Before going into the intricacies of links between spiritual practices, good health and well being, it will be relevant to try and understand what spirituality is really all about. For most people, spirituality is an integral part of religion and hence religion and spirituality are often discussed in the same breath. While almost all religions emphasise that spirituality is a part of faith, it is possible to be “spiritual” without being a part of any organised religion or faith.
So what is the difference between spirituality and religion? Religion broadly can be defined to be a specific set of practices and beliefs that is shared by a group of people or community. Spirituality on the other hand has more to do with individual practice that gives an inner sense of peace and purpose. It is also about developing beliefs through which a person can connect to life thereby bringing about inner peace and leading to better health and wellbeing both at the physical and mental level.
The practise of spirituality is more of a mental exercise than anything else. It has been proved that contemplative methods help to focus better and thereby results in higher concentration levels and development of increased empathy, compassion and calmness of mind.
Some of the practices attributed to spirituality that contributes to health and wellbeing are –
- Meditation – Meditation can bring about a feeling of calmness and clarity as well as an increase in attention and concentration. Research has shown that meditation boosts the density of grey matter in the brain which in turn has a direct impact on enhancing the immune system, regulating painful emotions and reducing sensitivity to pain. It also relieves stress and has been proved to be beneficial for people suffering from cancer, depression, anxiety, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Prayer – Prayer relaxes nerves and induces a feeling of compassion, hope and gratitude which in turn has a positive effect on the psyche. There is therefore a positive effect on overall wellbeing. Prayer is generally rooted in the belief that it has power to influence life and thought for the better. It is this belief that brings with it a sense of comfort and support, pulling people out of depression and difficult times. The power of prayer on physical wellbeing is universally acknowledged.
- Yoga- Yoga has been practised for centuries. Through physical postures, breath control and expansion and ethical behaviours, an attempt is made to create a sense of oneness and fulfilment in a person. Regular practise of yoga has been found to decrease anxiety and stress, lower inflammation, anxiety and blood pressure and bring about an overall sense of fulfilment and wellbeing.
These are some of the ways through which good health and wellness can be achieved through spiritual practices.