U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

The .gov means it’s official. Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.

The site is secure. The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

  • Publications
  • Account settings

Preview improvements coming to the PMC website in October 2024. Learn More or Try it out now .

  • Advanced Search
  • Journal List
  • HHS Author Manuscripts

Logo of nihpa

Spirituality and Well-Being: Theory, Science, and the Nature Connection

Associated data.

The MIDUS data are publicly available and information about accessing them is provided on the website: www.midus.wisc.edu .

The links between spirituality and eudaimonic well-being are examined, beginning with a look at theoretical issues as to whether spirituality is best construed as part of well-being, or as a possible influence on well-being. A brief review of scientific findings from the MIDUS study linking religion and spirituality to well-being and other outcomes is then provided to show recent empirical work on these topics. Suggestions for future work are also provided. The third section is forward-thinking and addresses the power of nature to nurture spirituality and well-being, beginning with a look at how current research has linked nature to human flourishing. Issues of spirituality are rarely mentioned in this literature, despite evidence that nature has long been a source of inspiration in poetry, literature, art, and music. These works reveal that the natural world speaks to the human soul. To explore such ideas, parts of Jungian psychology are revisited: the soul’s longing for poetry, myth, and metaphor; the importance of animism, which sees nature as a field inhabited by spirit; and the devaluing of ancient cultures. The final section considers the wisdom of the indigenous peoples who saw spirit in everything. Their inputs, exemplified with “Two-Eyed Seeing”, offer new visions for thinking about the interplay of spirituality, well-being, and the natural world.

1. Introduction

Understanding connections between spirituality and psychological well-being requires theoretical acumen as well as thoughtfully performed empirical science. The need to reach into new territories in examining these linkages is also paramount. With these objectives in mind, the first section below is theoretical in nature and involves a return to the conceptual underpinnings of a model of eudaimonic well-being I put forth years ago ( Ryff 1989 ) that has had widespread impact ( Ryff 2014 , 2018a ). The measures have been translated into 40 languages and more than 1200 publications have been generated. Given the scope of this work, it is useful to consider whether ideas of spirituality were present in the distant formulations drawn on to build the integrative model of well-being. Did any of those past theories emphasize spirituality in distilling core meanings of optimal human functioning? This inquiry illuminates an important theoretical issue: namely, the conceptual distinctiveness versus overlap in conceptions of spirituality and psychological well-being. A fundamental issue is whether spirituality is best formulated as something that constitutes part of what defines well-being, or is better construed as a separate realm that possibly influences aspects of well-being, such as living a life of purpose and experiencing personal growth over time.

Building on these theoretical matters, the second section shifts to consideration of scientific research that has linked religiosity and spirituality to diverse outcomes, including well-being. Here, the contribution is to briefly review wide-ranging empirical findings from a large national longitudinal study, known as MIDUS (Midlife in the U.S.), which I have led for the past two decades. The rich, multidisciplinary data from MIDUS are publicly available and have attracted more than 24,000 users who have contributed to the scientific productivity from the study ( www.midus.wisc.edu ). In addition to questions about religion and spirituality, MIDUS has comprehensive assessments of psychological well-being (eudaimonic, hedonic), personality, health behaviors, stress exposures, and comprehensive measures of health, including biomarkers. This rich array has afforded numerous scientific advances, offering insights into why some individuals are religious or spiritual and others not, delineating correlates of religion and spirituality, examining how these domains matter for doing good works, and how they are linked with health, broadly defined. Such findings underscore how prospective population research is advancing knowledge of the antecedents and consequents of religion and spirituality. Topics missing in this literature are also considered, which is important given that most people in the general public view themselves as religious or spiritual, or both. These realms thus constitute key features of the human experience.

The third section aspires to be forward-thinking by reaching for new territories in connecting spirituality and human well-being. The specific future direction considered is how encounters with nature may activate and deepen spirituality in ways that enhance eudaimonic becoming. This section examines the growing scientific literature now investigating how nature matters for human flourishing, but notes that spirituality is rarely mentioned in such endeavors. Nature as a longstanding source of inspiration in many art forms, including poetry, literature, music, and painting, is then considered. These works speak to the power of nature to stir up the human soul. Matters of religion and spirituality are thus revisited via how we connect with the natural world. These ideas were evident in the later writings of Jung and are fundamental in world views and practices of indigenous peoples. Our era has undervalued insights from these ancient cultures that offer visions about the interplay of spirituality, well-being and nature. The overarching message is that close connection to and participation in the natural world, including through the arts, may vitally nurture sacred, soulful experiences that help us become our best selves and also activate the caring and concern that is needed to protect the planet on which we live.

2. Theoretical Issues: Are Spirituality and Well-Being Distinctive or Overlapping Domains?

The word soul seems fundamental to efforts to invoke spirituality. Indeed, the soul is often defined as the spiritual part of being human, while spirituality, in turn, is often defined in terms of the soul, as distinguished from material and physical qualities of being human. I published an article titled “Well-Being with Soul: Science in Pursuit of Human Potential” ( Ryff 2018a ) and here reflect about the meaning of the word soul in the title. First and foremost, my intent was to draw attention to Aristotle’s assertion in the Nichomachian Ethics ( Aristotle 1925 , 349 B.C.) that the highest of all human goods was “activity of the soul in accord with virtue” (p. 11). This statement captures the essential meaning of eudaimonia, which Aristotle formulated as growth toward realization of one’s true and best nature. The key task in life is thus to know and live in truth with one’s daimon, a kind of spirit given to all at birth. As such, eudaimonia embodies the Greek imperatives of self-truth (know thyself) and striving toward excellence of one’s unique potentialities (become what you are) (see Ryff and Singer 2008 ). Importantly, nothing in this conception of eudaimonia invoked religious experience or contact with the divine. Rather, the overarching emphasis was on ethical doing.

Centuries later, numerous formulations from clinical, developmental, existential, and humanistic psychology sought to articulate key meanings of positive human functioning ( Ryff 1982 , 1985 ). These were woven together in an integrative model of well-being ( Ryff 1989 ). Here, I ask what, if anything, these perspectives had to say about religion or spirituality. Maslow’s (1955 , 1968) view of self-actualization emerged from distinctions between deficiency-motivated and growth-motivated needs. He believed the lower-level needs (e.g., physiological requirements for living; safety/security from harm) had to be satisfied before one could move on to self-actualization where the self could be enlarged and enriched. Choosing from among his friends, associates, and historical figures, Maslow examined their qualities and from these, generated characteristics of self-actualized persons, which are many (see Ryff 1985 ). Most had no linkage to religious or spiritual matters, although two pointed in that direction. Self-actualizers were described as having a continued freshness of appreciation that involved experiencing life with pleasure, awe, and wonder, which some might see as spiritual. In addition, some self-actualizers had mystical or peak experiences characterized by intense ecstasy, bliss, and awe wherein the self was transcended, and one was gripped by feelings of power, confidence, and decisiveness. Maslow saw these happenings as akin to religious experience.

Rogers’ (1961) conception of the fully functioning person emerged from his work with people in therapy. Like Maslow, he believed the person would grow naturally, if freed from psychological defenses and external impediments. His characteristics of the fully functioning person gave no emphasis to the spiritual realm, although openness to experience (i.e., living fully in each moment and not seeing in preconceived categories) seems similar to Maslow’s emphasis on freshness of appreciation. Allport’s (1961) conception of maturity included numerous characteristics of the mature person, such as emotional security, warm relating to others, and realistic perception. These had no connection with spirituality, although the final feature of mature persons was that they had a unifying philosophy of life. This quality meant having a clear comprehension of life’s purpose, a sense of directedness, and intentionality. Notably, Allport observed that this unifying philosophy of life for some was related to religious sentiment.

Erikson’s (1959) model of ego development included stages of continuing growth (e.g., formulating an identity in late adolescence, experiencing intimate connection in early adulthood, caring about guiding the next generation in middle adulthood), none of which invoked spirituality. However, his final stage of ego integrity encompassed multiple things: emotional integration, acceptance of one’s past life, feeling a comradeship with distant times, and having a love of humankind more than of the self. He also conveyed that integrity involved achieving a spiritual sense, which eliminated the fear of death. Another developmental approach focused on life tendencies that work toward fulfillment ( Bühler 1935 ; Bühler and Massarik 1968 ). These emphasized being active and productive in the pursuit of one’s self-development, but no emphasis was given to spirituality as part of such fulfillment.

The major contribution from existential psychology was Frankl’s emphasis on purpose in life ( Frankl 1959 ; Frankl and Lasch [1959] 1992 ). The critical task is to find meaning in one’s life, including in contexts of suffering, or in the face of a world that seems meaningless. Importantly, Frankl’s formulated logotherapy and religion as separate realms, though he acknowledged that spiritual beliefs may make it easier for some to find meaning ( Okan and Ekşi 2017 ). He acknowledged diverse religious orientations, but also believed one could find meaning without faith. Frankl himself was religious, as was his wife, a Catholic. They respected the practices of their respective faiths.

