Spirituality is a vast concept that involves religious or spiritual experiences, a belief in a supernatural existence, a strong focus on the human soul or spirit, seeking the meaning of one’s life and a connection with a higher divine power.
What Is Spirituality?
Spirituality refers to a belief beyond religion that one may practice to reach their higher existence. It enables one to believe that human beings are more than their mere existence and there is more to life than earthly things. It also involves the belief in the continuity of existence after death. The meaning of spirituality differs from one person to another. It is expressed in the way an individual feels comfortable. For instance, some feel spiritually connected in churches or religious temples while others may feel it when they are meditating.
According to a 2014 study 1 , spirituality includes “all attempts to find meaning, purpose, and hope in relation to the sacred or significant (which may have a secular, religious, philosophical, humanist, or personal dimension).” It may involve practices, beliefs, commitments, philosophies and values that influence a person’s “cognition, emotion, and behavior.”
Spirituality is a widely accepted and broader concept than what most people can fathom. The spiritual journey of each person is different. Some people describe it as an individual’s attempt to understand the purpose of their existence. It is a process of understanding that suffering is a part of the human experience. It is often connected to becoming aware of the present moment.
It is practiced by engaging in different practices such as meditation, yoga, or community service. Each person expresses their sense of self in different ways. A 2012 study 2 found that practicing it is linked with internal awareness and happiness. Loving yourself and being self aware is also one of the most adopted ways of becoming more spiritual. It can help to increase hope, self-compassion, and gratitude.
Spirituality is different from religion. Most therapists hesitate to take an individual’s spiritual and religious history into consideration while assessing an individual’s mental well-being. However, research 3 suggests that the inclusion of spiritual history can accelerate the process of healing since it helps to understand an individual’s thought patterns. People who suffer from intense psychological issues are more likely to become more spiritual, says a 2009 study 4 . A 2013 study 5 found that high levels of it have been found to have a positive correlation with increased compassion, self-esteem, and improved relationships.
Signs Of Spirituality
Experiencing connectedness with your higher self is a process. Seeking your higher power can increase your spiritual vibration and induce positive emotions. Some of the signs are as follows:
- Having a greater level of empathy and intuition
- Avoiding negative people and behaviors
- Believing that life is sacred and should be embraced
- Feeling like your consciousness being renewed
- Being in the present moment
- Feeling compassionate and positive
- Feeling at peace while being alone
- Asking questions about life and death
- Feeling connected with your soul
- Finding meaning and purpose in life
- Having a strong sense of self-worth
- Being hopeful when things are challenging
- Feeling peaceful with meditation or other mindful practices
Brain And Spiritual Experiences
A 2013 study 6 pointed out that the parietal cortex in the brain is involved in awareness and attention processing. It is also responsible for directing attention, modulating behaviors, and expressing language. Spiritual experiences, which have a significant impact on a person’s life, are perceived in this part of the brain. It increases a person’s self-awareness and helps in self-development.
When people practice attaining this higher state of consciousness the activity in the frontal lobe decreases. This suggests that speech is being generated from some other space than the normal speech centers. It also depends on the type of practice that one follows. The frontal lobe tends to get activated when a person engages in practices that involve concentrating on something constantly such as a prayer or a mantra. A 2010 study 7 suggested that these practices can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress. It can also improve memory and concentration.
Science, Religion And Spirituality
Science and spirituality differ in one key aspect. Science focuses on data and facts while spirituality focuses on embracing the unknown. It involves self-transcendent emotions. These emotions can include gratitude, compassion, inspiration, admiration, astonishment, acceptance, elevation, or love. Transcendent emotions help in promoting behaviors that improve bonding and create connection. Due to this, some people connect well with others because they are linked with higher levels of spirituality.
In order to understand the fundamentals of life, it is essential to connect chemistry with consciousness. Science and spirituality both seek answers to the same question. However, the style of the question differs. For instance, spirituality asks what is the true meaning and purpose of life while science asks how the universe was created. Science wants to prove that God exists outside of us while spiritual people want to prove that God is within us.
Religion and spirituality are two sides of the same coin. Both aspects attempt to understand the meaning and purpose of life. The foundation may be similar but the practices are different. Religion can be defined as an organized system of beliefs that facilitates closeness to the transcendent and fosters an understanding relationship within a community. Spirituality is completely dependent on the individual and their beliefs.
Religion and spirituality are known to have ample benefits on one’s mental health. A 1998 study 8 pointed out that religious or spiritual attitudes have allowed people to cope with a wide range of illnesses or stressful situations. Another 2012 study 9 found that the importance of religion and spirituality may have a protective effect against the recurrence of depression, especially in high-risk individuals.
Read More About Religion Here
Spirituality And Mental Health
Mental health constitutes two aspects. One is the absence of mental illness and the other is the presence of a personality that contributes effectively to the life of the community. Some of the essential elements of mental health can include taking responsibility for one’s own actions, accepting uncertainty, courage to take risks, or serenity to accept the things you can’t change.
