Spirituality What Is Spirituality? How Spirituality Can Benefit Your Health and Well-Being By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD Twitter Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. Learn about our editorial process Updated on November 14, 2022 Reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by mental health professionals. Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Megan Monahan Reviewed by Megan Monahan Megan Monahan is a certified meditation instructor and has studied under Dr. Deepak Chopra. She is also the author of the book, Don't Hate, Meditate. Learn about our Review Board Print Burak Karademir / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Signs Types Spirituality vs. Religion Uses Impact How to Practice Potential Pitfalls Spirituality is the broad concept of a belief in something beyond the self. It strives to answer questions about the meaning of life, how people are connected to each other, truths about the universe, and other mysteries of human existence. Spirituality offers a worldview that suggests there is more to life than just what people experience on a sensory and physical level. Instead, it suggests that there is something greater that connects all beings to each other and to the universe itself. It may involve religious traditions centering on the belief in a higher power. It can also involve a holistic belief in an individual connection to others and the world as a whole. Spirituality has been a source of comfort and relief from stress for multitudes of people. While people use many different paths to find God or a higher power, research has shown that those who are more religious or spiritual and use their spirituality to cope with challenges in life experience many benefits to their health and well-being. Signs of Spirituality Spirituality is not a single path or belief system. There are many ways to experience spirituality and the benefits of a spiritual experience. How you define spirituality will vary. For some people, it's the belief in a higher power or a specific religious practice. For others, it may involve experiencing a sense of connection to a higher state or a sense of inter-connectedness with the rest of humanity and nature. Some signs of spirituality can include: Asking deep questions about topics such as suffering or what happens after deathDeepening connections with other peopleExperiencing compassion and empathy for othersExperiencing feelings of interconnectednessFeelings of awe and wonderSeeking happiness beyond material possessions or other external rewardsSeeking meaning and purposeWanting to make the world a better place Not everyone experiences or expresses spirituality in the same way. Some people may seek spiritual experiences in every aspect of their lives, while others may be more likely to have these feelings under specific conditions or in certain locations. For example, some people may be more likely to have spiritual experiences in churches or other religious temples, while others might have these feelings when they're out enjoying nature. Types of Spirituality There are many different types of spirituality. Some examples of how people get in touch with their own spirituality include: BreathworkMeditation or quiet time New age spiritualityPrayerService to their communitySpending time in nature Spiritual retreatsYoga Other people express their spirituality through religious traditions such as: Buddhism Christianity Hinduism Humanism Islam Judaism Sikhism It is important to remember that there are many other spiritual traditions that exist throughout the world, including traditional African and Indigenous spiritual practices. Such spiritual practices can be particularly important to groups of people who have been subjected to the effects of colonialism. Difference Between Spirituality and Religion Though there can be a lot of overlap between people who are spiritual and people who are religious, below are some key points to help differentiate spirituality vs. religion. Spirituality Can be practiced individually Doesn't have to adhere to a specific set of rules Often focuses on a personal journey of discovering what is meaningful in life Religion Often practiced in a community Usually based on a specific set of rules and customs Often focuses on the belief in deities or gods, religious texts, and tradition Uses for Spirituality There are a number of different reasons why people may turn to spirituality, including but not limited to: To find purpose and meaning: Exploring spirituality can help people find answers to philosophical questions they have such as "What is the meaning of life?" and "What purpose does my life serve?" To cope with feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety: Spiritual experiences can be helpful when coping with the stresses of life. To restore hope and optimism: Spirituality can help people develop a more hopeful outlook on life. To find a sense of community and support: Because spiritual traditions often involve organized religions or groups, becoming a part of such a group can serve as an important source of social support. Impact of Spirituality While specific spiritual views are a matter of faith, research has demonstrated some of the benefits of spirituality and spiritual activity. The results may surprise no one who has found comfort in their religious or spiritual views, but they are definitely noteworthy in that they demonstrate in a scientific way that these activities do have benefits for many people. The following are a few more of the many positive findings related to spirituality and health: Research has shown that religion and spirituality can help people cope with the effects of everyday stress. One study found that everyday spiritual experiences helped older adults better cope with negative feelings, and enhanced