What is Spiritual Fitness?
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Wellness is about more than just physical fitness.  In addition to physical health, it is important that we continue to nourish our psychological, social and spiritual growth, otherwise our life can get out of balance.  Happiness and success in life are most likely achieved when all four elements are in balance. Maintaining balance in all four areas of health is especially important to those in the military.  By nature, training for warfighting can cause imbalance because it is so intensely focused on physical and mental hardening.  If, however, the emotional, social and spiritual fitness of the individual doesn’t keep pace, problems arise, including relationship and family conflict and poor moral decisions.  Reintegration issues after deployments are often the result of this imbalance.  Because each area of health effects the others, attending to all areas of health is important to your overall well-being.  Spiritual fitness is an important component of holistic well-being.



There is often some confusion about the relationship between religion and spirituality.  For many people, religion and spirituality are completely interconnected, while for others they are distinct. Though there are many different opinions and for each individual they may have unique meanings, for the sake of clarity, here the concepts of religion and spirituality will be treated as separate but often related constructs.   Religion is an organized set of beliefs and practices adhered to by a group of people.  It is practiced externally with the intent to foster spirituality.  Spirituality is an internal experience.  It is characterized by one’s personal experience of meaning, connection, and transcendence.  It may include a personal relationship with a Higher Power or a purpose that gives meaning to life.  Research shows that religion can be an effective way to foster the benefits of spirituality because it provides teachings, scripture, rituals, and practices that can enhance personal meaning, direction, connection, and fulfillment.  However, just being part of a religion does not make a person “spiritual.”   It is also possible to be a spiritual person without being religious, or even believing in God as defined by religion.  For many people who are not religious, spirituality is about living in harmony with nature or with society.   Others use a powerful principle as their guiding source of inspiration, such as love, patriotism, truth, or the human spirit.  Many seek to understand and develop their own “higher self.”  Whether you choose to use religion or choose to follow a different path, the key to developing spirituality is to make regular sincere efforts to find deeper connection and meaning in your life.

The Marine Corps isn’t interested in telling you what religion to practice, but it is interested in training Marines to be fit and resilient warriors who are ready in every way for war.  Spirituality has been linked by many different studies to numerous physical, psychological and social health factors.  In addition, the benefits of spirituality are especially helpful in making warriors more resilient in the face of combat.


While there are many different religions and even more different ways to build spiritual resilience, there are several underlying elements to spiritual growth that seem to be important contributing factors in spiritual fitness.  These three elements seem to be among the core components of spirituality.  Though individual application of these elements may vary, every Marine will benefit from a personal exploration of how these elements function within his or her own life. 

Personal Faith:  Trusting in something  or someone that has a greater purpose and meaning than the basic functions of day to day life.  Faith may be placed in others, such as family, friends, unit, etc.  It may be placed in an institution such as the nation or the Marine Corps.  It may be placed in a religious community and/or Higher Power. Or it may be placed in one's own skills and abilities or one's personal inherent worth.

Foundational Values:  Meaning and purpose in life determines what one will value most.  As individuals identify what they think is the definition of a good life, they can then identify values that will guide the goals and directions of their lives.  The Marine Corps places emphasis on the values of Honor, Courage and Commitment.  In addition to those important values, Marines should identify other values to live by.

Moral Living:  Once faith, meaning and values are identified, Marines should then seek to use them to guide their life decisions.  Marines should use their faith, meaning and values much like a personal compass to help guide every step and every decision they make.  Moral living is spirituality put to action.

For more detailed information on these elements, click on the links below or on the "Core Elements of Spiritual Fitness" menu.


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