Science Reveals Shocking Importance Of Spirituality In Life

Science has revealed some staggering facts about the importance of spirituality in life and what it means to be spiritual in 2020.

If you’re unhappy or unhealthy, spirituality can help. But the masses still turn their noses up to spirituality, partly because they confuse it with religion, and partly because there have been some spiritual cults, even though the latter is rate [for an example, read my article on Maum Meditation].

Too many people deny their spiritual side because they relate it to religion. This is a critical error because there is a huge importance of spirituality in life.

Let’s take a look at why spirituality means so much, and then we’ll discuss what spiritual really means.

The True meaning and importance of spirituality in life


Spirituality is basically our own, unique, individual beliefs and perspective on the world, on morality, and on creation.

Having your own spiritual beliefs is vital for both mental and physical health. Scientific research has revealed that there are significant benefits of being spiritual. And many of them are benefits you cannot afford to ignore. Let’s take a look.

Benefits

New insights reveal that there is staggering importance of spirituality in our lives.

There are incredible benefits of spirituality for those who maintain a spiritual practice and a spiritual mindset.

As spiritual people, we are happier. We are healthier. We have better perspectives. We are more enlightened. And we are likely to live longer. [1]

But it goes further than that. It’s been shown that there are even benefits of spirituality for serious health issues like fighting diseases and overcoming depression. From neuroscience to positive psychology, scientists have proven time and again that there is genuine importance of spirituality in life.

This is partly because of the various activities and exercises that spiritual people practise.

For instance,

  • There are more than 100 benefits of meditation, which was originally a spiritual practice.
  • There are massive benefits of yoga practice, which also started off as a spiritual practice.
  • There are significant health benefits of Daoist exercises like Tai Chi and QiGong.
  • Many spiritual protection techniques have their benefits too.

But it goes even further than this.  Just consider the following health benefits of spirituality.

girl doing spiritual practice

1: Stops stress and depression

Spiritual people know how to stay positive in adverse times, and that’s huge because negative life experiences can have a massive impact on our health.

One massive benefit of spirituality is that it helps us maintain mental strength when facing hard times, like doing exams, facing grief from the death of a loved one, or handling setbacks in a career.

When we go through rough patches in our lives, spirituality can help us to see the bigger picture. Because of this, spiritual people are less likely to dwell on the bad, because they realise that the painful moments are just one part of a much bigger picture

Scientific studies back this up:

  • The National Institute of Health conducted a study that revealed the importance of spirituality in schools. They showed that Canadian college students who were connected to their campus ministries suffered less stress during hard times. [2]
  • In 2002 researchers studied 147 independent investigations covering 98,000 people. They found that, on average, the more religious a person is the less depression and stress they suffer. [3]
  • In 2008 researchers studied 115 articles and found that 92% of the articles linked religiousness to improved mental health. [4]
  • In 2012, the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that religiousness reduces the chance of depression. Catholics and Protestants had a 76% lower chance of suffering from major depression. [4]

2: There are massive health benefits of spirituality

Research by Harold G Koenig [4] shows that there are serious health benefits of spirituality,  primarily because spiritual people are more likely to pursue positive, healthy lifestyles.

Many religions and spiritualities include advanced health systems. For instance, there are meditations in Buddhism, and exercises like Qigong and tai chi in Taoism that are designed to cultivate chi. These philosophies and exercises help spiritual people to achieve and to maintain health. Because these health practices are integral to the spiritual lifestyle, people are more likely to stick to them.

Many spiritualities are also vocally opposed to narcotics and meat consumption, which have health risks.

These changes in lifestyle, over many years, lead to longer, healthier lives.

3: Reduces fear of death:

One of the most common concerns is the fear of dying.

It’s easy to see how non-spiritualists view death so bleakly, seeing it as the absolute end.

Spiritualists, however, tend to believe that death is not the end, but a new beginning. This significantly eases the psychological burden of the idea of dying.

A more positive outlook on death helps us face illness and health complications more rationally. Bereavement is also more tolerable as spiritualists tend to believe the one they have lost has ascended to a better place.

Plus, scientific research has shown that religious funeral rituals help people to handle grief and to stay strong after the death of a loved one. The Center For Loss states that, “the funeral ceremony helps us acknowledge the reality of the death, gives testimony to the life of the deceased, encourages the expression of grief in a way consistent with the culture’s values, provides support to mourners, allows for the embracing of faith and beliefs about life and death, and offers continuity and hope for the living.”. [6]

4: Gives life meaning and purpose:

Spirituality gives you meaning and purpose, which in turn leads to more complete, fuller lives.

When we see that our life is intrinsically connected to a higher power, we value our lives more and are more likely to act in positive ways, contributing to society and in particular to the spiritual or religious communities or which we are part.

Waking up every day with a sense of purpose promotes positive living. We wake up early, eager to work towards our goals. We look after ourselves because we value our lives more highly. We are more active, working towards our purpose.

inspiring spiritual quote
inspiring spiritual quote

5: Helps us see the beauty in life:

Appreciation of beauty is one of the twenty-four character strengths of positive psychology (and so is spirituality).

Scientific research has proven that people who appreciate beauty are more likely to be happy and healthy. This includes physical beauty but also the beauty of the world, of nature, of the elements… the more we appreciate beauty, the happier and healthier we are likely to be.

