The Strength of Spirituality
Written by: Jessie Nolasco-Sandino, LMSW
Although religion and spirituality have been synonymous throughout history, in the last couple of decades spirituality has detached itself as a separate entity and therefore can sometimes be overlooked. As this distinction has become more apparent, research has grown to show the benefits of spirituality in an individual’s health. Research has shown that these benefits are not only mental but physical as well.
Based on the dictionary, spirituality is defined as: the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to only physical matter. By this definition, individuals who integrate spiritual practices with the physical properties of the human experience, expand their mental awareness to include themes of the soul or spirit that are often forgotten or unknown. Spirituality allows an emotional attunement to the unseen forces or energy surrounding the physical body.
Here are some benefits of integrating spirituality in one’s life or practice:
1. Spirituality can help develop strength and overcome hardships. By using spirituality as a catalyst, people face hardships head on and overcome them far more successfully then those who don’t. Having spirituality to rely on ties into a sense of meaning or purpose that is assigned to these difficulties in life and in turn transform them into what might be life lessons, or assets in growth.
2. Spiritual people make healthier choices. Although spirituality and religion are different; there are some similarities. One of these areas that the two crossover is in the point of tradition. Spirituality does not require tradition, but in the practice of it there are habits that are formed in the experience. These habits (or traditions) can help individuals avoid unhealthy behavior as it is often a point to treat the body with respect.
3. Spirituality may help you live longer. Research has suggested that people who engage in spiritual or religious activities had 18% reduction in mortality (Lucchetti G, Lucchetti AL, Koenig HG, 2011). Some researchers think that these results are exaggerated, while most agree that there is a positive relationship between religious and spiritual practices to better health outcomes. For example, imagine a single parent struggling to make ends meet and under the daily pressures to take care of his/her children, may turn to spirituality or faith to endure the daily struggles and in the process finds comfort, solace and faith as well.
4. Spiritual community can help improve your well-being. Participating in spiritual traditions that foster spiritual fellowship, such as attending bible study or a yoga retreat, can be sources of strong relationships and social support. This may create a sense of belonging, support, and community. Whether you follow religious leaders, shamans, palm readers, gurus or other spiritual outlets, having a safe, open community of people to share similar faiths and beliefs, have been proven to increase well-being and bolster life expectancy.
For me, spirituality in psychotherapy and beyond is an intimate dance with the profound; a journey that can elicit feelings of awe, tranquility, and a sense of personal connection to the cosmos. Science will show us that these practices create expansive thinking and can lead to flow states, growing our intuition and creativity. Humans are here to create!
This month, let’s set our compass towards the spiritual horizon. Let’s seek the deeper meaning that lies beneath the surface. Embrace the experiences that stir your soul, whether they be moments of quiet contemplation, the rhythmic flow of your breath in meditation, or the profound connection found in the embrace of nature’s beauty.
As you open yourself to your own spiritual journey, remember that it is a personal odyssey – one that can be as unique as your fingerprint. Let the whispers of the divine guide you, and let the search for meaning illuminate your path. May this year be more than just a turning of the calendar; may it be a transcendental voyage into the depths of your own spiritual awakening.
Lucchetti G, Lucchetti AL, Koenig HG. (2011) Impact of spirituality/religiosity on mortality: comparison with other health interventions. Explore New York. Jul-Aug; 7(4):234-8. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2011.04.005.