Spirituality is something very personal, so there is no common definition. In general, spirituality describes our relationship to the transcendent, the divine, the infinite. The word spirituality is derived from the Latin word ‘spirit’, which has several meanings: breath, mind, soul, meaning … Read more about spirituality and what it actually is. The still relatively young spirituality research deals intensively with one topic: How does spirituality affect our health? In this blog post, I show the results of numerous studies related to spirituality and health.
Spirituality and health: Effects on the mental level
By now many physicians are convinced that believing in something larger and more powerful has an irrefutable effect on the healing process. Researchers even found out that people who believe and pray regularly recover faster. Here are the positive effects at a glance:
Self-transcendence protects against depression. Spirituality makes you believe in the good in the most difficult situations, or at least afterwards. It has been proven that spiritual people suffer less from mental illness. If you, like me, fall into the hole called depression occasionally, despite spirituality, faith still helps. In such moments, my spirituality gives me hope and the power to continue.
Coherence means correlation or connection. Aaron Antonovsky introduced the theory of sense of coherence. He names three dimensions that are necessary for health:
- Being able to understand the connections of life – feeling of comprehensibility
- Be convinced that you can shape your own life – feeling of manageability
- Believe in the meaning of life – sense of meaningfulness
Therefore total health is possible if we understand our life situation, can act on it and experience the meaningfulness of it. All this is possible through spirituality.
Self-esteem is essential to our well-being and our health. The world can seem fearsome and bleak for someone who does not believe in himself. A positive self-image brings luck in the partnership and success in the job. This strong inner power helps us to tackle difficulties and to take on challenges. Spiritual practice can increase your self-esteem enormously. Do you not believe me? – Just try a 10-minute meditation. Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and concentrate only on your breath. Thoughts will come, let them move on. See what happens to you in these 10 minutes.
Spirituality expands your horizons and raises your consciousness. When you reach a certain level of consciousness, you will realize that everything in this cosmos is connected. This realization blossoms in you and will never die again. You notice that everything is one and you can meet every living being with respect and openness. You also become more open to new experiences and learn to forgive and condone. Furthermore, you become aware of your own limits, in English, you call that ‘Humility’. Serenity and acceptance spread throughout your being.
Especially in critical situations, you learn to listen to yourself. You can deal better with losses and stressful situations. You realize that everything is connected and nothing is really dying. Therefore, you can handle setbacks in a better way. The hardest times give you a chance to learn the most about yourself and for yourself.
Spirituality and health: Effects on the body
Not only the psychological but also the physical effects are considerable. Of course, both are closely related and the human being is to be considered as a whole. I just separated them here for the sake of clarity. Spirituality has a tremendous impact on our body:
Prolong your life
Spiritual practices like meditation, yoga or shamanism have a calming effect on us. The heart rate drops and we relax. Scientifically, spirituality has a positive influence on blood sugar level, blood pressure, cortisol rhythm, metabolism and circulation. This reduces the mortality or in other words, extends the lifespan. Even serious illnesses are slowed down. For example, the immunodeficiency of people living with HIV occurs later.
Researchers found that spiritual people maintain a healthier lifestyle than non-spiritual ones. This manifests itself for example in the diet (many vegetarians among the spiritual), leisure activities (sports and exercise) and less susceptible to addictive substances (alcohol, tobacco, coffee).
Effects of meditation
Meditation is spirituality par excellence and many start their spiritual journey with meditation. That is why it is even more important to take a closer look at the effects of meditation.
- lowers the heart rate and thus the blood pressure
- strengthens the immune system by lowering the stress hormone cortisol
- increases melatonin production in the brain and relaxes us
- works against depression and anxiety (if you are suffering from depression, starting with meditation under professional supervision. It would be good to start with mindfulness meditation or concentration – Dharana)
- creates a feeling of happiness, also called flow.
- increases mindfulness
- reduces stress
- helps to forgive
- goes hand in hand with a healthy lifestyle