Therefore, another benefit of spirituality is that it makes us happier because it makes us more appreciate.

Spirituality helps us to see the beauty in life. A spiritualist can see the divine in everyday occurrences. Where something as simple sunlight may be nothing more than light to a non-believer, to a spiritual or religious person that same sunlight is a connection to the divine, it means more to the spiritualist than to the non-spiritualist.

6: Helps us to forgive:

One of the reasons why spirituality is important in life is because it helps us to forgive.

Forgiveness:

  • Increases lifespan
  • Reduces anger
  • Helps with general health
  • Improves immune system functioning
  • Reduces stress
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Promotes happiness [based on research published on Mayo Clinic]

Most spiritualities include lessons designed to help us to forgive.

In Buddhism, there are specific meditations for forgiveness, as there are in other spiritualities. The bible teaches us to forgive too. Forgiveness is one of the most common traits among world religions. And this is another core part of the importance of spirituality in life because it helps us to forgive others, which improves our relationships.

For instance, from the bible:

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you”—Colossians 3:13

Because of spiritual teachings, the spiritualist understands the importance of forgiveness. They can acknowledge and accept the shortcomings of other people. This leads to less anger and less stress.

Research reveals that spirituality also makes us more empathetic. Although research is not 100% clear on why, and not to mention, there are both pros and cons of being an empath.

7: Anti-ageing: 

Spiritual people age slower. This is primarily because they are better equipped to handle stress.

The Mayo Clinic states that spirituality reduces stress in the following ways:

  • Provides a sense of purpose
  • Helps us connect to the world
  • Allows us to relinquish control
  • Expands our social networks
  • Helps us live healthier lives

Stress accelerates the ageing process. Spiritual techniques like meditation, prayer, yoga, tai chi, and more, limit the effects of stress and thereby slow the ageing process.

This is one of the most amazing ways in which spirituality is important. You might not think about the importance of spirituality to your age, but it is a factor and an amazing one at that.

man praying in countryside

8: Helps you make sense of it all.

Perhaps the universal benefit of spirituality is this: It helps us understand life.

The wisdom found in different spiritualities can help you to understand life in a healthier way. It also helps us to be more hopeful and optimistic [read: the importance of hope in life]

9: Morals

One of the main reasons for the importance of spirituality in life is this: Morality.

Many spiritualities focus on either of good karma and bad karma, the idea that good deeds are rewarded and evil deeds punished.

I’m a deeply spiritual person myself, and my spirituality heavily influences my concept of morality. My personal spirituality revolves around compassion. I genuinely go out of my way to be kind to everyone I meet. Compassion is vital for me [Read: importance of compassion].

Other spiritualities have their own code of morals that they follow. However, most value compassion, mercy, truth, love, and kindness. And those traits are in themselves essential for our health and wellbeing.

It’s clear that there is a huge importance of spirituality in life. So how do you become spiritual?

How To Become Spiritual

It is not always easy to be spiritual. There are times when you will question your spirituality. My spirituality is love and compassion. And there are times when my loving, non-judgmental attitude is tested.

But by doing the following things, you can continually strengthen your spiritual character.

  1. Read about different religions and beliefs and how they have helped other people
  2. Appreciate art. For millennia, art has been intrinsically linked to spirituality. Visit art museums and meditate on the way different artists depict their religious beliefs.
  3. Practice some non-religious meditations. Twenty minutes of meditation per day will silence your thoughts and stresses about work, personal life and other day-to-day subjects. This will give you the mental space needed to consider thoughts of spirituality. Who knows, you might have deeply layered spiritual beliefs that have been defining you but which you’ve never found the time or open-mindedness to realise.
  4. Follow some spiritual blogs for inspiration
  5. Imagine you’re dead. . . no really! This sounds morbid, but by imagining that this is the last day of your life, or even that you are already dead, you’ll look at the present moment in a whole new context, one that could give you an entirely new and more spiritual way of looking at the world.
  6. There are lots of inspirational spiritual gurus. Do any of them inspire you? Read about them. For me, I love the Dalai Lama. I think he is the best spiritual guru. And I try to follow the Dalai Lama’s life lessons. But that’s just me. You are free to follow whomever you choose.

These are just some of the potential ways how to become spiritual.

The best thing to do is to just look for spirituality in life in general.

  • Look for some meaning to it all.
  • Look for areas and times of your life where you’ve felt like some external force was helping you out and guiding you.
  • Look to nature
  • look to love
  • look to art
  • look to beauty
  • look to everything in the world that is so miraculous that there simply must be some explanation for it.

Learn more about spirituality with our spiritual words dictionary

SOURCES:

1: Does Spirituality Make You Happy? Brian Walsh, https://time.com/4856978/spirituality-religion-happiness/

2: Spirituality and Prayer Relieve Stress, Therese J. Borchard https://psychcentral.com/blog/spirituality-and-prayer-relieve-stress/

3:  Religious and Spiritual Factors in Depression: Review and Integration of the Research, Depression Research And Treatment, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3426191/

4:  Religion, Spirituality, and Health: The Research and Clinical Implications, Harold G. Koenig, ISNR Psychiatry, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3671693/

5: Why Is the Funeral Ritual Important? Center For Loss,  Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. https://www.centerforloss.com/2016/12/funeral-ritual-important/

6: Spirituality and stress relief: Make the connection, Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044464


Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation. You can read his books on Amazon