Having faith and spirituality does not mean that you must identify with a particular religion. While faith and spirituality can express themselves through religious affiliation, these words are not synonymous. Faith is that nagging feeling that you are not just a cosmic accident and that there must be more to life than your day-to-day activities that keep you busy but not necessarily fulfilled. Spirituality is how you go about finding your something more. Here are the top 10 ways that opening yourself up to faith and spirituality benefits your life.
1. Improves Your Health
Studies show that people for whom faith and spirituality are a big part of life are physically and mentally healthier. Psychology Today outlined the main characteristics of spiritual people as follows:
- They are compassionate.
- They are gracious.
- They are optimistic.
- They tend to flourish.
- They take time to savor life.
Dr. Phil, the well-known psychologist and television personality, says that people of faith receive the following benefits:
- They have fewer heart attacks.
- They suffer less physical pain.
- They have less depression and more contentment.
A study reported in Everyday Health concluded that faith and spirituality improve health by boosting the body’s immune system and enhancing thinking ability. They also counteract depression and/or hopelessness and give people a sense of purpose.
2. Reduces Your Stress and Anxiety
Spiritual and faith-filled people have less stress and anxiety. Why? Whatever your definition of “God,” prayer and/or meditation help you relax, lower your blood pressure, and encourage you to think positively. While they are not cure-alls, they lessen the likelihood that you will become overwhelmed by stressful situations and sink into a state of clinical depression.
3. Improves Your Sense of Wellbeing
Faith and spirituality likewise give you a sense of wellbeing. How? The short answer is optimism, the inclination to hope for the best. Not that you must bury your head in the sand and/or constantly view the world through rose-colored glasses.
The difference between optimistic and pessimistic people is that when you are optimistic, you have a general outlook toward life and the future that emphasizes the positive rather than the negative. Having faith and spirituality helps you do this by helping you choose coping mechanisms that enhance your life and keep you in a generally positive frame of mind. This, in turn, gives you better physical, mental, and emotional health.
4. Gives You a Community
People are social animals. Everyone enjoys spending time with others who share their beliefs, enthusiasms, and interests. If you are looking for other people for whom faith and spirituality are big components of life, you may want to explore joining a church or other religious organization. If, however, you are skeptical of traditional religions, a nondenominational group may be just the answer.
A recent CNN program reported that the majority of America’s 100 largest churches are nondenominational. This has been called “the rise on the nones,” meaning that a substantial percentage of the U.S. adult population list their religion as “none,” even though they may attend church regularly. Being part of a faith community gives you a support network in times of trouble, such as when you are going through a period of illness or grief. In addition, it gives you many opportunities for social interaction.
5. Helps You Give Back
Studies have shown that helping others is one of the best ways to enhance your own life. Being part of a faith community provides you with never-ending opportunities to give back. From food drives to community gardens to serving at food kitchens to donating to clothing drives to giving your financial support to worthy causes, these activities give you a new outlook on your own life as you help those who are less fortunate.
6. Helps You Self-Actualize
Self-actualization has been described as the drive or need to realize and utilize your talents and potentialities. Becoming a more spiritual person helps you self-actualize because spirituality is a pathway toward becoming a better person. Spirituality requires you to focus on your internal values and constantly strive to live a better life through personal growth and fulfillment.
7. Gives You a Sense of Purpose
There is no question that living a spiritual and faith-filled life gives you a sense of purpose. But it also can bring you to the realization that you can have many purposes during your journey through life. Right now, one of your main purposes may be raising your children. Or it may be finishing your education. Or it may be working your way up the corporate ladder. Or it may be caring for an ill or elderly family member. Or it may be none of the above or a combination of them.
If you are looking for an overall sense of purpose to your life, remember that this requires you to take time for yourself, too. Thinking about your view of what life should be and how your passions and talents can enhance your life is a worthwhile exercise. Make a list of the things you currently do that make you feel especially happy and alive. Then make a list of your talents and interests that you are not currently utilizing and how you might do so to add purpose to your life.
8. Helps You Expand Your World
Invest in your spiritual growth. Read articles and books that focus on faith and spirituality and/or watch videos that do likewise. There are many such opportunities out there and an ever-growing number of them are available online. For instance, you can find many of the way international resources online.
9. Helps You Live Longer
People who live spiritual faith-filled lives tend not only to live longer, but also to experience more contentment during their long lives. Given that the human lifespan has increased dramatically, you can expect to live many years in retirement. These years often have been called “the golden years,” and for spiritually-inclined people, this is certainly true.
Rather than facing a feeling of uselessness and the potentially debilitating question of “What do I do now?” after retirement, they find that their increased free time allows them to do things they never had time to do while they were working. This can give new meaning to their lives and make their later years truly golden.
10. Gives You Joy and Happiness
Being happy is a choice. You choose whether and to what extent you want to be happy. Having faith and spirituality helps you choose wisely. Is your life’s glass half full or half empty? If that is not up to you, who is it up to?
Rick Warren, author of such blockbuster books as The Purpose Driven Life and What on Earth Am I Here For? describes life as a railroad track. One rail is all the good things that happen and the parallel rail is all the bad things. The key to life, he says, is recognizing that the rails really are parallel and that you will experience both good and bad things as you travel down this track to your ultimate destination. But just like looking down a physical railroad track to the horizon where the rails meet in a single point, so, too, will your personal parallel tracks merge into a place where everything finally comes together and makes sense.
However, you view your life’s final destination, be it the negative of nonexistence or the positive of “heaven” by any other name, that, too, is your choice. The point is, you are here now and adding faith and spirituality to your life can make your life’s journey a much more happy and satisfying one.
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