The Jungian perspective on individuation ( Jung 1965 ; Von Franz 1964 ) emerged from intense self-examination including scrutiny of his own personal crises. Strong emphasis was placed on the unconscious as a way of achieving self-development. Jung stated he could not “employ the language of science to trace this process of growth in myself, for I cannot experience myself as a scientific problem” ( Jung 1965 , p. 3). He felt that reason and rationalism set the boundaries too narrowly for us. Of relevance for adult development were distillations of different motivations and meanings from early and middle adulthood ( Jung 1933 ). The importance of accepting and expressing both the masculine and feminine features of oneself was also emphasized. Jung believed self-realization required a deliverance from convention—those clinging to the collective fears, beliefs, laws, and systems of the masses would not become fully individuated. Importantly, the journey required seeing one’s dark side—the shadow within oneself. Overall, Jungian individuation involved working toward a harmonious integration of all aspects of the self, including the unknown and the mysterious.

Jung wrote extensively about religious and spiritual matters ( Tacey 2013 ), observing that secular society had degraded the pneuma —what the Stoic philosophers saw as the vital spirit, soul, and creative force of the person. He lamented the rise of religious fundamentalism, a topic to which I will return to in the empirical section. Drawing on German Romanticism, which included much beautiful poetry about nature, he also saw the connection between the ecology of the soul and the natural world ( Tacey 2013 ). These ideas are elaborated in the future directions section.

Not included in the above theories that comprised the integrative model of well-being, but pertinent to this inquiry is William James ‘ ([1902] 1958) The Varieties of Religious Experience . His remarkable chapters on “healthy-mindedness” and the “sick soul” captured with eloquence the upsides and downsides of psychological experience—as tied to religion. Those who are healthy-minded had souls of a sky-blue tint that allowed them to benefit from the conquering powers of courage, hope, and trust. They also had contempt for doubt, fear, and worry. Alternatively, there were the morbid-minded who could not throw off the consciousness of evil. These children of wrath knew that good things would perish, that fame, riches, youth, and health would vanish and ultimately, “the skull will grin at the banquet” ( Ryff 2018b , p. 397). These descriptions set the stage for subsequent research on many topics, including hope, optimism, and self-efficacy for those who live on the sunny side of the street, along with work on the depressed and anxious who are closer to the pain threshold, with lives played out in darkness and apprehension. His insights about these two forms of being were surely tied to his own experiences, which included leading a rich, creative life while struggling repeatedly with depression ( Simon 1998 ). James saw normal personal development as involving the unification of these two selves, but noted the journey was not always successful.

Several points follow from this return to the theoretical foundations of eudaimonic well-being ( Ryff 1989 ), with a detour through William James along the way. The first is to observe that most of the proffered meanings of positive psychological functioning did not involve matters of religion or spirituality. As such, the six key dimensions of well-being—i.e., autonomy, environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations with others, purpose in life, self-acceptance—identified as points of convergence in these perspectives ( Ryff 1989 ) did not encompass spiritual matters. The structured self-assessments scales created to operationalize these six dimensions also did not focus on spirituality . The lack of emphasis on spirituality could be seen as theoretical limitation, but it can also be viewed as a scientific strength. Scientific efforts to link spirituality and well-being are less fraught with tautologies if each domain is defined and measured as separate and distinct from the other. The next section examines empirical findings linking religion and spirituality with diverse aspects of well-being. That theoretical and measurement boundaries between these realms are not blurred is a scientific plus.

Some additional points from this past work ( Ryff 1985 ) are worth iterating. One is the misguided claim coming from several theorists that personal growth is innate and will follow naturally if impediments are removed. I thought then and continue to believe this assertion is problematic, citing Smith’s (1974) observation that “vice and evil are as much in the range of human potentiality as virtue, specialization as much as well-rounded development. Our biology cannot be made to carry our ethics, as Maslow would have it” (p. 172). Seeing personal growth as biologically based also deflects attention away from the actual experiences of people’s lives, the pivotal events, sometimes traumatic, that may catalyze discovery of unknown resources and self-knowledge. Another point worth repeating pertains to historical and cultural variation in conceptions of ideal human functioning where my primary source was Coan’s (1977) tour de force look across centuries of human history. His central message was that meanings of optimal, ultimate human experience are not universal: the ancient Greeks placed heavy emphasis on cultivation of the human mind guided by reason, while writers from the Middle Ages emphasized saintliness and close contact with the divine, along with concern for the welfare of others and unselfish love. The Renaissance brought a new spirit of creativity and individual expression to ideals of human functioning with less appeal to authority in matters of thought, morality, and taste.

Coan further contrasted Western and Eastern views of human fulfillment, reminding the reader that rationality has been more dominant in the West while intuition is more conspicuous in the East. The West also sees the person as having a separate reality, whereas Eastern perspectives, such as among Hindus and Buddhists, see less separation of the individual from the whole of nature. Indeed, the goal of Hinduism involves a loss of experienced separateness and achieving a sense of oneness with the universal soul. There is also greater emphasis on suffering, routed in desire, in Buddhism, while Taoism focuses on the relationship of the individual to the whole of nature via attending to the mystical, the intuitive, and letting things take their course. Modern Indian thought exemplified by Sri Aurobindo emphasized evolution of the soul and shifting away from reason or intellect toward a more spiritual being. Taken as a whole, this wide sweep of human ideals across time and context contrasts with universals now emphasized in positive psychology ( Peterson and Seligman 2004 ).

A final theoretical observation pertains to issues of fragmentation versus wholeness in conceptions of psychological well-being and spirituality. On the one hand, eudaimonia (theoretically and empirically) is notable for blending experiences of thinking, feeling, and striving, thus transcending divisions in psychology that partition the person into separate realms of cognition, emotion, and motivation. At the same time, the differentiation of distinct dimensions of well-being creates another kind of fragmentation, given that most scientific work examines these characteristics one at a time rather than considering whole profiles of wellness ( Pancheva et al. 2020 ). For better or worse, scientific efforts to understand often proceed by differentiating the phenomena into component parts, which are then linked to other component parts (e.g., diverse aspects of health).

Such endeavors are antithetical to the ideas of wholeness now receiving heightened attention ( Niemiec et al. 2020 ; Russo-Netzer 2018 ), as they should. Features of wholeness have been delineated to include embracing life with breadth and depth, having a life affirming view of oneself and the world, and being able to organize one’s life journey into a cohesive whole. Wholeness also encompasses complexity, paradox and dichotomies as well as ideas of brokenness. The juxtaposition of wholeness and brokenness ( Pargament et al. 2016 ) highlights several additional distinctions: purposive vs. aimless; broad and deep vs. narrow and shallow; flexible and enduring vs. rigid and unstable, balanced, cohesive, and discerning vs. unbalanced, incohesive, and non-reflective). These ideas have discernable value in clinical work, counseling, and education, although they are less evident in scientific work that continues to reflect a largely fragmented approach with the whole person almost never in view. A worthy objective in research on spirituality and well-being going forward is to better capture human wholeness.

3. Religion, Spirituality, Well-Being and Health: A Review of Scientific Advances from MIDUS

A large prior literature has examined links between religion and health (e.g., Idler 2014 ; Koenig et al. 2012 ; Li et al. 2016 ). Given this broad field, it is relevant to ask why to focus on findings from a single study? Two justifications are offered for emphasis on the Midlife in the U.S. (MIDUS) national longitudinal study. First, a central objective of MIDUS is to examine human health and well-being as an integrated biopsychosocial process ( Ryff and Krueger 2018 ). That is, the overarching commitment is to work across disciplinary domains. This means that MIDUS not only includes detailed measures of religion and spirituality pertinent to this Special Issue, but also has unusual depth in assessments of psychological and social factors, health behaviors, life stressors and health, including a rich array of biomarkers. These measurement strengths, along with the longitudinal design and large, national samples, afford unique opportunities to sharpen the understanding of relations between religion and spirituality with well-being and health.

Second, MIDUS data are publicly available and have been widely used by researchers all over the world to generate more than 1500 publications (see www.midus.wisc.edu ). Importantly, no permissions are required to use the data, which are notable for being well-documented and user-friendly. Thus, numerous opportunities exist for others to engage with the expansive MIDUS data. As will be noted following a look at illustrative findings, many important questions have yet to be examined.

As a prelude to findings, it is noteworthy that most MIDUS participants consider themselves to be spiritual. When asked in 2002 (the second wave for the core sample) “How spiritual are you?” most participants answered a lot (30%) or somewhat (46%). Similarly, when asked “How important is spirituality in your life?” most answered a lot (49%) or somewhat (34%). The same questions were asked in 2012 for the Refresher sample, involving recruitment of a new national sample of same-aged adults (25 to 74) as the baseline sample recruited in 1995. The majority of Refresher participants also considered themselves to be spiritual and considered spirituality as important to them. In contrast, less than a third (30%) of both samples reported that they attended weekly religious or spiritual services. Thus, although spirituality and religious practice were not strongly linked, spirituality is prominent in the self-perceptions of most MIDUS participants who represent the general population in the U.S.

