5 Health Benefits of Spirituality

5 Health Benefits of Spirituality

Want to be healthier and happier? Find your spiritual center.

There is no single definition for spirituality, nor is there a single way to practice it—spirituality means different things to different people and even those meanings can change over time.

Some experts describe spirituality as a belief in something bigger than yourself, but regardless of definition or method of practice (like meditation, prayer or yoga), spirituality has major health benefits. Studies suggest spirituality and prayer are beneficial to mental health, physical health and may even add years to your life.        

Quell stress 
Stress can be caused by a number of different things—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 mindful-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 you mind.        

Reduce depression
Depression, a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness, guilt and hopelessness, can interfere with daily life. Depression can be treated with medication and talk therapy, but some studies suggest spirituality, namely mindfulness meditation, prayer and yoga, can also alleviate the effects of depression.

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.

Live longer
Studies suggest that people who attend church services or participate in religious activity have a lower mortality rate than those who don’t. One study of 74,534 female participants suggests those who attended services at least once a week had a 33 percent lower risk of death during the study, and a lower risks of cardiovascular- and cancer-related death, specifically.

Another, which analyzed the health and religious practices of 3,851 older adults, found 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; a flood of stress 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. Few 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 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.

Medically reviewed in February 2019.

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