’re anxious, overwhelmed, angry, or scared, pause. Take a few deep breaths, talk to a friend about what you’re feeling, or write it all down. Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. You may be surprised by what you learn about yourself.

It’s healthy to feel your feelings, both good and bad, because it can help reacquaint you with yourself. Knowing yourself–your passions, your goals, your habits–will contour your spiritual path.

Invest in Your Hobbies

Making time to do things that you love is an essential element of spirituality. Your hobbies don’t necessarily have to be deemed as “spiritual.” It’s more important to focus on connecting to yourself. What makes you come alive? What do you wish you did more often? When do you feel like your truest self? It could be dancing, writing, making music, yoga, or skateboarding. Whatever it is, make it a priority–not out of obligation, but as a gift to yourself. You deserve to dedicate time to what you enjoy.

When you’re wrapped up in something you love, you get to spend uninterrupted time with yourself. Have you ever noticed that you think a lot clearer and deeper while doing your favorite hobby? For me, hiking pours inspiration into my mind. Some of my most profound thoughts occur when I’m playing the piano or writing in my journal.

You can take advantage of this by setting aside time for your chosen hobbies. There will always be a temptation to push it aside for your more pressing responsibilities, but you can choose to include it with your nonnegotiable everyday routines. I’ve set a daily alarm on my phone to go for a walk outside, even if only for ten minutes. Depending on the activity, you might do it first thing in the morning or right before bed. Stay simple. Wholesome activities are catalysts for developing spirituality.

Explore How to Be Spiritual

Maybe you’ve seen how others practice spirituality, and you’d like to try some of their ideas. This can be extremely helpful, but it’s not the law. One of my favorite things about my spirituality is that I can change it if something feels “off.” If a specific practice doesn’t quite align with my current spiritual intentions, I can gently nudge it until it does. When I listen to my emotions, I know when a certain ritual doesn’t jive with me. If I’m introduced to a new hobby that I’d like to try, I give myself permission to devote time to it.

Spiritual practices that don’t serve me may work wonders for you, and that’s okay. Faith looks different on me than it does on you. It’s part of the beautiful spiritual connectedness that we all feel, despite practicing differently. Some trial and error may be required to find what works for you, so stay open-minded as you mold your spiritual practice. Be willing to explore.