To date, over 60 publications have been generated on religion and spirituality using the MIDUS data ( www.midus.wisc.edu/publications/ ), some noted here. One interesting question is what accounts for why some people are religious and others not. Bierman (2005) examined links between physical and emotional abuse in childhood, with adult religiosity. The key finding was that abuse committed by a father predicted less religiosity, although abuse outside the immediate family was linked with increased spirituality. A possible explanation was that victims of abusive fathers may distance themselves from images of God, the father. Alternatively, Jung (2018) found that the effects of childhood adversity on adult mental health were reduced among those who were involved in religious practices—specifically, religious salience and spirituality buffered the noxious effects of child abuse on changes in positive affect over time. Other studies examined the psychological correlates of religiosity. Greenfield et al. (2009) found that higher levels of spirituality were associated with higher levels of well-being (positive affect, purpose in life, positive relations with others, personal growth, self-acceptance, environmental mastery, autonomy), with some associations stronger among women than men. Greater religious participation was also linked with higher purpose in life and personal growth, but also with lower autonomy. Having a religious social identity was found to mediate the link between more frequent attendance at religious services and higher levels of hedonic well-being (more positive affect, less negative affect, more life satisfaction) ( Greenfield and Marks 2007 ). A further mediational study showed that psychological resources (emotional and psychological well-being) mediated the effect of early exposure to religion on self-rated health and physical symptomatology ( Son and Wilson 2011 ). Another inquiry found that religiosity and personality characteristics (agreeableness, conscientiousness) were uniquely associated with cognitive coping (optimism, positive reappraisal) ( Schuurmans-Stekhoven 2018 ). Whether religious beliefs compensate for purpose in life among the socially disconnected was examined ( Chan et al. 2019 ) with findings showing that religious beliefs had minimal influence on purpose in life among socially connected individuals, but for those who were socially disconnected, being highly religious predicted higher levels of purpose in life.

Does religiosity contribute to good works, such as volunteering, helping others, and prosocial behavior? Taniguchi and Thomas (2011) found that religious inclusiveness (being open to other faiths) promoted both religious and secular volunteering, whereas religious exclusiveness promoted volunteering only in religious areas. Einolf (2013) found that daily spiritual experiences were significant predictors of volunteering, charitable giving, and helping others. Gender differences emerged as correlates of volunteering and charitable giving, with women showing broader social networks through religious participation ( Einolf 2011 ).

Multiple inquiries have linked religion and spirituality to health. Issues of directional influence have been examined, with McFarland et al. (2013) finding that a cancer diagnosis was associated with increased religiosity, as well as strong evidence that people diagnosed with cancer at earlier ages experienced the largest increases in religiosity over time. Others found that high spiritual experiences enhanced life satisfaction over time in cancer survivors having low satisfaction at baseline ( Rudaz et al. 2019 ). Additional work showed that spiritual coping influenced the personal growth of cancer patients, with effects moderated by spiritual mindfulness ( Rudaz et al. 2018 ). After controlling for multiple factors, religious and spiritual identities were found to predict greater use of complementary and alternative medicine ( Ellison et al. 2012 ).

With regard to health behaviors, high levels of religious and spiritual involvement were found to predict lower odds of smoking over time ( Bailey et al. 2015 ). Addiction recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous are known to promote spiritual but not religious beliefs. Reflecting this emphasis, McClure and Wilkinson (2020) showed that frequency of attendance in such groups was positively and significantly associated with being spiritual but not religious. Links between religion and body weight have been of interest. Kim et al. (2003) found that religious denomination was significantly related to body weight after accounting for sociodemographic controls: specifically, conservative Protestant men had a higher body mass index (BMI) than those reporting no religious affiliation. A related study ( Kim 2007 ) showed that women and men with greater religiosity were more likely to underestimate their body weight. Some studies have linked religiosity to biomarkers: Tobin and Slatcher (2016) found that higher levels of religious participation predicted steeper (healthier) profiles of diurnal cortisol after controlling for confounds. Finally, links between religion and mortality (length of life) have been examined. Upenieks et al. (2021) found that children brought up in highly religious households had higher risk of mortality than those socialized in moderately religious households.

Several summary observations follow from these findings, most of which control for numerous covariates and relevant confounds. Although religion and spirituality have typically been studied as positive influences on diverse aspects of well-being and health, some findings have shown negative effects—conservative Protestant men showed higher obesity profiles than non-religious men, while children brought up in highly religious households had higher mortality risk than those raised in moderately religious households. Opportunities to investigate the possible costs of high religiosity and spirituality remain. Why is this worth pursuing? Primarily because religion is known to have both helpful and harmful effects ( Pargament 2002 ). These bitter and sweet fruits were recognized long ago by William James ([1902] 1958) and were also addressed by Jung in writing about the spiritual problems of modern man ( Jung 1933 ; Tacey 2013 ). They also emerged in Allport’s (1950) classic work, finding that average churchgoers were more prejudiced than non-churchgoers. This observation led to the distinction between intrinsic versus extrinsic religious motivations ( Allport and Ross 1967 ; Donahue 1985 )—i.e., the difference between embracing and internalizing the creed and values of one’s religion, as opposed to using one’s religion for personal ends, such as seeking status, security, and sociability. Prejudice was found to be more common among the latter. Recent empirical work has linked religious fundamentalism to multiple negatives: authoritarianism, narrow mindedness, discrimination, and bigotry ( Altemeyer and Hunsberger 1992 ; Hood et al. 1996 ; Kirkpatrick 1993 ). Our contemporary world makes it undeniable that religious convictions sometimes translate to hate, intolerance, and even the killing of others.

MIDUS cannot address these extremes, nor does it offer insights into religious motivations. That said, the study has high-quality measures of perceived discrimination, which illuminate who among the sample see themselves as recipients of prejudice and unjust treatment. A first, highly cited study ( Kessler et al. 1999 ), reported on the prevalence, distribution, and mental health correlates of perceived discrimination. More than 80 additional publications subsequently linked assessments of daily and lifetime discrimination to mental and physical health outcomes. Participants report the reasons they perceive for receiving unfair treatment, which include their race or ethnicity, gender, age, socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation, and weight. Thus, significant avenues for future inquiry could investigate links between religious beliefs and practices and perceptions of discrimination.

MIDUS also has extensive measures of stress exposures, such as chronic and acute life events, caregiving responsibilities, and daily hassles. Measured at each wave, these afford empirical handles on cumulative adversity across time. Relevant questions are whether aspects of religion and spirituality serve as buffers (moderators) of the effects of wide-ranging life stressors on well-being and health. Religion may be particularly valuable when people face problems that push them to the limits of their own personal and social resources, thereby exposing basic vulnerabilities ( Pargament 1997 ). MIDUS also has depth in assessing social relational ties (within and outside the family), including frequency and quality of contact with numerous others. How are religious and spiritual orientations linked with relational well-being? As noted above, religion may nurture purpose in life among those who are socially isolated. Further inquiries could probe whether and how the quality of parent/child relational ties vary by religious experiences as well as how religion and spirituality matter for marital quality, including persistent marital conflict over time. Many MIDUS findings have examined positive and negative aspects of marital quality as well as on spousal loss. Different marital statuses (married, single, divorced, widowed) have also been linked with psychological well-being. Other extensively studied topics include family caregiving and the interplay (both positive and negative) between work and family life. Whether religious and spiritual orientations matter these topics are promising future topics.

Finally, MIDUS has become a major forum for studying ever-widening inequality in the U.S., which has now been heightened by the hardships of the pandemic (deaths, unemployment, hunger, evictions) ( Ryff forthcoming ). These multiple forms of suffering and their consequences for health and well-being need scientific attention. Many factors (psychological, social, behavioral, biological) are being investigated as possible protective characteristics (buffers) or vulnerabilities (exacerbating influences), but largely unexamined in health inequalities research are influences of religion and spirituality. Stated otherwise, human suffering is now widespread, making its consequences for how well and how long people live a major scientific imperative of our time. Ties therein to matters of spirituality need scholarly attention.

4. The Power of Nature to Nurture Spirituality and Well-Being

This section covers three topics: (1) the current science that is now examining how nature contributes to human flourishing; (2) input from the arts and humanities (poetry, literature, music, art, history, philosophy) that showcase nature as a key source of inspiration in life; (3) the spiritual significance of the natural world, drawing on Jungian writings about the soul and the sacred, as well as world views from indigenous peoples. This mélange constitutes a reaching toward ancient and new forms of spirituality about how nature influences our well-being and how we must care for the planet.

Vibrant research is now underway studying how nature contributes to human flourishing ( Capaldi et al. 2015 ; Mantler and Logan 2015 ). These ideas have growing salience as greater segments of the world’s population live in nature-impoverished urban milieus. Multiple theories have been offered to understand how we benefit from nature. From evolutionary thinking comes the biophilia hypothesis, which suggests that our human ancestors depended on connecting with nature to survive ( Kellert and Wilson 1993 ), along with stress-reduction theory ( Ulrich et al. 1991 ), which proposes that past exposures to unthreatening natural environments contributed to survival via stress-reducing physiological responses (e.g., pulse rate, cortisol levels, immune functioning). Focused not on the distant past but the present is attention restoration theory ( Kaplan and Kaplan 1989 ), which addresses the executive resources needed for cognitive performance, suggesting that natural environments provide opportunities to escape from life’s demands, thereby improving capacities for concentration and attention. Other perspectives consider the role of the natural environment in addressing existential anxieties, such as meaning in life, isolation, freedom, and death ( Yalom 1980 ). Eco-existential positive psychology ( Passmore and Howell 2014 ) thus describe how restorative experiences with nature might contribute to a sense of identity, multiple forms of happiness, meaning, social connectedness, freedom, and awareness of one’s own mortality.

