True Health Includes the Body, Mind, and Spirit
When you think about your health, your body or physicality is likely the first thing that comes to mind. You may also recognize that your brain and its health play a key role in your overall wellness.
But did you know that spirituality has a big impact on your health too?
Research in neuroscience, genetics, and epidemiology shows that spirituality enables our bodies to be stronger and less prone to illness, our brains to be more resilient and robust, and our lives to be more meaningful and content.
True health includes all three areas of your life — body, mind, and spirit. Indeed, these three dimensions of life are closely connected, and each plays a role in the health of the others.
For a complete wellness plan, consider making a spiritual practice part of your life – if you haven’t already.
What is spirituality?
Spirituality is not easy to define as it means different things to different people. For some, it’s found through their religion or faith tradition. For others, it is found in secular practices such as creating art, being in nature, volunteering for a meaningful cause, or spending quality time with family and friends.
Spiritual practice is often about finding deeper meaning in life or meaning outside of our individuality. Whatever someone’s chosen spiritual practice may be, it’s often born of a desire for peace, comfort, strength, hope, and internal wellbeing.
These outcomes are frequently the by-product of developing a connection with others. Strong social networks and attending faith-based services are two of the nine criteria of a healthy life according to Blue Zones, a project that studies the world’s longest-lived people.
Regardless of the form of spirituality you practice, the benefits are the same. Spiritual practices provide a boost for emotional and mental health and — perhaps surprisingly — they also provide benefits for physical health.
How can a spiritual practice benefit my emotional, mental, and physical health?
Having a spiritual practice provides a wealth of health benefits for everyone, including those who are suffering from an illness as well as their caregivers. Here are some of those benefits:
Belonging: Spiritual practices often involve being with other people or doing activities that help you feel connected to and supported by others. Feeling connected increases optimism and resilience — both of which prolong lifespan. And the more connected you feel, the less likely you are to experience loneliness, isolation, or depression.
Resilience: The outcomes of a spiritual practice, e.g., peace, comfort, strength, and hope, can help you cope better with challenging life experiences such as illness and death.
Purpose: A spiritual practice can provide purpose, a necessary ingredient of a fulfilled and happy life. Having a sense of purpose promotes health and longevity by helping to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, heart attack, and other illnesses.
Control: When life feels out of control, a spiritual practice can give you the tools you need to regain a steady center. With these tools, e.g., prayer or meditation, you are more likely to have a sense of control over your life. This will help promote positive thinking and relaxation. And, it will have the physical health benefits of lowering your blood pressure and increasing blood flow to your brain, which decreases hypertension and improves memory and cognitive abilities.
Calm: Spiritual practices such as attending a church service or meditation help calm the body and mind. These activities help turn off the fight-or-flight response and turn on the rest-and-repair response in your body which helps boost your immune system function.
Relaxation: Spiritual practices help you deal with life’s inevitable ups and downs with less stress and anxiety. A more relaxed approach to life can help improve sleep and lessen fatigue.
How do I develop a spiritual practice?
Developing and growing a spiritual practice is a personal choice that will be unique to everyone. If you do not already have a spiritual practice, but would like to explore the possibility, there are several things to consider. Start by recognizing the things in your life that give you a sense of inner peace, gratitude, awe, mystery, or love. What matters most to you and where do you find it?
Once you’ve identified the activity that gives you these feelings, schedule time in your day or week to do the practice. For those who adhere to a specific faith tradition, this may mean attending a regular service during the week supplemented with prayer, study, or volunteer work. For those practicing a secular spirituality, this may involve making time to walk in the woods, meditate, or create art.
Everyone will practice spirituality differently. Think about what activities bring meaning to your life and make time to do them.
Should I tell my health care providers about my spiritual practices?
It’s a good idea to tell your health care practitioners about any religious or other spiritual practices you may have. As these practices can impact your health, it’s best if your health care providers have as much information as possible about you so that they can consider this when offering you treatment.
How can I learn more about the health benefits of a spiritual practice?
At Nature’s Link Wellness Center, we understand the health benefits of spirituality. We believe that a spiritual practice helps you live a life of greater joy and enhanced personal fulfillment, enabling you to thrive and contribute to the greater wellbeing of all.
Kristine Devillier is a board-certified naturopathic doctor with more than 20 years’ experience in natural health, including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. She’s dedicated her entire professional life to helping others (and herself) find better health by integrating all these aspects into their lives. Dr. Devillier creates holistic health plans that are specific to your needs and guides you on your journey to better overall health.
Get In Touch with Nature’s Link
If you’re ready to learn more about spirituality’s influence on your health, give us a call on 337-332-2705 or reach us online. Nature’s Link Wellness Center is proud to provide holistic health and alternative medicine to Breaux Bridge, Lafayette, and the entire Acadiana community.