The Health Benefits of Spiritual Practice.
Spirituality may mean something different to everyone, but there is ever-growing evidence that the Health Benefits of Spiritual Practice, both those based in non-religious and religious forms, are real. The growing body of evidence suggests that many people cope better with problems such as physical illness, depression and stress when they utilize some form of spiritual practice, like prayer or meditation.
When I try to help clients open up to the idea of spiritual practice, I make sure to include a wide variety of ideas and approaches. It may involve sitting silently or walking quietly in nature, in listening to inspiring or meditative music, in watching or working with the breath, meditating on a poem, mantra or verse, reading an inspirational book, writing in a journal, even caring for a pet or someone who is ill… Really, anything that helps us pause and reflect on what is central in our lives is a form of prayer or spiritual practice.
For me, the most powerful thing about the way spiritual practice impacts my life is how it helps me hold onto a hopeful attitude, especially during difficult times, giving me a belief that things can move in a positive direction. This is one of the markers, a positive outlook, that supports the view that spiritual practice is an effective mental health therapy.
Recent studies of the Health Benefits of Spiritual Practice look at those who utilize spiritual practice on a regular basis, and suggest that it helps in relieving anxiety and depression, boosting mental health (specifically decreased neuroticism and and increased ability to engage with others), and feeling better protected against the impact of daily stressors (1). Others cite how they are helped by the fact that they see “problems” from a new and different perspective, utilizing the “re-frame method” to see challenges as growth opportunities.
And in terms of brain health, mindfulness meditation, according to Dr. Eileen Luders of UCLA, meditation slows the loss of gray matter in the brain, which is less widespread in people who meditate than in people who don’t meditate! Click on the link below to read further in Neuroscientist News about these important and life-changing discoveries. (2)
And for those who have a belief in a loving God or Higher Power, some experts say those beliefs directly influence health, by promoting wellness habits (including better diet and exercise), a positive outlook, altruism, better coping strategies in the face of adverse health events, and increased social support through group membership and congregation (3). So really consider these Health Benefits of Spiritual Practice, and contact me if you’d like to learn meditation, mindfulness, or including ritual, yoga or movement in your practice.