Why is increasing your spirituality important? We have already explored 10 Ways to Grow Our Spirituality. You may be wondering why we want to do that, especially as we age. As it turns out there are several physiological benefits to being more Spiritual.
Before we explore the benefits, let’s check out some definitions. As you will see from the these definitions, spirituality can seem all-encompassing. The question may become “What doesn’t fit into this category?”
According to Halls, Hughes, and Handzo in 2016, spirituality is, “Spirituality is a dynamic and intrinsic aspect of humanity through which persons seek ultimate meaning, purpose , and transcendence, and experience relationships to self, family, others, community, society, nature, and the significant or sacred. Spirituality is expressed through beliefs, values, traditions, and practices.”
Let’s Explore the Definition of Spirituality
There is a lot in that definition to unpack. Basically, I read this to mean we express our spirituality through how we live our lives and why we live them as we do. It is all about our relationships with ourselves, others, and God. Is what we do actually connected with our beliefs? To me, that is what it means to be authentic or to live with integrity.
There is no doubt that this is important at any age. As we age this may become even more fundamentally important to us. As we look at our present and our past, we will become aware if we have lived and are living our lives with that authenticity and integrity. When we realize we aren’t that we are hit by that thunderbolt of questioning. What then?
If increasing our spirituality gives us several benefits, then perhaps we need to implement those strategies we explored earlier. This brings us back to really looking at the reasons why this is important. There are two big reasons: our physical and mental health!
Physical Health Benefits of Increasing Your Spiritually
1.) Reduction in Stress
Chronic stress can be extremely harmful to both your physical and mental health. Emotionally and mentally, we all know that stress, the kind that we never allow to dissipate, is dangerous. We lose sleep, have tense muscles, headaches, feel on edge, become exhausted and often not very pleasant to be around. Basically, unrelenting stress is dangerous for us. Adopting spiritual growth habits has been shown to reduce stress in individuals.
2.) Reduce Blood Pressure
Have you thought about this before? Increasing your spirituality can help lower your blood pressure. Increased blood pressure is a common occurrence as we age. We are constantly warned by our health care professionals that elevated blood pressure is a serious health risk. In fact, research links high blood pressure to damage to arteries, our brain, heart, kidneys, and eyes. It can result in bone damage and trouble sleeping. Whew! With all of those complications, isn’t it great to know that studies show spiritual practices at the least correlate with blood pressure reductions? Check out this article: Spirituality May Help Blood Pressure.
3.) Improve Functioning of Immune System
Yes, growth in your spiritual practices can help keep you well physically by strengthening your immune system! This is exciting news to me. What about you? This benefit may be one of the results of our number one benefit: Stress Reduction. Studies show that reduced mental stress can reduce stress on your immune system. Less immune stress can lead to less physical illness. Prayer, meditation, and attendance at religious services all have been shown to boost immunity. (Cresswell, 2012)
Mental and Emotional Health Benefits of Increasing Your Spiritually
As if these physical benefits of spiritual growth aren’t inspiring enough, there are mental and emotional benefits as well.
4.) Reduction in Depression
When we become more aware of our values and bring our choices into alignment with those values, we may be able to shift how we see the world around us and our place in it. Being in the tension of not living our values is exhausting and may leave us with a very negative view of ourselves and our lives.
It is important to note, that I am not referring to depression resulting from chemical imbalance or other medical conditions, medication interactions, etc., that may lead to depression. Causes of a medical nature should be addressed with your healthcare provider. Please do not take the information in this article as a replacement for treatment or the expertise of a medical professional.
The depression we are talking about here results from a disconnect between our core values and how we live. Also when what we see in the world is contrary to our belief system our sense of well-being is affected. Spending time in spiritual pursuits, identifying these tensions, can help tremendously in working through them to help resolve the disconnect or lead us to action. Often times, simply acknowledging this disconnect can help to lift negative thoughts. We can feel knowledgeable and empowered.
5.) Increased Social Interactions
By participating in church or synagogue or other places of religious services, your opportunities to interact with others increases greatly. Ideally, from these interactions you gain a deepened sense of community. Caring and meaningful relationships are shown time and again to boost mental and emotional well-being. The benefit of community is not restricted to religious or spiritual groups such as church family, but these communities may often best reflect our core values. Check out this article from the Australian Department of Health for more details on the benefit of community on mental and emotional health. Or check out this article from the National Alliance on Mental Illness for more infhormation.
6.) Lower rates of anxiety
Similar to reduction of depression, those who experience anxiety can see reduction in anxiety as spiritual practices increase. Also similar to depression, do not dismiss medical causes of anxiety and consultation with a medical professional.
No doubt anxiety and panic attacks are very real and can be debilitating. It is sometimes possible to help reduce the level of anxiety and shorten the duration by increasing your spirituality.
7.) Overall Improvement in Mental Well-Being
Beyond improving depression and anxiety, spirituality can help improve overall mental health. You do not need to be experiencing depression or anxiety to feel an improvement to your overall sense of mental well-being. The benefits are available to everyone. Being connected, mindfulness, a greater sense of community, the benefits of rituals, and more can be experienced through spiritual growth
8.) Increase Longevity
When you combine the effects of spiritual growth that we have explored, it is easy to see why there is an increase in longevity. Reduction of stress, blood pressure, depression, and anxiety, combined with an increase in social interaction and immune system strength, are bound to have a “greater than the some of the parts” result. Each aspect taken individually can help to improve longevity. When you combine these wide ranging benefits, the results can be even more positive.
9.) Enhance the Lives of those Around You
A large part of spirituality is moving beyond yourself and shifting your focus to your relationships with others, your community, and God. By improving both your physical and mental health, your relationships with others have a greater opportunity to flourish. This can bring enjoyment, contentment, and peace to those you spend time with. The effects of increasing your spirituality can improve the life experiences of others and perhaps even encourage them to explore some spiritual growth for themselves.
These benefits are ones you do not want your or your loved ones to miss out on. I challenge you to start practicing gratitude, spend time in nature, pray, and more. Please share your experiences with the benefits of increasing your spirituality in the comments.