Empirical evidence has linked encounters with nature to high hedonic well-being (positive emotions, less negative emotion, life satisfaction), both short and long-term, and to aspects of eudaimonic well-being, such as meaning, autonomy, vitality, and feelings of transcendence ( Capaldi et al. 2015 ; Mantler and Logan 2015 ; Triguero-Mas et al. 2015 ). Some inquiries have examined intervening mechanisms, such as increased physical activity, increased social contact, stress reduction and restoration of cognitive attention. Other literature from environmental psychology examines how natural and built environments promote human capacities ( De Young 2013 ; Gifford 2014 ; Proshansky 1987 ). The focus on green spaces in these works underscores growing concerns about urbanization, loss of biodiversity, and environmental degradation. The increasingly dire consequences of climate change (droughts, wildfires, floods) have also led to research on pro-nature behaviors that support the conservation of nature and biodiversity. Richardson et al. (2020) conducted an innovative population survey in the United Kingdom, showing that pro-nature actions were strongly predicted by knowledge of and concerns about nature.

Interestingly, spirituality is rarely mentioned in the above literatures, even though ideas about nature as sources of inspiration and uplift are omnipresent in the human story, as expressed in poetry, literature, music, art, history, and philosophy. An example is the life of Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859), written about in The Invention of Nature ( Wulf 2016 ). Primarily a scientist, naturalist, and explorer (of South America and Siberia), Humboldt influenced many great thinkers of his day, including Jefferson, Darwin, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Thoreau, and Goethe. He was ahead of his time in thinking about the degradation and exploitation of nature, warning that humankind had the power to destroy the natural environment. Humboldt had a sense of wonder about nature, believing that our responses to it should emanate from our senses and emotion—nature, he thought, spoke to humanity in a voice “familiar to our soul” (p. 61). Scenes from mountain tops activated his imagination and soothed the “‘deep wounds’ that pure ‘reason’ sometimes created” (p. 97). Aligned with Goethe’s inner circle of German Idealism and Romanticism, Humboldt saw no irreconcilable chasm between the internal and the external world. As such, he embraced the rationality and methods of the Enlightenment thinkers, while seeing nature, not as an external mechanical system, but as a living organism that required subjectivity. Both Goethe and Humboldt advocated for the marriage of art and science rather than seeing them as antagonists.

How can nature, as expressed in the arts, nurture the subjective parts of who we are and hope to become? Insights come from Mark Edmondson (2004 , 2015) , who teaches great literature and poetry to nurture well-being, including the values needed by the human soul, such as courage, contemplation, and compassion. When educating college students about great works, he repeatedly asks: Can you live it? Does the work offer a new or better way of understanding the self and others, or point to alternative paths for living a better life? To illustrates, Edmondson examines Wordsworth’s famous poem, “Lines Composed a Few Miles from Tintern Abbey”, written in 1798. The context is that his life had become flat—“he lived in a din-filled city, among unfeeling people, and sensed that he is becoming one of them … there is a dull ache settling in his spirit” (p. 57). Returning to a scene from his childhood, Wordsworth remembered himself as a young boy, free and reveling in nature. The return to nature, which is the heart of the poem, reminded him of its role in nurturing his own vitality. The poem “enjoins us to feel that it (the answer to one’s despondency) lies somewhere within our reach—we are creatures who have the capacity to make ourselves sick, but also the power to heal ourselves” (p. 49).

Wordsworth’s poetry served a vital function in the life of John Stuart Mill ([1893] 1989) , who as a young adult realized that he lacked the happiness central to the utilitarian philosophy in which he was steeped. Reflecting on his past, Mill described an early educational experience that was exceptional, but profoundly deficient. His father began teaching him Greek and Latin at a young age and then expanded the pedagogy to fields of philosophy, science, and mathematics. Sentiment and emotion were nowhere to be seen—they were deeply opposed by his father. To escape the logic machine he had become, Mill began a quest to feel, and it was the poetry of Wordsworth, mostly about nature, that ministered to the longings in his soul. He credited it for helping him recover from the crisis in his mental history.

Nature is powerfully present in most art forms. On the heels of the Romantic era in literature came the French impressionist movement (1860–1910). After centuries of religious art, mostly dark and dreary in content, the impressionists began to paint outside ( en plein air ), leading to subject matter suffused with light—the sun shining down on all manner of nature’s beauty. This new vision brought Monet’s famed Waterlilies and Poppies , and his Garden at Giverny . Cezanne captured the Forest , Sisley the Fog , and Pissarro the French countryside ( Paysage aux Patis) . Van Gogh dazzled the world with his Starry Night and Sunflowers, while Klimt, known for figurative art, created breathtaking scenes from nature ( Beech Forest and Fruit Trees) . From Spain, Sorolla captured seascapes ( Biarritz Beach) and children frolicking in waves ( Niños en el Mar) . Taken as a whole, the world came to love this art for its magnificent celebration of nature that brought joy and inspiration to all.

Others drew on nature to inspire musical creativity, such as Debussy’s symphonic sketches ( La Mer ) that captured the changing moods, rhythm, and power of the sea. Nature inspired Beethoven’s Pastorale symphony, Chopin’s Raindrop prelude, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee , and Smetana’s symphonic poem about a beloved river, The Moldau . These works continue to evoke rich emotions in others more than a century later. What about contemporary art forms? The 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Literature was awarded to Richard Powers (2018) for The Overstory , a novel about the impact of giant, memorable trees on the lives of several people. The 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music was awarded to John Luther Adams for his orchestral work Become Ocean , which “immerses the listener in a sonic churn, ebb and roar that conjures a world inundated by rising sea levels” ( Fonseca-Wollheim 2020 ). Adams thus combines musical composition with environmental activism, a theme also present in Power’s book. Contemporary poetry about nature, evident in the works of Mary Oliver (2017) and Wendel Berry (2012) , surely ministers to the souls of many. These are poets follow the steps of one of America’s greatest poets, Walt Whitman, who in Leaves of Grass ( Whitman [1855] 2005 ) wrote:

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less that the journeywork of the stars, And the pismire [ant] is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren And the tree-toad is a chef-d’oeuvre for the highest, And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven.” (p. 31)

What is the relevance of these expressions and preceding art forms for the theme of this essay—namely, to explicate how nature might matter in connections between spirituality and well-being? On the one hand, there is the prosaic point that science needs to track how often (frequency) and how deeply (intensity) we interact with nature. This is being undertaken in some of the research described above, but not included in those endeavors are the ways in which nature is taken in via literature, poetry, art, music, and film. Both realms of experience are needed complements to topics routinely assessed in studies of health and well-being, such as what people eat (nutrition surveys), drink (alcohol intake), whether they smoke, how often they exercise, and so on. Participation with nature must be recognized as a domain of vital nourishment taken in by many on their journeys through life. There remains, however, the need to illuminate matters of spirituality at the heart of the nature experience. Those topics require a return to select writings from Jung, along with input from indigenous peoples.

David Tacey’s (2013) The Darkening Spirit: Jung, Spirituality, and Religion brings new insights to what we can learn from Jung’s extensive writings. The son of a Christian minister, Jung saw numerous problems with conventional religion, including its fundamentalist tendencies, sometimes leading to violence and fanaticism. He also saw the literal and absolutist claims of Western religion as too narrow and out of touch with what the soul longed for: poetry, myth, metaphor, and imagination. Drawing on these ideas, Tacey sees spirit as the expression of what is best and highest in our humanity, and speculates that secularism has, paradoxically, made us more, rather than less, spiritual. In thinking about these matters, we learn that Jung reflected about his own daimon, writing that “it overpowered me, and if I was at times ruthless it was because I was in the grip of the daimon …. I had to catch up to my vision … while my contemporaries saw only a fool rushing ahead” (p. 41). Importantly, Jung used the word ‘soul’ not in the theological sense, but with meanings coming from Greek philosophy.

Reflecting on modern times, Jung saw the 20th century as the most violent, evil, and appalling period in the history of civilization and believed that evil could only be reduced by digging into the shadow. It was in dealing with the dark side that he saw the need to draw on the arts, literature and philosophy, which he believed were inspired by archetypal impulses. Art thus becomes the critical source and expression of spirit in our contemporary world and requires that we give back to the poet, artist, and philosopher their sacred status. Key to searching for a new balance between the dark and the light is recognizing the importance animism, defined as the “experience of nature as a field inhabited by spirits that animate it” (p. 115). Because we have devalued ancient cultures, we have been left in a wasteland where imagination and myth are seen as escapes from, rather than windows into, reality. What is required thus is that we deconstruct the Western imperialist project with its mischaracterizations of so-called primitive peoples. As stated by Tacey: “We dismiss ancient visions as unscientific, but our rational approach may be missing more than we realize. We like to debunk the notion that earth has spirit, and demand that those who make such assertions provide some proof. But we might as well be fishes of the sea, asking proof of the existence of the ocean” (p. 116). Importantly, the failure to see nature as sacred has led to our degradation and exploitation of it.

