I get it: it might seem weird to have a column dedicated to spirituality in a wellness magazine. Perhaps you quickly skim by it in order to get to the recipes, fitness plans and inspiring stories about wellness warriors. “That’s not relevant to me”, you might think. I can totally understand that because what the hell does spirituality have to do with your health? A lot, it turns out.
Cancer researchers in New York found that regular meditation and prayer, or even communion with nature, can boost the immune system and aid in the healing process.
Other studies have found that a spiritual practice can help stave off depression, increase resiliency, fight disease, and improve mental clarity. There are many reasons for these findings. One is that having faith in something greater than ourselves can reduce stress levels because we understand that we are being taken care of and that everything happens for a reason. Since stress, in its many forms, is the number one cause of disease, reducing it through our spiritual life greatly contributes to our overall health and wellness. In fact, a regular meditation practice actually change our brain waves to increase concentration, improve critical thinking, reduce stress, and take us out of the fight-flight response that can cause our bodies so much grief.
Another factor is that spirituality connects us – both in tangible communities and in the more esoteric understanding that we are all one. Many mental health conditions create (or are caused by) feelings of separation and loneliness, so it’s not surprising that recent findings have discovered that involvement in spiritual or religious activities can reduce the risk of depression or help those who are suffering to overcome feelings of helplessness.
But let’s get one thing straight: spirituality doesn’t have to equate to dogmatically following a particular religion.
It’s about having faith in something larger than yourself. That could be destiny, the universe, physics, a particular god or goddess, divine energy… whatever you want to call it is fair game. I’ve heard Louise Androlia talk about her faith as a belief in where her two feet are planted and that her journey is leading her somewhere amazing. The important part is having the belief because it will offer your strength and hope.
Your spirituality can look like whatever you want it to. It will be whatever beliefs and practices connect you most deeply to yourself and your beliefs about the forces greater than you. It’s my hope that these articles offer a jumping off point for learning about new practices and perspectives so that you can begin experimenting with your own adventures in spirituality. Because after all, it’s good for your health.