There is no single definition for spirituality, nor is there a single way to practice it. Some experts describe it as a belief in something bigger than yourself. But spirituality means different things to different people and even those meanings can change over time.
Regardless of definition or method of practice—like meditation, prayer or yoga—the benefits of spirituality can include major health improvements. Studies suggest spirituality and prayer are beneficial to mental health, physical health and may even add years to your life. Learn more about the benefits of spiritual wellness.
Stress can be caused by a number of different things including divorce, job loss and the pressures of work and daily life. Some stress is normal, but excess stress can be debilitating. Practicing spirituality is a productive way to reduce stress levels and focus your energy on something positive.
Studies suggest mindfulness-based stress reduction, a form of meditation, has shown positive results for reducing stress among both sick and healthy patients. Feeling a little overwhelmed? Find a quiet spot and reflect for a few moments. Relinquishing control of whatever is burdening you may just be enough to calm your mind.
Depression, a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness, guilt and hopelessness, can interfere with daily life. Depression is often treated with medication and talk therapy, but some studies suggest spirituality—namely mindfulness meditation, prayer and yoga—can also alleviate its effects.
Meditation can be practiced a number of ways, but evidence suggests mindfulness meditation, a type of meditation that focuses on awareness and acceptance of the present moment, is effective. Yoga, a series of movements and breathing exercises that promote calmness and flexibility, can also reduce symptoms of depression.
Some studies suggest that people who go to religious services or participate in religious activity have a lower mortality rate than those who don’t. One study of 74,534 female participants found those who attended services at least once a week had a 33 percent lower risk of death during the study, and a lower risk of cardiovascular- and cancer-related death, specifically.
Another study, which analyzed the health and religious practices of 3,851 older adults, suggested that those who participate in private religious activity, like prayer, meditation or Bible study, can live longer than those who don’t.
Lower blood pressure
Some studies suggest people who are more religious or spiritual have lower blood pressure than those who aren’t. High blood pressure and stress are linked. When you are stressed, a flood of hormones increases heart rate and narrows blood vessels, thereby increasing blood pressure. Reducing stress levels through spiritual practice can, in turn, lower blood pressure.
Improve social connections
Relationships and social connections are more important to our health than we may think. Having fewer social connections may even be linked to a higher risk of conditions like cancer and cardiovascular disease—but spirituality could be the fix.
An analysis published in the online journal, CANCER, which reviewed all published studies connecting cancer and the benefits of spirituality, suggests those with stronger religious and spiritual connections were more likely to maintain relationships during their illness.
Not sure where to begin? Finding your spiritual center can be easy:
- Volunteer in your community
- Make your relationships a priority
- Try meditation and relaxation techniques
- Read inspiring stories and essays
- Make a list of what’s important in your life
- Give yoga a try