Spirituality can significantly influence a person’s decision-making process. It is a process of encouraging people to lead a content life and build a better relationship with themselves and others. Studies 10 have shown that it can help to reduce stress, anxiety, or depression since it brings a sense of peace to your being. Some of the positive effects of practicing it can include:
- Having a higher sense of purpose and peace
- Having a greater sense of self-esteem and self-control
- Being able to regulate your emotions for your highest good
- Ensuring faster recovery from illnesses
- Having an excellent relationship with yourself and others
- Decreased anxiety and stress
Read More About Anxiety Here
It helps to build a sense of hope and make you feel positive. A 2008 study 11 found that lack of it can interfere with interpersonal relationships and can contribute to the genesis of psychiatric disturbance. Hence, it is essential to improve your spiritual health to lead a comfortable and content life. A 2001 study 12 found that discussion with a patient with mental health concerns on spiritual matters and religious experiences can strengthen the therapeutic relationship and accelerate the healing process.
How To Become More Spiritual
Research 11 suggests that practicing it is directly related to physical and mental health. These can include improved sleep, lower blood pressure, less anxiety and stress, and the overall well-being of the individual. Some of the ways you can become more spiritual can include:
1. Dedicating a part of your day to community service
Community service helps you to feel more connected to other human beings. It helps to feel a greater sense of belonging when you serve the community. The extent of community service can differ from one person to another. Extending a helping hand, smiling at others, or hugging someone when they are low can also play a role in your spiritual journey. According to a 2017 study 13 , volunteering can lead to “an 8.54% increase in mental health, 9.08% in physical health, 7.35% in life satisfaction, and 11.11% in social well-being, as well as a 4.30% decrease in depression.”
2. Reading spiritual books
Gaining knowledge and wisdom from the minds of those who have already attained their higher sense of being is an essential part of the process. Following their methods and techniques can help you to understand your existence. Reading books on spirituality is a widely accepted method to understand the process of being more spiritual
3. Practicing mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness is an excellent way to become more spiritual. Mindfulness 14 can be defined as a state of mind where you are aware of the present moment. Some of the ways to practice mindfulness are:
- Deep breathing exercises
Read More About Mindfulness Here
4. Spending alone time
Being alone and becoming aware of yourself is an essential part of your spiritual journey. You can’t connect your mind to your higher being if you are not comfortable spending time with yourself. Take the time to appreciate and enjoy the little things that life has to offer.
5. Being grateful
Giving thanks to the blessings you have received is an excellent way to be more spiritually aware. Keeping a gratitude journal helps to have a positive outlook towards life and reflect on the events of the day.
The Path To Spirituality
Our curiosity to understand the meaning and purpose of life is a lifelong process. Reaching your higher consciousness and being aware requires effort, dedication, time, and practice. It is a natural human instinct that all human beings tend to embrace.
Spirituality At A Glance
- Spirituality refers to a belief beyond religion that one may practice to reach their higher existence and find meaning & purpose in life.
- The spiritual journey of each person is different.
- Spirituality is different from religion.
- Spirituality can significantly influence a person’s decision-making process.
- Science and spirituality differ in one key aspect. Science focuses on data and facts while spirituality focuses on embracing the unknown.
- Loving yourself and being self-aware is also one of the most adopted ways of becoming more spiritual.
- Büssing, A., Baumann, K., Hvidt, N. C., Koenig, H. G., Puchalski, C. M., & Swinton, J. (2014). Spirituality and health. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2014, 682817. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/682817
- Koenig H. G. (2012). Religion, spirituality, and health: the research and clinical implications. ISRN psychiatry, 2012, 278730. https://doi.org/10.5402/2012/278730
- Puchalski C. M. (2001). The role of spirituality in health care. Proceedings (Baylor University. Medical Center), 14(4), 352–357. https://doi.org/10.1080/08998280.2001.11927788
- Sharma, P., Charak, R., & Sharma, V. (2009). Contemporary perspectives on spirituality and mental health. Indian journal of psychological medicine, 31(1), 16–23. https://doi.org/10.4103/0253-7176.53310
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- Koenig H. G. (1998). Religious attitudes and practices of hospitalized medically ill older adults. International journal of geriatric psychiatry, 13(4), 213–224. https://doi.org/10.1002/(sici)1099-1166(199804)13:4<213::aid-gps755>3.0.co;2-5
- Miller, L., Wickramaratne, P., Gameroff, M. J., Sage, M., Tenke, C. E., & Weissman, M. M. (2012). Religiosity and major depression in adults at high risk: a ten-year prospective study. The American journal of psychiatry, 169(1), 89–94. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2011.10121823
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- Verghese A. (2008). Spirituality and mental health. Indian journal of psychiatry, 50(4), 233–237. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5545.44742
- King, M., Speck, P., & Thomas, A. (2001). The royal free interview for spiritual and religious beliefs: development and validation of a self-report version. Psychological medicine, 31(6), 1015–1023. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0033291701004160
- Yeung, J., Zhang, Z., & Kim, T. Y. (2017). Volunteering and health benefits in general adults: cumulative effects and forms. BMC public health, 18(1), 8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-017-4561-8
- Buttle H. (2015). Measuring a Journey without Goal: Meditation, Spirituality, and Physiology. BioMed research international, 2015, 891671. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/891671