Stop thinking of your life as a bar graph and start thinking of it as a van diagram. The different parts of what makes you-you- your health, hobbies, and spirituality- aren’t isolated from one another. They build off each other and bleed into one another, working together in union to make you happier and more fulfilled. A wealth of scientific evidence shows that a healthy and active lifestyle can pay huge dividends in spiritual fulfillment. Read our list of 25 ways healthy living, exercise, and nutrition are related to spirituality:
- Balanced Hormones Increase Spirituality
Exercising helps foster positive hormones, such as dopamine and epinephrine which can ultimately impact your perception of life. And if you struggle with some not-so-positive feelings, the more endorphins the better your mood. Balanced hormones will help you focus on improving your quality of life. You will more likely engage in spiritual practices when you have an uplifted and happy spirit! Feeling unbalanced in your emotions? Get to exercising for your spiritual health, my friends.
The energy that we acquire from exercising fuels our bodies for day to day physical activities. Not only does exercise provide physical benefits but it also boosts our brains mental energy. Mental stimulation is key in order to function at a higher spiritual level. The high that we get from the increased energy of working out motivates us to actively pursue our spiritual desires. Increased energy will encourage practices such as meditation, connecting with nature, practicing gratitude, loving others, and plenty more.
- Physical Fitness & Spirituality
Aerobic exercises combined with strength training are a body’s best friend. Physical activity keeps you lean, fit, and strong to do everyday practices. So whether that be helping a struggling stranger lift an object, run a 5k to beat cancer, or volunteer on your feet all day, we all need endurance to engage in our own spiritual practices. A healthy body will encourage one to live out a spiritual life filled with action and integrity.
Mindfully eating can have a major impact on our bodies and mind. The QUALITY of food we decide to put into our stomachs can ultimately either harm or help us in our spiritual walk. Ingesting foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains affect our brain for the better. These foods provide certain chemicals that positively influence one’s mood and behaviors. When we feel good, our thoughts and actions will have a greater impact on the world around us. So eat clean to boost your spiritual life!
- Stress Effects on Spirituality
If you feel overwhelmed in life, engaging in regular physical activity can greatly reduce stressful adrenaline and cortisol levels in the body. This in turn, will help you be more involved with your spiritual practices. As you continue to nurture your spiritual life, stress levels will also stay at a low. When we have less stress weighing us down, we spend our time engaging in uplifting things to connect us to something greater than ourselves. Those who are less stressed are happier, sleep better, more energized, and better focused.
Dancing will not only tone you up but also uplift your spirit! There’s just something in the art of dance that can sweep us away into something greater than ourselves. It can be a freeing experience for the human spirit to just move as it pleases. Eline Kieft from the Department Centre for Dance Research at Coventry University puts it this way in that “Dancing spirituality integrates the totality of the human being in movement.”
- Walk or Hike Your way to Spirituality
We all know how much a long walk or hike can help clear a foggy mind of worry and stress. Well, walking or hiking is a great form of exercise for not only a fit body but for a healthy spiritual life as well! These actions have a way of deepening our spirits and helps us focus on the bigger picture by giving our mind a break. Real psychological health benefits take place as we walk. We have more energy, creativity, and uplifted spirits which ultimately impacts the soul in great ways. So whether you set out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, (like Cheryl Strayed), or just walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes, mindfully walking can transform your spiritual life!
Derived from the Hindu religion, Yoga has become one of the most beloved spiritual practices around the world. This type of workout connects mind, body and spirit in different ways in which its “practices are aimed at the experience of contemplative states of consciousness and spirituality,” according to a journal published in NCBI. This research on yoga shows that it can improve one’s balance, flexibility, strength, cardiorespiratory fitness, mood, mindfulness, and overall spiritual life. If you’re looking for a great workout that improves your spiritual health as well, yoga just might be for you!
- Meditate For Spiritual Health
Mindful practices have been around for a long time and has been a huge part of many different religions. Meditation can really be a great tool when it comes to destressing. It does more than just that, though! From improving concentration, self acceptance, happiness and more, meditation is just plain healthy for the soul. By focusing on one’s breath, meditation can connect a person deeper into their own spiritual journey that can bring about an abundant of health benefits.
- The Spirituality of Prayer
Prayer is a staple in a lot of religions, but religious or not, all people can incorporate this spiritual ritual in their everyday life. Prayer can be a way for the human spirit to connect to a higher power. It’s no doubt that prayer can help you feel less stressed, happier, more emotionally stable and centered. Harvard scientist Herbert Benson, MD believes all types of prayer “evoke a relaxation response that quells stress, quiets the body, and promotes healing.”
