Body, mind, soul: the interconnectedness of these three have been a hot topic for (counting on fingers) thousands of years. But not until recent decades have researchers been able to prove it. The positive effect of physical exercise on mental health is now well documented, as is the power of mental positivity to improve both athletic performance and medical outcomes.
But what about our spiritual side? Can our efforts to connect to the divine support us in other ways? A growing body of research affirms what spiritual practitioners have been saying for, well, thousands of years: yes.
Spiritual Practice Is Tied To Lower Anxiety, Sleep Problems, Stress And Cortisol Levels
According to a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, religiosity, spirituality and frequency of prayer have been tied to lower cortisol levels. Cortisol, often referred to as the "stress hormone," can wreak havoc on our bodies when it's chronically elevated. But spiritual engagement appears to help us keep this hormone at bay.
A recent study published by Skylight found that more frequent users of their app’s spiritual exercises reported less anxiety, stress and sleep problems than less frequent users. Read the full Skylight study here.
Spiritual Practice Might Help Deter Suicide
Not only does spiritual practice decrease anxiety, it might even save a life. Multiple studies consistently report that attending religious services may help protect against suicide attempts, even after adjusting for social support. This means that attending a religious service in and of itself might prevent suicide attempts.
Spiritual Practice Can Improve Immune Function
Your immune system, your body's fortress against illness, can be fortified by spiritual practices. In a study of more than 1,700 older adults, researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that those who practice religion had better immune function than those who didn’t. So maybe a prayer a day does keep the doctor away.
Spirituality Is Tied To Overall Thriving
The stronger one’s sense of purpose, the more likely they are to be mentally and physically well. Harvard researchers have found a link between religion or spirituality and a sense of purpose, estimating that individuals who frequently pray or meditate are 47% more likely to have a sense of mission and purpose in their life than those who do not.
Springtide Research Institute delved into overall wellbeing further and found that the more spiritual or religious, the more likely a young person is to say they are flourishing a lot in their emotional or mental wellbeing.
A Prescription For Spiritual Practice
Let’s be honest: religion/spirituality isn’t without its cultural baggage, a reality which often leads experts and institutions to shy away from discussing its benefits. Meanwhile, the growing evidence practically begs each of us to consider spiritual practice as part of our wellness routine. Whether we commune with the divine through prayer, meditation, movement or other ritualistic practices, the benefits to mind, body and soul are real.
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