In reflecting about how the human soul could have become so divorced from the spirits of our natural surroundings, Tacey draws on Hillman’s (1995) foreword to Ecopsychology :

Even the high intellectualism of the Renaissance, to say nothing of the modes of mind in ancient Egypt and Greece or contemporary Japan, allowed for the animation of things, recognizing a subjectivity in animals, plants, well’s springs, trees, and rocks. Psychology, so dedicated to awakening human consciousness, needs to wake itself up to one of the most ancient human truths: we cannot be studied or cured apart from the planet. (p. 125)

The crux of the matter in Tacey’s view is that we need a “down to earth and existential expression of the religious impulse and one that does not fly in the face of science” (p. 143). Without spiritual nourishment and cultural life, the soul loses its way, becomes lost in materialism and worldliness, or afflicted by neuroses and illnesses. Even so, the soul makes appearances in other guises—the arts, cinema, music, and popular culture. Overall, Tacey offers a broadened conception of soul as a force that links us with meaning, while striving for community and seeking connection with nature and ultimate reality.

Tacey has also written about mythic bonds with nature found in Aboriginal Australian cultures. In Edge of the sacred: Jung, psyche, earth ( Tacey 1995 ), the spirit and soul of the earth are deeply examined. Science and rationality may dismiss such ideas as illusions, but he reminds the reader that failing to embrace the meaning of an animated earth will leave us alienated and alone, while at the same time contribute to disrespect of and damage to the environment. The wisdom of indigenous peoples has also been emphasized by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) via focus on First Nations, Inuit, or Métis communities and their cultures, experiences, and knowledge systems. This inquiry has led to Etauptmumk , translated as “Two-Eyed Seeing” ( Roher et al. 2021 ). This recent review distilled seven categories of meaning in Two-Eyed Seeing: (1) guide for life—i.e., a wholistic way of knowing, being, doing, and seeing that is mental, spiritual, physical and emotional; (2) responsibility for the greater good—i.e., calling for use of all capacities, gifts and actions to leave the world a better place; (3) co-learning journey—i.e., relationship building by having different peoples put their own knowledge and action forward for examination; (4) diverse perspectives—i.e., respecting and accepting diverse realities; (5) spirit—i.e., there is spirit in everything and essential for a complete person is interaction of body, mind, soul, and spirit with all aspects of nature; (6) decolonization—i.e., honoring indigenous perspectives in how knowledge is created, gathered, and used; (7) humans as part of ecosystems—i.e., human health requires balance and integrity between people and the global ecosystems that surround them.

These contributions from indigenous peoples are arguably the most powerful examples we have of how to grasp the meanings of spirituality in the natural world around us, of which we are a part, as well as how to live with a commitment of responsibility to protect all of it. The great tragedy is the scope of trauma inflicted on these cultures by so-called enlightened newcomers. These horrific tales continue to be told, illustrated by Empire of the Summer Moon ( Gwynne 2010 ), which details the rise and fall of one of the most powerful tribes in American history, the Comanches. They lived in a world alive with spirits, which were everywhere, in the rocks, trees, and animals. They danced to celebrate these spirits and made offerings to them, but in the end they were decimated by destruction of the buffalo herds, much of which the white invaders carried out maliciously, not for the hides, not for the meat, but with the sole intent of destroying the livelihood of the Plains Indians. Another tale of trauma ( Vaillant 2005 ) comes from the Pacific Northwest, the Haida peoples from the Queen Charlotte Islands, whose lives were greatly harmed, first by the colonialist devastation of the sea otters, followed by widespread clear-cutting of the magnificent forests on which they relied for many things, including to build their massive cedar canoes. The central drama in this book, however, revolves around the cutting of a giant golden spruce, considered sacred by the Haida. Together, these publications constitute forms of conscious-raising, not only about the abhorrent treatment of First Nations peoples, but also about their wholistic ways of being that stand in marked contrast to Western rationalism and science.

5. Conclusions

The scope of what has been covered in this article is wide—perhaps so expansive as to be at the edge of incoherence. Is going from a look back at the theoretical foundations of eudaimonic well-being through a review of current science linking religion and spirituality to well-being and health and then onto the possible centrality of nature in understanding deeper meanings of what is sacred and what the soul needs, more than can be meaningfully managed? I hope not. Having studied human well-being for decades and invested much into examining how it matters for health, I believe the next great leap is to embrace the spiritual realm. That can be achieved in many ways, as illustrated by some of the work I have summarized. Nonetheless, reaching still farther toward nature seems fundamentally important because it provides windows on spirituality that exist outside conventional religion and current science, despite having been vital in the history of our species. My objective has thus been to articulate, drawing on a wide range of literatures, how we might embrace a conception of spirituality anchored in nature that may be critical for what we, as individuals, as well as what our planet, currently need.

The empirical studies reviewed in Section 3 above are all from the MIDUS national longitudinal study. The MIDUS research has been supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and by the National Institute of Aging (P01-AG020166, U19-AG051426) and by the Clinical and Translational Science Program of the National Center for Research Resources, National Institute of Health (Grant 1UL1RR025011).

Conflicts of Interest: The author declares no conflict of interest.

Data Availability Statement:

