5 Health Benefits of Spirituality

Want to be healthier and happier? Finding your spiritual center can help.

A man and a child are doing tree pose and smiling at each other

Updated on July 5, 2023.

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 how you define or practice it—whether with, say, meditation, prayer, or yoga—the perks of spirituality can include major health improvements. Studies suggest spirituality and prayer can boost mental and physical health and may even add years to your life. With that in mind, here are five potential benefits of spiritual wellness.      

Quell stress

Stress can come from many things, including relationship issues, 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 lessening stress among both sick and healthy people. 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.        

Reduce depression

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 help alleviate its effects.

Meditation can be practiced a number of ways, but evidence suggests that mindfulness meditation, a type of meditation that focuses on awareness 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

Some studies suggest that people who go to religious services or participate in religious activity may have a longer life than those who don’t.

For example, a study of about 3,000 people published in 2023 in the European Journal of Epidemiology found that women who regularly attended religious services had a lower mortality rate than those who did not attend. Meanwhile, men who went to services had a lower hospitalization rate. 

Similarly, a frequently cited study of 74,534 women published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2016 found that those who attended services at least once a week had a 33 percent lower risk of death during the study, with lower risks of cardiovascular- and cancer-related death, specifically. The social support and optimism associated with religious services, as well as fewer depressive symptoms and less smoking, were cited as influential factors.

Lower blood pressure 

Some studies suggest people who are more religious or spiritual often 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.      

Deepen 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 one potential remedy.

A study published in 2017 in PLoS One found that people who attended religious services more than once weekly were 40 percent less likely to die early than those who never went. Researchers credited a significant part of that protective effect to in-person social involvement, notably volunteering. Attendance was important. In the study, people who were very religious but unable to leave the home—perhaps due to illness or physical limitations—actually had a higher mortality risk.

Not sure where to begin? Find your spiritual center with these activities:

Article sources open article sources

Khoury B, Sharma M, Rush SE, Fournier C. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for healthy individuals: A meta-analysis. J Psychosom Res. 2015;78(6):519-528
Liu H, Gao X, Hou Y. Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction combined with music therapy on pain, anxiety, and sleep quality in patients with osteosarcoma. Braz J Psychiatry. 2019;41(6):540-545.
Gotink RA, Meijboom R, Vernooij MW, Smits M, Hunink MG. 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction induces brain changes similar to traditional long-term meditation practice - A systematic review. Brain Cogn. 2016;108:32-41.
Saeed SA, Cunningham K, Bloch RM. Depression and Anxiety Disorders: Benefits of Exercise, Yoga, and Meditation. Am Fam Physician. 2019;99(10):620-627.
Ahrenfeldt LJ, Möller S, Hvidt NC, et al. Effect of religious service attendance on mortality and hospitalisations among Danish men and women: longitudinal findings from REGLINK-SHAREDK. Eur J Epidemiol. 2023 Mar;38(3):281-289. 
Li S, Stampfer MJ, Williams DR, VanderWeele TJ. Association of Religious Service Attendance With Mortality Among Women. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(6):777-785.
Shattuck EC, Muehlenbein MP. Religiosity/Spirituality and Physiological Markers of Health. J Relig Health. 2020;59(2):1035-1054.
Bell CN, Bowie JV, Thorpe RJ Jr. The interrelationship between hypertension and blood pressure, attendance at religious services, and race/ethnicity. J Relig Health. 2012;51(2):310-322.
Idler E, Blevins J, Kiser M, Hogue C. Religion, a social determinant of mortality? A 10-year follow-up of the Health and Retirement Study. PLoS One. 2017 Dec 20;12(12):e0189134.

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