5 Health Benefits of Spirituality

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

Medically reviewed in April 2021

Updated on January 24, 2022

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 benefits of spirituality can include major health improvements. Studies suggest spirituality and prayer are beneficial to mental and physical health and may even add years to your life. Learn more about the 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 reducing 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 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 have a lower mortality rate than those who don’t. A 2016 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine of 74,534 female participants found that those who attended services at least once a week had a 33 percent lower risk of death during the study and lower risks of cardiovascular- and cancer-related death, specifically.

Another study published in 2000 in Journals of Gerontology Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences analyzed the health and religious practices of 3,851 older adults. It 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 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 the fix.

An analysis published in 2015 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:

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.
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.
Helm HM, Hays JC, Flint EP, Koenig HG, Blazer DG. Does private religious activity prolong survival? A six-year follow-up study of 3,851 older adults. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2000;55(7):M400-M405.
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.
Sherman AC, Merluzzi TV, Pustejovsky JE, et al. A meta-analytic review of religious or spiritual involvement and social health among cancer patients. Cancer. 2015;121(21):3779-3788.

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