Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Whether they’re finding it on the mat or while gazing up at the stars, Americans are becoming more spiritual, a new study suggests. The Pew Research Center survey of 35,000 U.S. adults finds that about 60 percent of adults say they regularly feel a deep sense of “spiritual peace and well-being.” That’s up 7 percentage points since 2007. Plus, almost half of all Americans say they experience a deep sense of “wonder about the universe” at least once a week, also up 7 points over the same period.
Increased peace and well-being are obviously good things—and two reasons why many of us practice yoga—but spirituality has also been linked to better mental and physical health. Learn how being a “spiritual” person can benefit (and even prolong) your life.
4 Science-Backed Benefits of Spirituality
1. Spirituality may help patients battle cancer.
A recent analysis of studies on the role of spirituality/religion as it relates to cancer patients’ mental, social, and physical well-being (published in CANCER, a journal of the American Cancer Society) found that patients reporting greater religiousness and spirituality also reported better physical health, greater ability to perform their usual daily tasks, and fewer physical symptoms of cancer and treatment. “These relationships were particularly strong in patients who experienced greater emotional aspects of religion and spirituality, including a sense of meaning and purpose in life as well as a connection to a source larger than oneself,” lead author Heather Jim, PhD, of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, said in a press release.
2. Spirituality may ward off depression.
A 2012 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry found that participants who reported that religion or spirituality was highly important to them reduced their risk of experiencing major depression during a 10-year period by 75 percent. Participants who were at high risk for depression (because they had a depressed parent) saw the greatest benefit from religion or spirituality; in this group, those who reported a high importance of religion or spirituality reduced thier risk of experiencing major depression during the same time period by about 90 percent.
3. Spirituality may help prolong your life.
Want to live longer? Being more spiritual may be as beneficial as eating broccoli. A 2011 study published in the journal Explore compared the impact of spirituality and religiosity with other health interventions on mortality and found that persons with higher spirituality and religiosity had an 18 percent lower rate of mortality. That’s similar to the effect of consuming fruits and vegetables on cardiovascular events and stronger than statin therapy.
4. Spirituality is good for your kids.
Spiritual kids = happier kids, according to research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies. The assessment of 320 children aged 8–12 from both public and private schools found that children’s spirituality, but not their religious practices (e.g., attending church, praying, and meditating), was strongly linked to their happiness. Researchers found that the “personal” domain of spirituality, defined as meaning and value in one’s own life, and the “communal” domain of spirituality, defined as quality and depth of inter-personal relationships, were particularly good predictors of kids’ happiness.
Even when gift wrapping and pie baking edge out asana and meditation on your to-do list, there is still always an opportunity to connect with your truest Self. Follow us all month on Facebook and Instagram for spiritual inspiration and share how you #stokeyourspirit.