How Anyone Can Benefit From Living a More Spiritual Life

I hope you’re starting to get a clearer picture of just what the word “spirituality” encompasses. It’s a broad concept that can include numerous aspects, as long as the ultimate goal is to bring you fulfillment in pursuing something bigger than yourself. You may understand now that your spiritual practice can involve anything that is meaningful to you and that it is likely to evolve. You can add activities such as meditating, yoga, reading, journaling or hiking to your regular spiritual routine. While this may all sound great, you’re probably wondering why you might want to invest such time and energy into a daily regimen such as any of these. I’d like to help you better understand, so let’s move on to discuss the benefits of spirituality and how working to become more spiritual can enhance your life.

Meaning and Purpose

Pursuing a spiritual practice provides insight into yourself and the world around you that you might otherwise miss. By engaging in activities such as mindful meditation or the reading of spiritual literature, you are setting aside time to practice a specific intent. These activities can lead you to think about things in a deeper manner and cause you to question things you once simply accepted blindly. All of this can give your life more significant meaning and purpose.

Motivation

With a renewed sense of purpose and meaning in your life, you’re bound to feel a bit more motivated to face each new day, no matter what it brings. When you know what you want out of life, it’s an adventure to consider all the ways in which you can go after it. The insight that comes with your spiritual musings can provide that motivation. Even when faced with challenges, your spiritual side can bounce back more easily and still feel hope for moving forward.

Clarity and Attentiveness

Life gets busy. Believe me, I get it. When you’ve got a lot on your plate, it can be so easy to find yourself going through the motions on autopilot. Spirituality grounds you in the moment and teaches you to be mindful, making it easier to see what’s most important to you right now. You can then clearly move ahead to prioritize your life instead of simply going with the flow. Your attention is heightened, and you become more aware.

Contentment

When you take a spiritual path and begin to develop an understanding of your higher purpose, you’ll find that you start to feel a sense of content you may not have known before. That’s because you’ve learned to focus your thoughts, to embrace gratitude and to understand what matters most to you in life. You’re likely to feel a sense of peace and optimism to guide your daily activities in a way that leads you to personal fulfillment.

These are just some of the main benefits of living a more spiritual life. I’m excited for you as you begin your journey to discovering more of the personal advantages that await you!

The Benefits of Regular Meditation

Meditation is a practice that involves training your mind to focus, and it’s becoming quite popular these days. You’ve probably read articles about it, heard about celebrities who swear by it or even know people in your everyday circles who sing its praises. It’s used for a variety of reasons. Some feel it helps them to feel calmer when life is particularly hectic. Others just want to reduce their overall stress or to improve their sleep and feel meditation could help. You may have heard that meditating can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. All of these things are true. Let’s examine them, along with other benefits of regular meditation, to see just what all the fuss is about and to help you determine whether meditation seems like a practice you may wish to incorporate into your life.

Stress Reduction

Reducing stress is one of the most sought-after benefits of meditation. In today’s world, there’s a lot to worry about. Sitting quietly to relax your mind and focus your thoughts seems like a worthwhile method for finding a calm moment, but science actually shows this practice works to lower stress levels. A hormone called cortisol is released into our bodies when we’re physically and emotionally stressed, and it can wreak all kinds of havoc on us. The release of cortisol stimulates the production of chemicals known as cytokines that promote inflammation. They also contribute to higher blood pressure, increased fatigue and brain fog, along with added symptoms of depression and anxiety. Studies have demonstrated that mindfulness meditation leads to a reduction of these chemicals, in turn lessening overall feelings of stress in participants.

Better Emotional Well-Being

If you deal with anxiety or depression, meditation could be a tool to improve your overall sense of emotional health. One scientific study looked at the electrical activity in the brains of participants who practiced meditation and those who didn’t.  The researchers discovered that there was a significant change in the areas of the brain responsible for optimism and positive thinking in those who meditated. In another study involving individuals suffering from depression, 18 people were asked to practice meditation for a three-year period. This work determined that the participants actually experienced decreases in their depression that proved to be long-lasting and significant.

