How Spirituality Can Benefit Your Health
The body, mind, and spirit are connected. The health of any one of these elements seems to affect the others. Positive beliefs, comfort, and strength gained from religion, meditation, and prayer can contribute to well being. It may even promote healing. Improving your spiritual health may not cure an illness, but it may help you feel better. It also may prevent some health problems and help you cope better with illness, stress, or death.
If you want to improve your spiritual health, you may want to try the following ideas. However, remember that everyone is different. What works for others may not work for you. Do what is comfortable for you.
- Identify the things in your life that give you a sense of inner peace, comfort, strength, love, and connection.
- Set aside time every day to do the things that help you spiritually. These may include doing community service or volunteer work, praying, meditating, singing devotional songs, reading inspirational books, taking nature walks, having quiet time for thinking, doing yoga, playing a sport, or attending religious services.
1. Longer Life
Spirituality is associated with reduced mortality rates. Church attendance, is particularly linked to greater length of life.
One study followed a group of HIV-positive men and women for 17 years. Researchers found that the people who engaged in spiritual practices had a two to four times greater rate of survival. The spiritual thoughts and attitudes they determined were most beneficial included feelings of gratitude and forgiveness, overcoming spiritual guilt and spiritual empowerment.
2. Coping with Stress
Spirituality also helps cope with stress. Studies have shown that people with a higher level of self-reported spirituality have better regulated stress hormone levels than those who consider themselves non-spiritual.
A study looked at a group of people with sickle cell anemia, which can be a very painful condition. The people who attended church regularly reported significantly lower levels of pain. Their spiritual involvement seemed to help them cope with the pain more effectively. Spiritual beliefs can be said to help people’s ability to cope by giving meaning to difficult life circumstances and providing a sense of purpose.
Our spiritual beliefs can have a positive influence on our lifestyle choices. Many religious scriptures emphasize a person’s responsibility to care for and nourish their physical body and may give guidelines on how best to do this. Smoking and drinking are discouraged, as is the consumption of caffeine and rich foods. Studies have shown that Seventh Day Adventists have longer lives than the general population in various countries. They also have significantly lower rates of cancer and heart disease.
Most research on religion and spirituality looks at mental health. The majority of studies say that people with spiritual beliefs show more positive emotion and high self-esteem. They usually have a lower risk of depression, anxiety and suicide, and enjoy a higher level of social stability and support. One study taught a group of adults a simple meditation technique to practice for 15 to 20 minutes twice daily. This brief meditation training improved the participants’ perceived stress levels, as well as their negative moods and emotions.