The science is clear and irrefutable. Spirituality is vitally important to us all. From neuroscience to positive psychology, scientists have proven time and again that a spiritual perspective on life leads to a higher quality of life, a healthier life and a happy one.
To understand why spirituality is so important it’s first necessary to understand precisely what spirituality is.
These days, the word “spiritual” is too easily confused with the word “religion.” In many ways, religion has adversely affected the approachability of spirituality.
The reality of the fact is that religion and spirituality are completely different things. Religion is communal and implies adherence to an external structure of morality and belief. Spirituality is personal. Spirituality can take any form. It is freedom of belief. Spirituality implies nothing more than believing in something and living by and for some set of principles.
Where a religion will come gift-wrapped with exegeses and classic texts, spirituality is an open invitation to use your own mind to discover your own interpretation of this thing called life.
When we say “Spiritual” we mean, “that which affects the deeper aspects of human beings.”
Why, then, should a deeper understanding of humanity be so integral to our health?
There are many reasons.
The health benefits of spirituality include:
Stress relief: Spirituality gives a sense of perspective. When we go through rough patches in our lives, spirituality can help us to see the bigger picture. We are then less likely to dwell on the bad, because we are able to see the bad as part of the grand canvas of life. If life were a painting, the dark times would be the shadows. Without those shadows, without the bad times, we cannot perceive the true shape and form of existence. You can discover more about the stress relief offered by spirituality here.
Improved Health: Scientific research conducted by Harold G Koenig showed that spirituality has a direct positive influence on physical health. This is largely due to spirituality encouraging positive lifestyles. When we live a spiritual life we tend to hold greater respect for ourselves and our bodies. This in turn leads us to treat our bodies more healthily. Many spiritualities are also vocally opposed to narcotics, and often to meat consumption. These changes in lifestyle, over many years, lead to longer lives.
Fear of Death: The most common fear of all is the fear of dying. It’s easy to see how non-spiritualists view death so bleakly, seeing it as the absolute end. Spiritualists, however, tend to believe that death is not the end, but a new beginning. This greatly eases the psychological burden of the idea of dying. A more positive outlook on death then enables the spiritualist to face illness and health complications more rationally. Bereavement is also more tolerable as spiritualists tend to believe the one they have lost has ascended to a better place.
Meaning and Purpose: A sense of meaning and purpose promotes more full lives. Waking up everyday with a sense of purpose immediately promotes positive living. We wake up early, eager to work towards our goals. We look after ourselves because we value our lives more highly. We are more active, working towards our purpose. And through purpose we discover a great reason for living.
Spirituality helps an individual see the beauty in life and hence to be happier: Appreciation of beauty is one of the twenty four character strengths of positive psychology. It’s been proven that people who can appreciate beauty are more likely to be happy and healthy. Spirituality helps us to see that beauty. A spiritualist is able to see the divine in everyday occurrences. They see beauty all around them. And that beauty makes them happy and healthier than non-spiritualists.
Spirituality helps with forgiveness: When we’re unable to forgive people we hold on to bitterness and resentment. These negative mental states erode our mental health. Conversely, the spiritualist is able to acknowledge and accept the shortcomings of other people. This leads to less anger and less stress.
Spirituality helps prevent depression: Because spiritualists have a healthier sense of perspective, they are able to accept the low times in their lives. This lessens the affect that negativity has on their wellbeing. To the spirituality, a bad day is just a step towards the next good day. It’s easy to see how such a perspective limits the influence of depressive thoughts and feelings.
Spirituality has anti-aging properties: Spiritualists age slower. This is largely because of the lack of stress in their lives. Stress accelerates the aging process. Spiritual techniques like meditation, prayer, yoga, tai chi, and more, limit the affects of stress and thereby slow the aging process.
Conclusion: Spirituality is one of the most important aspects of mentality and lifestyle. Spiritual individuals are happier and healthier. They also live longer lives on average. Open your mind to spirituality and you’ll reap many rewards.