Last year was life-changing for the whole world. Everything we had come to rely on and know was shaken up and handed back to us either completely broken or in pieces, and we had to learn how to put it back together, without instructions. It was like an IKEA bed frame from hell.
Something that I noticed was lacking in my 2020 was a level of devotion. I spent the majority of the year in my boyfriend’s parents’ basement, broke(n) and depressed. Knowing that I was lacking something, but not knowing how to fix it, I cried out to God on many occasions, begging for an answer. And ironically, my answer lay in exactly that.
Now, I’m not a religious person, but I do know that religions have something valuable that strengthens their faith and contentment in life: devotion. Throughout the years of varying levels of devotion and discipline, I have learned that this was the missing link to my year of wandering and need for “something more.”
It was actually quite frustrating to research “devotion” online and try to find something that wasn’t religious or related to the Bible. It seems that the information about devotion out there is very limited outside the religious realm, which makes sense why a lot of 'not religious but spiritual' people may struggle to find that connection to a higher power.
If you’ve ever felt like you want something more in life, then read on. I break down how non-religious devotion has changed my life and can change yours.
Significance of devotion
Everyone is devoted to something. Whether or not their object of devotion is of benefit or detriment is up to debate. Merriam-Webster defines devotion as: “the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal.”
Devotion is a level of commitment, coupled with actions to declare that commitment. In religious terms, it can be the devotion of going to church every Sunday or reading a Bible scripture every morning. Or in Olivia Newton-John terms, it’s loving someone no matter what.
When you find an area of devotion that is outside of yourself it creates more contentment. Even better is devotion to a power greater than yourself, such as God, Buddha, Spirit, Creator, the Universe, love, etc. In my experience, this is essential to creating a sense of meaning for life.
Devotion to something outside of yourself can help to remove constant egocentricity and help you feel connected to something/someone else. Without this connection, life can feel so dull and pointless.
This is why parents will often say they have discovered their purpose after having a family. They become devoted to loving their children and raising healthy and happy beings. For those of you who don’t want a family or who aren’t at that stage in your life, finding something you can become devoted to will benefit your life tremendously.
Commitment and devotion
Since it was very difficult (and I mean very difficult) to find information about devotion that wasn’t directly related to the Bible or Christianity, I decided to research the word “commitment,” which is the first step of devotion.
An article in the Cornell Chronicle, “How committed your relationship is goes hand in hand with happiness and well-being, study discovers,” notes that committed people reported much higher levels of happiness overall, even when they were in unhappy relationships:
“The bottom line, say the researchers, is that having a romantic relationship makes both men and women happier -- and the stronger the relationship's commitment, the greater the happiness and sense of well-being of the partners.”
This information can be applied to commitment to a higher power. Creating a committed relationship with the god of your understanding can drastically improve your well-being. Not only are you extending outside of yourself, but you are doing it consistently, ultimately, breaking you from the habit of constant self-centeredness.
Devoting yourself to something will create a sense of bonding and contentment because you spend time and effort into cultivating the object of your devotion. You're using a valuable resource: your time.
By declaring that something is worth spending your precious time on, you are reinforcing that the relationship matters to you. After a year like 2020, I could definitely use some more feelings of connection and happiness.
If commitment to a relationship drastically improves a personal sense of well-being, why do more people not commit? Well, it’s hard work.
To stay devoted to something means daily dedication and loyalty to what you’re trying to create. If you are devoted to your work, you will put in all your time and energy there. If you are devoted to your relationship, the time and energy will flow in that direction.
Where we put our time and energy, we will watch flourish. Just like a gardener tends their garden, the more they water and care for a particular plant, the healthier it will become. With devotion to spirituality, there must be a ritual or action that helps to "claim" your level of commitment. Examples of this could be daily breath meditation when you first wake up, prayer, chanting, etc.
The more water and care we take in our spiritual devotionals, the more spiritually connected we will feel. Creating a relationship to something outside of yourself such as nature, energy, love, will improve your life through your commitment and devotion.
Brittany Noelle Roa is an interdisciplinary artist with an MFA in Physical Theatre who uses her art and creativity to heal herself and others. She loves learning about health and wellness so she can optimize her human potential to live a full and happy life.