Improved Sleep

Many of us struggle with restless sleep or insomnia. It’s a chronic issue that affects you in so many ways. Lack of sleep makes us less alert, clouds our thinking and is detrimental to our physical health. In one research study, participants were placed in two groups. The first group was instructed to meditate, while the other was not. I bet you can guess which group ended up sleeping better and for longer periods. Yep, it was the one that practiced meditation. One of the reasons meditating helps you sleep better is because you learn to control those racing thoughts that keep so many of us awake for hours after our heads hit the pillow. It also aids in overall relaxation.

Decreased Blood Pressure

Meditation has been shown to reduce strain on the heart. Studies have shown that meditating can help to reduce tension in the blood vessels and relax the nerve signals that control heart function, leading to lowering of blood pressure. It also lessens the flight or fight response that is known to contribute to high stress levels and to have an effect on blood pressure.

These are just some of the many health and emotional benefits of meditation. There are numerous others. Engaging in a regular practice of meditating can help you to find specific advantages it can provide for you.

Let’s Talk About Religion and Faith

In our last post, we touched a little bit on how the concept of spirituality differs from organized religion. Neither is necessarily better than the other, and they can be related. However, they’re not the same, as had commonly been accepted in the past. You don’t have to embrace a religion in order to be a spiritual person. Spirituality encompasses a wider set of circumstances and evolves over time. It’s something that an individual determines and shapes, rather than a doctrine or structure to be followed. That’s not to say you can’t be a deeply religious person who is strong in your particular faith and still pursue other spiritual endeavors. The two can exist simultaneously. To make things a bit clearer, let’s take a look at some of the more specific ways in which spirituality differs from religion and faith.

Individual Focus

Religions are comprised of congregations or followers. In many cases, their focus is on sharing their teachings with a group of people within their ranks. Spirituality, on the other hand, is a very uniquely personal endeavor in which the individual creates her or his own meaning. You decide as an individual which direction to take with your spiritual studies. You may choose to pull certain guiding principles from a particular religion or philosophy and combine them with tenets unrelated to any organized group whatsoever. When it comes to following a spiritual path, what matters is that the practices resonate with you.

Less Structure

Most formal, organized religions are quite structured. Followers are often expected to attend worship in a specific meeting space on a designated day. Rituals are frequently part of that worship service, and as a rule, the entire congregation must follow along. You can practice your spirituality in a much more fluid way that best fits your lifestyle. What matters most on a spiritual journey is the way in which you personally decide to format your practice and how you choose to prioritize your beliefs.

Solitary

Your spiritual path is usually one that’s walked alone. While you have the benefit of choosing your own guideposts as you go, doing so can be a bit of a lonely process. When it comes to religion, most folks can depend on their congregation members for support, guidance, socialization and fellowship. Each has its own merits.

Definition of Truth

When it comes to spirituality, what you consider to be truth is predetermined only by you. Most organized religions have a holy book or document that spells out universal truths for followers. There can be a great deal of comfort in following the gospel truth as you see and believe it. However, some people prefer the ability to look for their own version of truth in the world through their lived experiences and through research.

These are merely a few of the differences between spirituality and religion. I simply wish to point out that this 30-day challenge is one that doesn’t require you to hold a particular religious belief, as spirituality can exist separate from religion. I look forward to moving ahead to explore the ways in which a spiritual pursuit, combined with meditation, can help you to live each day more fully and in alignment with your own personal truths.

What is Spirituality?

Spirituality is a concept we hear a lot about these days, but you may not really be sure what the term means. That’s because it’s evolved quite a bit over the years. Once, the word referred to being religious. Whenever someone spoke of being spiritual, you could almost guarantee they meant they were speaking about their formal religion. These days, the term is more fluid. It extends to refer to any form of growth process aimed at reaching a higher consciousness. Spiritual activities of all types allow people to move toward becoming their best selves and to focus their intent on living a purpose-driven life. These activities can include meditation, yoga, research, fellowship, communing with nature and more.

The Importance of Spirituality

Spirituality brings a connectedness to the world around them that many people feel they are lacking. Engaging in these types of activities can help you center on your purpose, pushing you to move toward what is important to you in life. Spirituality can also help us to appreciate the here and now, as well as to notice the beauty in the world around us. Spiritual moments abound and are found nearly everywhere. Something as simple as appreciating the laughter of a child can be considered spiritual because taking note of it has led you to experience feelings, such as joy, that go beyond the mundane or the everyday. It’s easy to get lost in the daily tasks of survival mode. A spiritual study can help move your life beyond what simply must be done to get by. It can help you to truly live.