  • Allport Gordon W. 1950. The Individual and His Religion: A Psychological Interpretation . New York: Macmillan. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Allport Gordon W. 1961. Pattern and Growth in Personality . New York: Hold, Rinehart, and Winston. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Allport Gordon W., and Ross J. Michael. 1967. Personal religious orientation and prejudice . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 5 : 432–43. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Altemeyer Bob, and Hunsberger Bruce. 1992. Authoritarianism, religious fundamentalism, quest, and prejudice . International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 2 : 113–33. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Aristotle. 1925. The Nicomachean Ethnics . New York: Oxford University Press. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Bailey Zinzi D., Slopen Natalie, Albert Michelle, and Williams David R.. 2015. Multidimensional religious involvement and tobacco smoking patterns over 9–10 years: A prospective study of middle-aged adults in the United States . Social Science and Medicine 138 : 128–35. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Berry Wendell. 2012. New Collected Poems . Berkeley: Counterpoint. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Bierman Alex. 2005. The effects of childhood maltreatment on adult religiosity and spirituality: Rejecting God the Father because of abusive fathers? Journal for The Scientific Study of Religion 44 : 349–59. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Bühler Charlotte. 1935. The curve of life as studied in biographies . Journal of Applied Psychology 43 : 653–73. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Bühler C, and Massarik F, eds. 1968. The Course of Human Life . New York: Springer. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Capaldi Colin A., Passmore Holli A., Nisbet Elizabeth K., Zelenski John M., and Dopko Raelyne I.. 2015. Flourishing in nature: A review of the benefits of connecting with nature and its application as a wellbeing intervention . International Journal of Wellbeing 5 : 1–16. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Chan Todd, Michalak Nicholas M., and Ybarra Oscar. 2019. When God is your only friend: Religious beliefs compensate for purpose in life in the socially disconnected . Journal of Personality 87 : 455–71. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Coan Richard W. 1977. Hero, Artist, Sage, or Saint?: A Survey of Views on What Is Variously Called Mental Health, Normality, Self-Actualization, and Human Fulfillment . New York: Columbia University Press. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Young De, Raymond. 2013. Environmental psychology overview. In Green Organizations: Driving Change with IO Psychology . Edited by Huffman Ann H. and Stephanie Klein. New York: Routledge, pp. 17–33. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Donahue Michael. J. 1985. Intrinsic and extrinsic religousness: Review and meta-analysis . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 48 : 400–19. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Edmondson Mark. 2004. Why Read? New York: Bloomsbury. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Edmondson Mark. 2015. Self and Soul: A Defense of Ideals . Cambridge: Harvard University Press. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Einolf Christopher J. 2011. Gender differences in the correlates of volunteering and charitable giving . Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Quarterly 40 : 1092–112. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Einolf Christopher J. 2013. Daily spiritual experiences and prosocial behavior . Social Indicators Research 110 : 71–87. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Ellison Christopher G., Bradshaw Matt, and Roberts Chery A.. 2012. Spiritual and religious identities predict the use of complementary and alternative medicine among US adults . Preventive Medicine 54 : 9–12. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Erikson Erik H. 1959. Identity and the life cycle . Psychological Issues 1 : 1–171. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Fonseca-Wollheim Corinna da. 2020. Tapping forces of nature to feed the spirit . The New York Times , November 29. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Frankl Viktor. E. 1959. Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy . Boston: Beacon Press. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Frankl Viktor E., and Lasch I. 1992. Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy . Boston: Beacon Press. First published 1959. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Gifford Robert. 2014. Environmental Psychology: Principles and Practices , 5th ed. Colville: Optimal Books. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Greenfield Emily A., and Marks Nadine F.. 2007. Religious social identity as an explanatory factor for associations between more frequent formal religious participation and psychological well-being . International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 17 : 245–59. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Greenfield Emily A., Vaillant George E., and Marks Nadine F.. 2009. Do formal religious participation and spiritual perceptions have independent linkages with diverse dimensions of psychological well-being? Journal of Health and Social Behavior 50 : 196–212. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Gwynne SC 2010. Empire of the Summer Moon . New York: Scribner. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Hillman James. 1995. A psyche the size of the earth. In Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind . Edited by Theodore Roszak, Gomes Marry E. and Kanner Allen. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Hood Ralph W. Jr., Spilka Bernard, Hunsberger Bruce, and Gorsuch Richard. 1996. The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach , 2nd ed.New York: Guilford. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Idler Ellen L., ed. 2014. Religion as a Social Determinant of Public Health . New York: Oxford University Press. [ Google Scholar ]
  • James William. 1958. The Varieties of Religious Experience . New York: New American Library. First published 1902. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Jung Carl Gustav. 1933. Modern Man in Search of a Soul . New York: Harcourt Brace & World. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Jung Carl Gustav. 1965. Memories, Dreams, Reflections . Translated by Richard, and Winston Clara. New York: Vintage Books. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Jung Jong Hyun. 2018. Childhood adversity, religion, and change in adult mental health . Research on Aging 40 : 155–79. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Kaplan Rachel, and Kaplan Stephen. 1989. The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Kellert Stephen R., and Wilson Edward O.. 1993. The Biophilia Hypothesis . Washington: Island Press. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Kessler Ronald C., Mickelson Kristin D., and Williams David R.. 1999. The prevalence, distribution, and mental health Correlates of perceived discrimination in the United States . Journal of Health and Social Behavior 40 : 208–30. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Kim Karen Hye-cheon. 2007. Religion, weight perception, and weight control behavior . Eating Behaviors 8 : 121–31. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Kim Karen Hye-cheon, Sobal Jeffery, and Wethington Elaine. 2003. Religion and body weight . International Journal of Obesity 27 : 469–77. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Kirkpatrick Lee A. 1993. Fundamentalism, Christian orthodoxy, and intrinsic religious orientation as predictors of discriminatory attitudes . Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 32 : 256–68. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Koenig Harold, King Dana, and Carson Verna B.. 2012. Handbook of Religion and Health , 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Li Shanshan, Okereke Olivia I, Chang Shun-Chiao, Kawachi Ichiro, and VanderWeele Tyler J.. 2016. Religious service attendance and lower depression among women—A prospective cohort study . Annals of Behavioral Medicine 50 : 876–84. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Mantler Annemarie, and Logan Alan C.. 2015. Natural environments and mental health . Advances in Integrative Medicine 2 : 5–12. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Maslow Abraham H. 1955. Deficiency motivation and growth motivation. In Nebraska Symposium on Motivation . Edited by Jones MR. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, pp. 1–30. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Maslow Abraham H. 1968. Toward a Psychology of Being , 2nd ed. New York: Van Nostrand. [ Google Scholar ]
  • McClure Paul K., and Wilkinson Lindsay R.. 2020. Attending substance abuse groups and identifying as spiritual but not religious . Review of Religious Research 62 : 197–218. [ Google Scholar ]
  • McFarland Michael J., Pudrovska Tetyana, Schieman Scott, Ellison Christopher, and Bierman Alex. 2013. Does a cancer diagnosis influence religiosity? Integrating a life course perspective . Social Science Research 42 : 311–20. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Mill John Stuart. 1989. Autobiography . London: Penguin. First published 1893. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Niemiec Ryan M., Russo-Netzer Pninit, and Pargament Kenneth I.. 2020. The decoding of the human spirit: A synergy of spirituality and character strengths toward wholeness . Frontiers in Psychology 11 : 1–12. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Okan Nesrullah, and Ekşi Halil. 2017. Spirituality in logotherapy . Spiritual Psychology and Counseling 2 : 143–64. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Oliver Mary. 2017. Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver . New York: Penguin. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Pancheva Marta G., Ryff Carol D., and Lucchini Mario. 2020. An integrated look at well-being: Topological clustering of combinations and correlates of hedonia and eudaimonia . Journal of Happiness Studies 22 : 2275–67. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Pargament Kenneth I. 1997. The Psychology of Religion and Coping: Theory, Research, Practice . New York: Guilford. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Pargament Kenneth I. 2002. The bitter and the sweet: An evaluation of the costs and benefits of religiousness . Psychological Inquiry 13 : 168–81. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Pargament Kenneth I., Wong Serena, and Exline Julie J.. 2016. Wholeness and holiness: The spiritual dimension of eudaimonics. In Handbook of Eudaimonic Well-Being . Edited by Vittersø Joar. New York: Springer Press, pp. 3799–94. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Passmore Holli-Anne, and Howell Andrew J.. 2014. Nature involvement increases hedonic and eudaimonic well-being: A two-week experimental study . Ecopsychology 6 : 148–54. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Peterson Christopher, and Seligman Martin E. P.. 2004. Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification . Washington: American Psychological Association. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Powers Richard. 2018. The Overstory . New York: W. W. Norton and Co. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Proshansky Harold M. 1987. The field of environmental psychology: Securing its future. In Handbook of Environmental Psychology . Edited by Stokols D and Altman I. New York: John Wiley & Sons, vol. 2 , pp. 1467–88. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Richardson Miles, Passmore Holli-Anne, Barbett Lea, Lumber Ryan, Thomas Rory, and Hunt Alex. 2020. The green care code: How nature connectedness and simply activities help explain pro-nature conservation behaviors . People and Nature 2 : 821–39. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Rogers Carl R. 1961. On Becoming a Person . Boston: Houghton Mifflin. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Roher Sophie I. G., Yu Ziwa, Martin Debbie H., and Benoit Anita C.. 2021. How is Etauptmumk /Two-Eyed Seeing characterized in Indigenous health research? A scoping review . PLoS ONE 16 : e0254612. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Rudaz Myriam, Ledermann Thomas, and Grzywacz Joseph G.. 2018. Spiritual coping, perceived growth, and the moderating role of spiritual mindfulness in cancer survivors . Journal of Psychosocial Oncology 36 : 609–23. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Rudaz Myriam, Ledermann Thomas, and Grzywacz Joseph G.. 2019. The influence of daily spiritual experiences and gender on subjective well-being over time in cancer survivors . Archive for the Psychology of Religion 41 : 157–71. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Russo-Netzer Pninit. 2018. Healing the divide through wholeness: Holding on to what makes us human . International Journal of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy 7 : 1–17. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Ryff Carol D. 1982. Successful aging: A developmental approach . Gerontologist 22 : 209–14. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Ryff Carol D. 1985. Adult personality development and the motivation for personal growth. In Advances in Motivation and Achievement: Motivation and Adulthood . Edited by Kleiber D and Maehr M. Greenwich: JAI Press, vol. 4 , pp. 55–92. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Ryff Carol D. 1989. Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57 : 1069–81. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Ryff Carol D. 2014. Psychological well-being revisited: Advances in the science and practice of eudaimonia . Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 83 : 10–28. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Ryff Carol D. 2018a. Well-being with soul: Science in pursuit of human potential . Perspectives in Psychological Science 13 : 242–48. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Ryff Carol D. 2018b. Ideal ends in emotional development. In The Nature of Emotion: Fundamental Questions . Edited by Fox Andrew S., Lapate Regina C., Shackman Alexander J. and Davidson Richard J.. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 396–99. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Ryff Carol D., and Krueger Robert F.. 2018. Approaching human health as an integrative challenge: Introduction and overview. In Oxford Handbook of Integrative Health Science . Edited by Ryff Carol D. and Krueger Robert F.. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 3–22. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Ryff Carol D., and Singer Burton H.. 2008. Know thyself and become what you are: A eudaimonic approach to psychological well-being . Journal of Happiness Studies 9 : 13–39. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Ryff Carol D. forthcoming. Meaning-making in the face of intersecting catastrophes: COVID-19 and the plague of inequality . Journal of Constructivist Psychology . [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Schuurmans-Stekhoven James B. 2018. Conviction, character and coping: Religiosity and personality are both uniquely associated with optimism and positive reappraising . Mental Health, Religion & Culture 21 : 763–79. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Simon Linda. 1998. Genuine Reality: A Life of William James . Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Smith Mahlon Brewster. 1974. Humanizing Social Psychology . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Son Joonmo, and Wilson John. 2011. Generativity and volunteering . Sociological Forum 26 : 644–67. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Tacey David. 1995. Edge of the Sacred: JUNG, Psyche, Earth . Melbourne: HarperCollins. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Tacey David. 2013. The Darkening Spirit: Jung, Spirituality, and Religion . New York: Routledge. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Taniguchi Hiromi, and Thomas Leonard. 2011. The influences of religious attitudes on volunteering . Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary & Nonprofit Organizations 22 : 335–55. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Tobin Erin T., and Slatcher Richard B.. 2016. Religious participation predicts diurnal cortisol profiles 10 years later via lower levels of religious struggle . Health Psychology 35 : 1356–63. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Triguero-Mas Margarita, Dadvand Payam, Cirach Marta, David Martínez Antonia Medina, Mompart Anna, Xavier Basagaña Regina Gražulevičienė, and Nieuwenhuijsen Mark J.. 2015. Natural outdoor environments and mental and physical health: Relationships and mechanisms . Environment International 77 : 35–41. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Ulrich Roger S., Simons Robert F., Losito Barbara D., Fiorito Evelyn, Miles Mark A., and Zelson Michael. 1991. Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments . Journal of Environmental Psychology 11 : 201–30. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Upenieks Laura, Schafer Markus H., and Mogosanu Andreea. 2021. Does childhood religiosity delay death? Journal of Religion and Health 60 : 420–43. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Vaillant John. 2005. The Golden Spruce . New York: W. W. Norton & Co. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Von Franz ML 1964. The process of individuation. In Man and His Symbols . Edited by Jung Carl G.. New York: Doubleday. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Whitman Walt. 2005. Leaves of Grass , 150th ed. Introducted by Bloom Harold. New York: Penguin Classics. First published 1855. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Wulf Andrea. 2016. The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World . New York: Penguin Random House. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Yalom Irvin D. 1980. Existential Psychotherapy . New York: Basic Books. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Therapy Center
  • When To See a Therapist
  • Types of Therapy
  • Best Online Therapy
  • Best Couples Therapy
  • Best Family Therapy
  • Managing Stress
  • Sleep and Dreaming
  • Understanding Emotions
  • Self-Improvement
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Student Resources
  • Personality Types
  • Guided Meditations
  • Verywell Mind Insights
  • 2024 Verywell Mind 25
  • Mental Health in the Classroom
  • Editorial Process
  • Meet Our Review Board
  • Crisis Support

How Spirituality Can Benefit Your Health and Well-Being

Finding balance in and connection with something bigger

Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.

spiritual well being essay

Megan Monahan is a certified meditation instructor and has studied under Dr. Deepak Chopra. She is also the author of the book, Don't Hate, Meditate.

spiritual well being essay

Spirituality vs. Religion

  • How to Practice

Potential Pitfalls

What is spirituality.

