Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

4 Ways to Incorporate Spirituality Into Work

By Andrewtix

Do you want to bring more of your whole self to work? Psychological research suggests your work would benefit from incorporating aspects of personal spirituality.

“At its best, work provides us the ability to support ourselves and our loved ones, and can also provide us with a sense of meaning, opportunities for growth, and community.” So says the Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health & Well-Being.

As many of us know, however, work often doesn’t function “at its best.”

According to the World Health Organization, work burnout is characterized by being depleted or exhausted at work; feeling distant from one’s job, including feeling cynical about it; and reduced professional effectiveness. This appears to be increasingly common. For example, in a recent national survey of American workers, more than half (57%) report they are currently experiencing at least a moderate amount of work burnout.

Often times, work stress and burnout stem from factors beyond our control. But, is there anything we can do that would help us cope with work-related difficulties? Is there anything we can do to thrive?   

Something many of us haven’t really considered is how the spiritual part of our lives might relate to our work lives. Approximately 86% of American adults report being at least somewhat spiritual, and for those who have integrated spirituality into their work, studies suggests significant benefits. In a recent review of research, for example, workplace spirituality was said to have “significant potential to influence workers and organizations in meaningful ways, fostering integrated (rather than segmented) lives and giving rise to personal and organizational well-being.”

Below are four suggestions for how we might meaningfully incorporate spirituality into work.

1. Seek awe to cope with work-related stress and burnout.

As mentioned, work can cause considerable stress and even trauma that can lead us to feel burned out. Awe is an emotion many of us connect with our spiritual lives that can help. In fact, researchers consistently find awe diminishes feelings of stress.

So, before work, during a break, after our work day ends, or on time off, we can intentionally seek awe to cope. For instance, we can go into nature and purposely focus on whatever most strikes us as beautiful that gets us out of our current frame of reference. We can dedicate time to connect with a sacred text, using our imaginations to deepen the transcendence of the experience. We can go to a spiritual gathering or location sacred to us and mindfully focus on something vast that elevates us.

Awe practices such as these may shift our attention away from our selves and our troubles and help us to respond at work in more centered and effective ways.

2. Extend compassion to people with whom we work.

Some of the most difficult experiences we have occur when we feel at odds with those with whom we work. Compassion is a value many of us connect with spirituality that can shift our perspective.  

For example, in a compassion meditation, we can call to mind people at work we’re struggling with and take some time to extend them good wishes, such as:

“May you feel safe.”
“May you feel content.”
“May you feel strong.”
“May you live with ease.”

As we do this, we may experience greater empathy for what others are experiencing. This may make it easier for us to let go of difficult emotions and treat them with kindness and respect, potentially resulting in more peaceful and productive patterns of interaction.

3. Approach work as a calling.

Researchers identify three common ways individuals approach work: as a job, career, or calling. Whereas approaching work as a job tends to be associated with less work and life satisfaction, approaching work as a calling tends to be associated with more.

4 Ways to Incorporate Spirituality Into Work

To approach work as a calling means to connect our abilities, passions, and values to ways we can help people or make the world a better place. Frederick Buechner put this in theological terms when he wrote: “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” As someone who has endured over 15 years of Stage IV cancer, theologian Deanna Thompson suggests this notion of “gladness” be broadened to include experiences of pain and suffering. In other words, maybe what calls us to our work are experiences of grief, trauma, or deep anger we’ve had. These struggles, too, can sensitize us to how we can use our work to make a positive difference.

By approaching work as a calling, we can center our work to a greater extent around what brings us meaning and purpose.

4. Be grateful for what’s good at work.

It’s so easy to be overwhelmed with the trials we experience at work. Most of the time, though, there’s something good about our work lives as well.

Being grateful at work might be as simple as taking a moment to acknowledge to ourselves something good that happens and who or what allowed that to happen. When someone we work with makes a positive difference for us, we can thank them verbally, in an e-mail, or even through a hand-written card.

One structured gratitude practice involves regularly taking some time to savor, share, or write about three good things and to acknowledge the sources that made those good things possible. We can do this practice with our work role in mind to help us gain perspective and enhance positive feelings we have about our work.  

Like awe, compassion, and calling, gratitude is a key aspect to many of our approaches to spirituality. As the mystic Meister Eckhart said, “if the only prayer you ever say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”


Work difficulties can be distressing and debilitating, and the suggestion that spirituality may help can come across as overly simplistic. However, research shows that awe, compassion, calling, and gratitude are powerful forces that boost well-being and help people thrive.

Does any of this generate any new ideas for you? Is there some aspect of your spirituality you might want to apply to flourish more at work?   

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