With the return of college students to campuses across the United States often comes the overuse and abuse of drugs and alcohol. Like many college campuses, the University of Oregon struggles with alcohol abuse by students and party crashers from the community.
As with any drug, alcohol easily lends itself to overuse and abuse. This has been so for centuries. Alcohol-related challenges amongst students were not uncommon at my college more than forty years ago.
Over the years, numerous organizations have mobilized to reduce or eliminate the abuse of drugs and alcohol on campuses. In the last few decades, focusing on the student’s overall wellness and promoting a healthy lifestyle has been key. As one group puts it:
“…as an expanded idea of health. Many people think that if they are not sick, then they are well. However, …wellness is optimal health and vitality, encompassing physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, interpersonal, social and environmental well-being.”
These are all important frameworks when considering the wellness of a college student, but the spiritual aspect really undergirds the other five. This is especially true when it comes to substance abuse because it is often driven by low self-esteem, willingness to be influenced by others, and/or a deep sense of dissatisfaction with one’s life.
Consider this. They define Spiritual Wellness as:
“Possess[ing] a set of guiding beliefs, principles, or values that give meaning and purpose to life. Spiritual wellness is also the capacity to love, have compassion for others, forgiveness, joy and fulfillment.”
These qualities get at the core of the human experience and in some way determine how we view our world and how we relate to others.
Spiritual wellness goes beyond making one a well-rounded, good, and happy person. As retired physician Kay Wyatt, MD writes on allnurses.com, research is growing that spirituality is foundational in wellness and health, and it shouldn’t be overlooked. She talks about pillars of spirituality: prayer, unconditional love, forgiveness, meaning, and a spiritual practice.
Brian E. Udermann, PhD, ATC supports these findings in his literature review on spirituality, health, and healing for athletes:
Strong scientific evidence suggests that individuals who regularly participate in spiritual worship services or related activities and who feel strongly that spirituality or the presence of a higher being or power are sources of strength and comfort to them are healthier and possess greater healing capabilities.
It was while attending college that I made the connection between my well-being, happiness, and the importance of spirituality in my life. I had been searching for a long time for a sense of purpose and where I fit into the larger scheme of things.
As a result of my search, I adopted a Bible based spiritual practice and learned that I not only felt more grounded but that my health was benefited. One important outcome of this discovery was that I learned that alcohol didn’t give me true happiness, nor did it fulfill any of my other wellness dimensions.
Young people today are not that different from when I was in college. Helping students find a sense of spirituality will go far towards achieving their goals of overall well-being.