Spirituality is a worldview that suggests a dimension to life beyond what we experience on the sensory and physical levels. In practice, this might entail religious or cultural practices and beliefs surrounding a higher being, connection with others and the world as a whole, and/or the pursuit of self-improvement.

Spirituality has been a source of comfort and relief for multitudes of people. Its meaning is highly individual but is often shared and expressed in group activities such as church services and holiday rituals. ​

Research has linked spirituality with well-being and health in the face of life challenges.

Signs of Spirituality

Spirituality is not a single path or belief system. There are many ways to experience spirituality and the benefits of a spiritual experience. How you define spirituality will vary. For some people, it's the belief in a higher power or a specific religious practice.

For others, it may involve experiencing a sense of connection to a higher state or a sense of inter-connectedness with the rest of humanity and nature. Some signs of spirituality can include:

  • Asking deep questions about topics such as suffering or what happens after death
  • Deepening connections with other people
  • Experiencing compassion and empathy for others
  • Experiencing feelings of interconnectedness
  • Feelings of awe and wonder
  • Seeking happiness beyond material possessions or other external rewards
  • Seeking meaning and purpose
  • Wanting to make the world a better place

Not everyone experiences or expresses spirituality in the same way. Some people may seek spiritual experiences in every aspect of their lives, while others may be more likely to have these feelings under specific conditions or in certain locations.

For example, some people may be more likely to have spiritual experiences in churches or other religious temples, while others might have these feelings when they're out enjoying nature.

Types of Spirituality

There are many different types of spirituality. Some examples of how people get in touch with their own spirituality include:

  • Meditation or quiet time
  • New age spirituality
  • Service to their community
  • Spending time in nature
  • Spiritual retreats

Other people express their spirituality through religious traditions such as:

  • Christianity

It is important to remember that there are many other spiritual traditions that exist throughout the world, including traditional African and Indigenous spiritual practices. Such spiritual practices can be particularly important to groups of people who have been subjected to the effects of colonialism.

Although spirituality and religion can overlap, here are some key points that differentiate the two.

Can be practiced individually

Doesn't have to adhere to a specific set of rules

Often focuses on a personal journey of discovering what is meaningful in life

Often practiced in a community

Usually based on a specific set of rules and customs

Often focuses on the belief in deities or gods, religious texts, and tradition

Uses of Spirituality

People often turn to spirituality to:

  • Find purpose and meaning : Exploring spirituality can help people find answers to philosophical questions such as "What is the meaning of life?" and "What purpose does my life serve?"
  • Cope with feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety : Spiritual experiences can be helpful when coping with the stresses of life. 
  • Restore hope and optimism : Spirituality can help people develop a more hopeful outlook on life.
  • Find a sense of community and support : Because spiritual traditions often involve organized religions or groups , becoming a part of such a group can serve as an important source of social support .

The Impact of Spirituality

While specific spiritual views are a matter of faith, research has demonstrated some of the benefits of spirituality and spiritual activity. The results may surprise no one who has found comfort in their religious or spiritual views, but they are definitely noteworthy in that they demonstrate in a scientific way that these activities do have benefits for many people.

The following are a few more of the many positive findings related to spirituality and health:

  • Research has shown that religion and spirituality can help people cope with the effects of everyday stress. One study found that everyday spiritual experiences helped older adults better cope with negative feelings, and enhanced positive feelings.
  • Research shows that older women are more grateful to God than older men, and they receive greater ​stress-buffering health effects due to this gratitude.
  • According to research, those with an intrinsic religious orientation, regardless of gender, exhibited less physiological reactivity toward stress than those with an extrinsic religious orientation. Those who were intrinsically oriented dedicated their lives to God or a "higher power," while the extrinsically oriented ones used religion for external ends like making friends or increasing community social standing.

This, along with other research, demonstrates that there may be tangible and lasting benefits to maintaining involvement with a spiritual community. This involvement, along with the gratitude that can accompany spirituality, can be a buffer against stress and is linked to greater levels of physical health.

Dedication to God or a higher power translated into less stress reactivity, greater feelings of well-being, and ultimately even a decreased fear of death.

People who feel comfortable and comforted using spirituality as a coping mechanism for stress can rest assured that there's even more evidence that this is a good idea for them. Prayer works for young and old alike. Prayer and spirituality have been linked to:

  • Better health
  • Greater psychological well-being
  • Less depression  
  • Less hypertension
  • Less stress, even during difficult times  
  • More positive feelings
  • Superior ability to handle stress

How to Practice Spirituality

Whether you are rediscovering a forgotten spiritual path, reinforcing your commitment to an already well-established one, or wanting to learn more about spirituality for beginners, there are countless ways to start exploring your spiritual side and help improve your well-being.

Spirituality is a very personal experience, and everyone’s spiritual path may be unique. Research shows, however, that some spiritual stress relief strategies have been helpful to many, regardless of faith. Some things you can do to start exploring spirituality include:

  • Pay attention to how you are feeling : Part of embracing spirituality means also embracing what it means to be human, both the good and the bad. 
  • Focus on others : Opening your heart, feeling empathy, and helping others are important aspects of spirituality.
  • Meditate : Try spending 10 to 15 minutes each morning engaged in some form of meditation .
  • Practice gratitude : Start a gratitude journal and record what you are grateful for each day. This can be a great reminder of what is most important to you and what brings you the greatest happiness.
  • Try mindfulness : By becoming more mindful, you can become more aware and appreciative of the present. Mindfulness encourages you to be less judgmental (both of yourself and others) and focus more on the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or future.

Press Play for Advice on Being Human

Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares what it means to be 'wholly human,' featuring GRAMMY award-winning singer LeAnn Rimes. Click below to listen now.

Follow Now :  Apple Podcasts  /  Spotify  /  Google Podcasts  

One potential pitfall of spirituality is a phenomenon known as spiritual bypassing . This involves a tendency to use spirituality as a way to avoid or sidestep problems, emotions, or conflicts.

For example, rather than apologizing for some type of emotional wound you have caused someone else, you might bypass the problem by simply excusing it and saying that "everything happens for a reason" or suggesting that the other person just needs to "focus on the positive."

The Takeaway

Research has noted a link between spirituality and resilience in the face of challenges. Whether this owes to a higher power, a sense of peace, community connection, or some other factor, spirituality may help foster your sense of well-being.

Akbari M, Hossaini SM. The relationship of spiritual health with quality of life, mental health, and burnout: The mediating role of emotional regulation . Iran J Psychiatry . 2018;13(1):22-31. PMID:29892314

Whitehead BR, Bergeman CS. Coping with daily stress: Differential role of spiritual experience on daily positive and negative affect .  J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci . 2012;67(4):456-459. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbr136

Manning LK. Spirituality as a lived experience: Exploring the essence of spirituality for women in late life . Int J Aging Hum Dev . 2012;75(2):95-113. doi:10.2190/AG.75.2.a

McMahon, BT, Biggs HC. Examining spirituality and intrinsic religious orientation as a means of coping with exam anxiety . Society, Health & Vulnerability . 2012;3(1). doi:10.3402/vgi.v3i0.14918

Johnson KA. Prayer: A helpful aid in recovery from depression . J Relig Health . 2018;57(6):2290-2300. doi:10.1007/s10943-018-0564-8

Wachholtz AB, Sambamthoori U. National trends in prayer use as a coping mechanism for depression: Changes from 2002 to 2007 . J Relig Health . 2013;52(4):1356-68. doi:10.1007/s10943-012-9649-y

Gonçalves JP, Lucchetti G, Menezes PR, Vallada H. Religious and spiritual interventions in mental health care: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials . Psychol Med . 2015;45(14):2937-49. doi:10.1017/S0033291715001166

Arrey AE, Bilsen J, Lacor P, Deschepper R. Spirituality/religiosity: A cultural and psychological resource among sub-Saharan African migrant women with HIV/AIDS in Belgium .  PLoS One . 2016;11(7):e0159488. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0159488

Paul Victor CG, Treschuk JV. Critical literature review on the definition clarity of the concept of faith, religion, and spirituality . J Holist Nurs. 2019;38(1):107-113. doi:10.1177/0898010119895368

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.

Jamie D. Aten Ph.D.


The benefit of spirituality on our well-being, a continued interview with glen milstein on the effects of spirituality..