Spending time in nature can be a powerful tool for self-reflection and personal health. If you choose to listen and absorb what the outdoors has to offer, then transformation can take place. Walking among the trees, feeling the wind on your face, or simply hearing the birds chirp are all apart of nature’s gifts to us. Did you know that Yale actually has a Center for Spirituality in Nature that’s devoted to deepening one’s human spiritual connection to the Divine? So next time you’re outside just open your minds and watch nature do wonders for your health.
- Discipline and Spirituality
In order to see tangible results from a fitness or nutrition plan, you first need to establish self discipline. Whether that be working out at a specific time every day, or resisting to eat that slice of cake, discipline takes effort and energy. Applying this type of approach to your spiritual life can truly help in your spiritual journey! Spiritual practices that help with discipline involve action, learning, understanding, absorbing, and cultivation of one’s own journey.
The arts have always been integral to religion. Even in the twentieth century, many artists saw their art in spiritual terms. In terms of spiritual health, being able to express yourself through art helps to relieve stress, encourages creative thinking, boosts self-esteem, and provides a sense of accomplishment.
Did you know singing is healthy for the heart? And group singing is a great way to reap health benefits. According to several studies, singing helps lower stress, produce endorphins, and relieve anxiety. Singing can no doubt be a spiritual practice if you want it to be. Many religions actually use singing as a spiritual practice. “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16
- Running Towards Spirituality
Ah the high we get after a good run. Running a marathon or simply a 5k can definitely benefit your wellbeing for the better. Many runners can tell you just how fulfilling and spiritual this exercise can be! Runner’s World puts it this way “The spiritual benefits available in running–appreciating nature, developing a communion with others, seeing how things in the universe connect, meditating–can quiet the mind, facilitate introspection, and help you become more virtuous and whole.”
- Fasting’s Effect on Spirituality
There are many health benefits of fasting. Among many benefits, fasting can help you lose weight more efficiently, improve your insulin sensitivity, and reduce oxidative stress in the body. Fasting also helps to regulate your hormone levels so that you can curb your appetite and only eat when you are truly hungry.
- Spirituality Benefits Psychological Well-Being
According to Jesus, it is best to forgive, even if you have to do so more than once. Being able to forgive others contributes to healthier relationships and lowered chronic stress levels. Let go of that grudge and forgive for your health!
- Spirituality Can Help You Beat Addiction
Spirituality has played a big role in the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Spirituality is a big part in the guiding principles of the AA program and embodies developing positive coping skills along with having faith in a higher power to overcome addiction.
Having hope is essential for a positive outlook on life. In a 35 year clinical study of Harvard Graduates, it was shown that graduates who expressed hope and optimism lived longer and experienced fewer illnesses in their lifetime. Additionally, having a positive and hopeful outlook will reduce the levels of stress hormones that your body produces.
- The Effect of Love and Social Support on Health:
It’s those special bonds we share with each other that satisfy and enrich our lives. Did you know that social support from those closest to us can actually help protect us against certain diseases? Research from the University of Maryland Medical Center found that social support actually helped guard a Pennsylvanian family against heart disease! Looks like it’s time to start loving each other, my spiritual friends.
- Spirituality’s Effect on Health
Lack of spiritual connection to self and others, self-destructive behaviors, and isolation from others in life may contribute hormonal imbalances which will inevitably manifest as illness in the body. Some ways to keep your hormones in check include regular exercise and having a healthy, balanced diet.
- Spirituality and Personal Hygiene
Simply put, hygiene is a key component of human health and well-being. Aside from the overall health benefits, having good personal hygiene will help you feel confident about yourself. In some religions like Islam, you are expected to give special attention to personal hygiene in respect to faith. Plus, who doesn’t like to smell good?
- Volunteer in Your Community:
Many people who volunteer their time, money and energy for apparently nothing in return still reap spiritual benefits. Being a volunteer not only increases your sense of well-being, it can help reinforce your ties to the community and give you a greater sense of justice. So go out and impact the community with your spirit of service!
“Sleep may be the image or brother of death, for in sleep the body rests while the soul remains awake, so in death the body rests while the soul and spirit live.” – William Shakespeare
Without a doubt, sleep is extremely important for your health and well-being. From a religious perspective, the importance of sleep is referenced in many texts including the Quran, the Bible, the Torah, Kabbalah, and Buddhist teachings. Upon going to sleep, the body and mind calm down from daily activity and our physiology and neurology begin their critical restorative processes.
Sex is a great source of pleasure for human beings. Not only is sex a great way to exercise your body, but it can also exercise your spiritual life. Roughing up the sheets with an intimate partner can truly transform and connect you on a higher level of energy. Next time you’re with your partner, try being fully aware of the vibrancy being exchanged between the two. Sex can be something that goes beyond the physical limitations with a sense of “heightened awareness and expanded consciousness,” if you let it.