Ways to Embrace Spirituality

We’ll examine ways to become more spiritual in depth throughout the rest of this month, but I’d like to give you a few suggestions for how you can get started embracing spirituality right now. One of the best ways is to set aside time each day for yourself. If this goal seems too much or too indulgent, you can begin by at least carving out some time a few days each week to devote to yourself. Self-care, reading, enjoying a favorite hobby or pursuing a new interest are all activities you can engage in to help you feel renewed and to mindfully nurture yourself, making you a priority. It’s also spiritually rewarding to do good deeds for others. This can be as simple as taking time to visit an elderly neighbor who doesn’t see family often or by taking on a full-fledged volunteer campaign to help a local charity. When you work on behalf of those in need, you’re making a connection that transcends the everyday interaction. You could also take time each day to just practice gratitude, making a list of what’s good in your life and giving thanks. This act acknowledges your fortune to the universe and demonstrates your appreciation. There are so many other ways in which you can bring the spiritual into your daily life.

Spirituality Vs. Religion

Though the terms were once used interchangeably, spirituality and religion are seen by most to be two separate things. Spirituality can be an aspect that falls under the umbrella of religion. It’s part of what makes up a religious practice. But religion itself refers more to a formal and organized group or study that revolves around a common belief system, deity or deities. The purpose of religions is to spread their teachings, as well as to nurture a following that continues throughout generations. Spirituality is a bit more personally focused. It refers to the way an individual views her or his own belief system and pursuit of life’s meaning.

Hopefully, you now feel confident that you have an understanding of the concept of spirituality. It is a broad term that encompasses quite a bit. Ultimately, what’s important is the way in which you feel it pertains to you and your goals.

What is Meditation?

Although meditation has undergone a resurgence in popularity recently, it’s still a concept that isn’t thoroughly understood by many. Most folks have a vague idea that the practice involves calming the mind, but they may be unsure of the ways in which that occurs. It’s also a bit of a mystery to many people what benefits can come from meditating. Meditation usually involves sitting quietly for various lengths of time, while focusing on controlled breathing and mindfulness. The benefits are far reaching and may actually surprise you. Let’s take a moment to delve a little deeper into this ancient technique and try to unravel some of its mysteries.

Types of Meditation

There are a vast number of meditation types. I’ll address two of the most common and overarching categories for now. The first is concentrative meditation. This is the category under which transcendental meditation, or TM, falls. The name of this form implies its meaning. During TM, a practitioner will focus their concentration on a single element, which could be a sound, image, words or even their own breathing. Mindful meditation is the other most popular form of the tradition. This form doesn’t place its emphasis on just one thing. Instead, it requires a practitioner to be aware of all that is passing through their mind in the current moment. The purpose is to notice the thoughts, feelings, images and sounds as they occur in order to center one’s self in the here and now.

Purpose of Meditation

The overarching purpose of meditation is to provide the practitioner with self-awareness and calmness of mind. A goal of reaching a higher plane of existence is cited by many. Often, people pursue a meditation practice in order to enhance their spirituality or personal development in some way. However, there are some very specific reasons some folks choose this path. A regular habit of meditating has been shown to lessen anxiety, along with depression and overall stress. It’s also believed to help with pain management, lower blood pressure and manage hot flashes. Those with addictive behavioral issues like alcohol, drug and smoking addiction may be assisted in keeping relapse at bay through a meditation routine. There are other proven benefits of meditation, which we’ll discuss in future posts.

Considerations Prior to Beginning Meditation

As long as you are relatively healthy, the chances are good you’ll be able to practice meditation without issue. There are some folks who may not be suited for this sort of activity, and you should always speak with your doctor before adding a new regimen to your routine. Seated meditation may be problematic for those with certain flexibility or joint issues. In addition, practices that required focused breathing might not be appropriate for anyone with a respiratory condition. Certain mental health diagnoses such as schizophrenia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder could hinder one’s ability to engage in meditating also. In any case, talk to your physician and never forego traditional medical treatment in favorite of any type of alternative therapy without prior physician approval.

These are the basics of meditation. There are many reasons to begin a practice of your own. The type you choose will be based on your preferences, goals and lifestyle. We’ll discuss these more as the challenge progresses.