In the past, the concept of spirituality was often associated with religious institutions and structured faith. However, the recent growth in personal spirituality suggests that the definition is changing. A person’s spirituality may be separate to a structured belief system and more focused on the well-being of his or her’s own spirit. The benefits of turning inward and addressing the wants, needs, and beliefs of our own existence in relation to the world around us may have a more permanent effect on our health than originally thought.
From this broader viewpoint, we can see a variety of tools that a spiritual individual may benefit from daily. Studies have shown that meditation can improve immune function and decrease anxiety. While meditation is not only used by spiritual individuals, the habit of sitting with one’s body, spirit, or faith is commonly practiced by the spiritual community. In addition, an increase in meditation has been proven to lower the risk of depression.
Spirituality is often paired with the belief that there exists something greater than people, like a higher power or divinity. Whether it is the universe, a deity, or an overall feeling of connectivity, an individual’s peaceful acceptance of uncontrollable events may make him or her more resilient to harsh conditions or unexpected changes. As a result, spiritual people may have a decreased risk of attracting stress-related diseases.
The communal aspect of spirituality has shown benefits for not only the individual but his or her family. A study published by the Harvard Medical School describes how regular visits to a group service may lead to a longer life. Celebrating in a shared belief and surrounding oneself with like minds may help create a sense of purpose and belonging. These elements may lead to a happier, more fulfilled home.
Although the definition of spirituality continues to evolve, the general concepts that govern its practice are the same. Focusing on the larger picture, taking time to look inward, and being part of a community are all key elements of spirituality. However, are these benefits exclusive to those who call themselves spiritual? As the definition of spirituality moves further away from its roots in organized religion, these practices may become recategorized as simple ‘human.’