FORT POLK, La. — When a Soldier’s mission is aligned to their core beliefs, values and spiritual practices, they are better equipped to navigate life’s challenges and optimize performance. A positive attitude and job satisfaction can’t simply be “turned on.” Like every aspect of fitness, the more a person practices and tunes the body and mind, the better they will perform.Total Force Fitness examines eight dimensions of an individual to optimize peak performance. According to the Military Health System, ideological and spiritual fitness are the beliefs and practices that strengthen a person’s connectedness with a source of meaning, hope and purpose. Spiritual fitness relates to an individual’s ability to develop core beliefs, principles and values to guide them throughout their lives.Capt. Nikki Reeves, chaplain for Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital, said that when a Soldier’s spiritual or ideological fitness is misaligned, it can impact their mental health, social interactions and Family relationships.“People are multidimensional — one of those core dimensions is spirituality, whatever that may be or however a person may define that,” she said. “Spirituality is a core component of identity. It ties in personal values, belief systems and world views. If we are putting it to the side, we are not functioning to our fullest capability.”Reeves said all eight dimensions of TFF are important; and if one is neglected, it can affect the others. She said all eight dimensions must be working in unity to achieve the best output or impact.“For a person, the dimensions are congruent of everything they are mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually,” Reeves said. “As people come to discuss issues, they realize that those problems exist because things are misaligned in their lives. Something is causing internal friction, or they are trying to make a decision based on their core values and beliefs.”Reeves said that she and Spc. Payton Moore, religious affairs specialist for BJACH, advise leaders based on her knowledge of situations and what is going on among their team members. She said they primarily advise about morale, moral and ethical issues, spirituality and the state of their team.Moore said having a unit ministry team available to his fellow Soldiers can help reduce stress, build trust and get to the root of potential problems in a unit.“For me, spiritual and ideological fitness is just as imperative as the other dimensions of Total Force Fitness,” he said. “My faith and spiritually keep me going and have helped me through difficult times in my life. Spiritual fitness has made me more resilient and given me the tools to deal with the stressors in my life.”Moore said often people will question their purpose. “I like to think that everyone is a piece of a storybook. I feel like we all have a part to play, no matter how big or small,” he explained.“What we do might not seem significant right now, but it may be momentous farther down the road. Each character in the book is critical, and even if we don’t know what our role means, we just need to keep on going.”Reeves said that spirituality is foundational, it’s not just about meeting in a church, how a person chooses to pray or sacred texts, literature, symbols or material.“Spirituality is what informs you, it’s what identifies you as a person. It gives you purpose, direction and identifies your values and priorities,” she said. “It takes all of those things and pulls them into a coherent package for you. It can take a variety of forms. If you take away the ideological side of a person, you take away a big chunk of their identity. Without the spiritual component, a person loses their sense of purpose, fulfillment or achievement.”Reeves said ideological and spiritual fitness is a coping mechanism to grapple with the friction and tension in this world. She said Soldiers in combat situations are often called upon to do things that are difficult; being spirituality fit is one way they can make sense of it and move forward.“We are not compartmentalized. Everything about us is interwoven with everything else about us,” Reeves said.“All eight dimensions of Total Force Fitness are tied together. There is a lot of baggage, connotations and perceptions that come with the words religion, faith or spirituality; but they are components that are interwoven with everything else that makes us who we are.”Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of articles about Total Force Fitness, the first line effort in the National Defense Strategy of building a more lethal force.The concept focuses on a Soldier’s health throughout their career, connecting eight dimensions (physical, environmental, medical/dental preventive care, nutritional, ideological/spiritual, psychological, social and financial) of fitness to enhance health, performance and readiness holistically.To learn more about spiritual fitness visit: https://www.hprc-online.org/mental-fitness/spiritual-fitness.