positive feelings.Research shows that older women are more grateful to God than older men, and they receive greater stress-buffering health effects due to this gratitude.According to research, those with an intrinsic religious orientation, regardless of gender, exhibited less physiological reactivity toward stress than those with an extrinsic religious orientation. Those who were intrinsically oriented dedicated their lives to God or a "higher power," while the extrinsically oriented ones used religion for external ends like making friends or increasing community social standing. This, along with other research, demonstrates that there may be tangible and lasting benefits to maintaining involvement with a spiritual community. This involvement, along with the gratitude that can accompany spirituality, can be a buffer against stress and is linked to greater levels of physical health. Dedication to God or a higher power translated into less stress reactivity, greater feelings of well-being, and ultimately even a decreased fear of death. People who feel comfortable and comforted using spirituality as a coping mechanism for stress can rest assured that there's even more evidence that this is a good idea for them. Prayer works for young and old alike. Prayer and spirituality have been linked to: Better healthGreater psychological well-beingLess depressionLess hypertensionLess stress, even during difficult timesMore positive feelingsSuperior ability to handle stress How to Become More Mindful in Your Everyday Life How to Practice Spirituality Whether you are rediscovering a forgotten spiritual path, reinforcing your commitment to an already well-established one, or wanting to learn more about spirituality for beginners, there are countless ways to start exploring your spiritual side and help improve your well-being. Spirituality is a very personal experience, and everyone’s spiritual path may be unique. Research shows, however, that some spiritual stress relief strategies have been helpful to many, regardless of faith. Some things you can do to start exploring spirituality include: Pay attention to how you are feeling: Part of embracing spirituality means also embracing what it means to be human, both the good and the bad. Focus on others: Opening your heart, feeling empathy, and helping others are important aspects of spirituality. Meditate: Try spending 10 to 15 minutes each morning engaged in some form of meditation. Practice gratitude: Start a gratitude journal and record what you are grateful for each day. This can be a great reminder of what is most important to you and what brings you the greatest happiness. Try mindfulness: By becoming more mindful, you can become more aware and appreciative of the present. Mindfulness encourages you to be less judgmental (both of yourself and others) and focus more on the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or future. Press Play for Advice on Being Human Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares what it means to be 'wholly human,' featuring GRAMMY award-winning singer LeAnn Rimes. Click below to listen now. Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts Potential Pitfalls One potential pitfall of spirituality is a phenomenon known as spiritual bypassing. This involves a tendency to use spirituality as a way to avoid or sidestep problems, emotions, or conflicts. For example, rather than apologizing for some type of emotional wound you have caused someone else, you might bypass the problem by simply excusing it and saying that "everything happens for a reason" or suggesting that the other person just needs to "focus on the positive." Spirituality can enrich your life and lead to a number of benefits, but it is important to be cautious to not let spiritual ideals lead to pitfalls such as dogmatism or a reason to ignore the needs of others. What Is Religion? 7 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Akbari M, Hossaini SM. The relationship of spiritual health with quality of life, mental health, and burnout: The mediating role of emotional regulation. Iran J Psychiatry. 2018;13(1):22-31. PMID:29892314 Whitehead BR, Bergeman CS. Coping with daily stress: Differential role of spiritual experience on daily positive and negative affect. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2012;67(4):456-459. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbr136 Manning LK. Spirituality as a lived experience: Exploring the essence of spirituality for women in late life. Int J Aging Hum Dev. 2012;75(2):95-113. doi:10.2190/AG.75.2.a McMahon, BT, Biggs HC. Examining spirituality and intrinsic religious orientation as a means of coping with exam anxiety. Society, Health & Vulnerability. 2012;3(1). doi:10.3402/vgi.v3i0.14918 Johnson KA. Prayer: A helpful aid in recovery from depression. J Relig Health. 2018;57(6):2290-2300. doi:10.1007/s10943-018-0564-8 Wachholtz AB, Sambamthoori U. National trends in prayer use as a coping mechanism for depression: Changes from 2002 to 2007. J Relig Health. 2013;52(4):1356-68. doi:10.1007/s10943-012-9649-y Gonçalves JP, Lucchetti G, Menezes PR, Vallada H. Religious and spiritual interventions in mental health care: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Psychol Med. 2015;45(14):2937-49. doi:10.1017/S0033291715001166 Additional Reading Arrey AE, Bilsen J, Lacor P, Deschepper R. Spirituality/religiosity: A cultural and psychological resource among sub-Saharan African migrant women with HIV/AIDS in Belgium. PLoS One. 2016;11(7):e0159488. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0159488 Paul Victor CG, Treschuk JV. Critical literature review on the definition clarity of the concept of faith, religion, and spirituality. J Holist Nurs. 2019;38(1):107-113. doi:10.1177/0898010119895368 By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.