What Is Spirituality?

Spirituality is a broad term that encompasses beliefs, practices and experiences that promote connection to the transcendental. It is an expression of the sacred, a belief in something larger than oneself, a desire to find meaning in life and a sense of purpose. Those with spiritual beliefs often seek ways to express their spirituality through prayer, meditation, community service, self-care, philanthropy, and other rituals and activities.

A growing number of people define their spirituality in ways that are different from traditional religion. In fact, many studies have compared religious affiliation with spirituality and found that religion and spirituality are distinct in their characteristics. Some see this trend as evidence of secularization, which assumes that organized religion is a declining force while spirituality is the emerging sphere of transcendental worldview.

Other researchers see a more nuanced view of spirituality. Beata Zajecka’s work, for example, focuses on the importance of shaping spirituality from early in recovery for individuals with addictions. Her research shows that if an individual’s spirituality is degraded, it can impair their ability to live a meaningful and intentional life.

Whatever your spiritual beliefs, it is important to take care of your mind and body. Becoming more spiritual can help reduce stress and depression, increase resilience and immune response, and improve quality of life in those with traumatic injuries or cancer. However, you should avoid a spiritual path that exacerbates or contributes to mental health distress, and make sure your spirituality is aligned with any psychosocial or physical treatment that you might be receiving.