Posted January 26, 2021 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

  • What Is a Career
  • Take our Procrastination Test
  • Find a career counselor near me

Glen Milstein, used with permission

What outcome does our spiritual well-being have on our lives? In this interview, Glen Milstein shares how we can use spirituality and religion to benefit our lives individually and relationally.

Glen Milstein is an associate professor in Psychology at The City College of The City University of New York. He received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University with training at the Bellevue Hospital Center and an NIMH post-doctoral fellowship at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. The foundation of Milstein's work with his colleagues is the lifespan development of beliefs: Since humans are born without a word or a prayer, Glen is interested in how the language(s) of religion(s) becomes us through our families, friends, partners, and communities.

In 2019, he guest-edited a section on Religion and Spirituality in the Context of Disaster for the journal, Psychological Trauma : Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy . In 2020, He co-edited an issue on Religion and Health for the Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community . He is currently part of a task force within the American Psychological Association that is collaborating on a document to provide religious and spiritual competency practice guidelines for psychologists.

This is part two of a two-part interview with Milstein; you can find Part 1 here .

Jamie Aten: How might readers apply what you found to their lives?

Glen Milstein: What we sought to clarify — which was demonstrated by our research — is that spiritual well-being is beneficial for religious persons. In our study, we found it was protective against depressive symptoms, even if one has strong social support. We learned that it is important to take notice of depressive symptoms and to intervene to reduce these symptoms, with both personal and clinical resources, in order to prevent experiencing worsened occupational distress or burnout .

If you have a spiritual wisdom tradition that has been a positive influence, we can recommend that you examine and discern how this may serve as a source of meaning, wellness, and emotional support. This — like any exercise — is worthy of time set aside consistently. For some people, this discernment may lead to strengthening current practices; for others, it may be a reclamation of a previous path, and for others, it could be a journey on a new path.

JA: How can readers use what you found to help others?

GM: Spiritual well-being is a journey, not a destination. The one constant in life is change, which paradoxically can give us more assurance as change shows both that we can work to heal what has been harmed, as well as strengthen what has been diminished.

We found evidence for this in the data from the ministers. For these clergy, 15 percent had a robust increase in their spiritual well-being (SWB) in ministry across one year and 17 percent in their personal SWB. Also, a different 16 percent had a decrease in their SWB in ministry across one year and 15 percent in their personal SWB.

That spiritual well-being varies, is an idea that might create a sense of personal stigma or disappointment in clergy and other religious persons. Therefore, clergy may benefit from recognizing the need to cultivate spiritual well-being across their lifespan. Psychologists can be among those who encourage persons to improve their spiritual well-being and then assess if this results in the positive outcomes suggested by our research.

JA: What are you currently working on that you might like to share?

GM: Our next project with the Clergy Health Initiative will be another examination of a core psychological question: How does one’s early religious upbringing influence one’s adult functioning?

We know that 90 percent of Catholic priests grew up Catholic. What percentage of Methodist ministers grew up Methodist? How does this upbringing appear to predict their occupational distress, ministry satisfaction, and spiritual well-being?

Because of the sustained work of CHI, we will be able to study 10 years of data to measure outcomes. Our initial hypothesis is that those ministers who grew up Methodist will be functioning better. An alternative hypothesis is that by choosing their spiritual path, those not raised Methodist will function better. It is — in the moment — invigorating not to know.

spiritual well being essay

I am also currently preparing for my sabbatical, which will begin in Autumn 2021. I have accepted an invitation to be a Visiting Scholar at the Faculty of Divinity of Cambridge University. While there, I will have the opportunity to dialogue with colleagues as I research and write some of the integrative work I developed over the last 30 years. The working title of this sabbatical project is, “Utility of the Ineffable: Darwin, Religion, and The General Good."

I also plan to work with the Cambridge Interfaith Programme to offer COPE dialogues for collaboration between clergy and mental health care providers. I will direct my work to learn from human religious experiences in order to find more cogent and empathic ways to engage those people with lived experiences of mental and emotional distress whose strengths are sustained or challenged by their faith(s).

Milstein, G., Hybels, C. F., & Proeschold-Bell, R. J. (2020). A prospective study of clergy spiritual well-being, depressive symptoms, and occupational distress. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 12(4), 409-416. doi:10.1037/rel0000252

Jamie D. Aten Ph.D.

Jamie Aten , Ph.D. , is the founder and executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College.

  • Find a Therapist
  • Find a Treatment Center
  • Find a Psychiatrist
  • Find a Support Group
  • Find Online Therapy
  • United States
  • Brooklyn, NY
  • Chicago, IL
  • Houston, TX
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • New York, NY
  • Portland, OR
  • San Diego, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Washington, DC
  • Asperger's
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Chronic Pain
  • Eating Disorders
  • Passive Aggression
  • Personality
  • Goal Setting
  • Positive Psychology
  • Stopping Smoking
  • Low Sexual Desire
  • Relationships
  • Child Development
  • Self Tests NEW
  • Therapy Center
  • Diagnosis Dictionary
  • Types of Therapy

July 2024 magazine cover

Sticking up for yourself is no easy task. But there are concrete skills you can use to hone your assertiveness and advocate for yourself.

  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Gaslighting
  • Affective Forecasting
  • Neuroscience

Ohio State nav bar

The Ohio State University

  • BuckeyeLink
  • Find People
  • Search Ohio State

What is Spiritual Well-being?

The word “spiritual” refers to that core dimension of you – your innermost self – that provides you with a profound sense of who you are, where you came from, where you’re going and how you might reach your goal. You may not think much about spiritual well-being and what role it plays in your life, but its significance is stronger than you may believe.   

Spiritual wellness may mean different things to different people. For some, spirituality may be synonymous with traditional religion, while for others it relates primarily to the quality of personal relationships or love for nature. A foundation for spiritual wellness may be the sense that life is meaningful, and you have found your place in it. The search for meaning and purpose in human existence leads one to strive for a state of harmony with themselves and with others while working to balance inner needs with the rest of the world.  

To discover what spirituality means for you and how it can play an important role in your life, consider the questions below. Your answers may provide clues to enhance your own spiritual wellness.   

  • What gives your life meaning and purpose?
  • What gives you hope?
  • How do you get through tough times? Where have you found comfort?
  • What are your 3 most memorable experiences?
  • If you belong to a religious community, how are you connected to this group?
  • If you have survived losses in your life, how have you done so?
  • Describe a time or instance when you felt comfortable and that all was right with the world.
  • Describe a time when your life was filled with a sense of meaning or when you experienced a sense of awe.

Looking for support in your spiritual wellness? The Student Wellness Centers, free, peer to peer Wellness Coaching service can help . You can meet with a coach to reflect on the questions above and set goals to enhance your spiritual wellness. Additionally, there are many student organizations focused on spiritual wellness. You can search and find these on the Student Activities website .   

Share this:

Leave a reply cancel reply.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Social Media Links

  • osuwellness on Twitter
  • osuwellness on Instagram
  • Accreditation
  • Value of Accreditation
  • Standards and Process
  • Search Accredited Schools

Bright green megaphone icon against dark teal weave pattern

  • Educational Membership
  • Business Membership
  • Find a Member

AACSB Business Education Alliance logo

  • Learning and Events
  • Conferences
  • Webinars and Online Courses

Washington D.C. mall at sunset.

  • All Insights
  • B-School Leadership
  • Future of Work
  • Societal Impact

Three white-outlined icons against colored backgrounds: a lightbulb against dark teal, a compass against bright green, and a person against bright blue

  • Leadership and Governance
  • Media Center

Bright green text article icon against dark teal weave pattern

  • Accredited School Search
  • Advertise, Sponsor, Exhibit
  • Tips and Advice
  • Is Business School Right for Me?

The Role of Spirituality in Mental Well-Being

Article Icon

  • While workers and students are experiencing high levels of post-COVID anxiety, they can turn to spiritual practices to improve their mental well-being and physical health.
  • Individuals can reduce stress and experience positive benefits by following three paths: developing an inner life, embracing a calling, and creating a community.
  • In some cultures, spiritual practices can influence business strategies and lead to healthier employees and organizations.

  Today’s workers are more anxious, alone, and isolated than ever. According to the 2022 “ Work Habits Study ,” 40 percent of U.S. adult workers are experiencing more depression and anxiety, 30 percent are lonelier, and 52 percent are spending more time on their devices than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research suggests that one way individuals might achieve a state of positive well-being is to embrace spirituality. That is, they can explore a dimension of reality that is beyond their limited experience and consider the ways in which the world works on a deeper plane of existence.

In a landmark 2020 study in Health Psychology, Polish researchers surveyed 595 college students from six different universities whose study programs either focused on the human body or the human mind and spirit. Results showed that spirituality not only improved students’ psychological well-being, but also conferred health benefits on them.

It seems that nonsecular research is catching up with what world religions and some faith-based institutions have experienced and known for a long time: Spirituality is beneficial for both individuals and society.

Spirituality in the Business School

Spirituality has long been part of the approach to instruction and campus life at Pepperdine University, a Los Angeles institution that was founded on Christian principles. At the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School, our mission calls for transformational learning, including spiritual formation. We are steeped in spiritual traditions such as Sabbath rest and fellowship gatherings.

Although based on Christianity, the university has a deep regard for other world religions in which spirituality is present and practiced. We encourage our large population of global students to explore the spiritual impulse to transcend the mind’s limited perception of self and reality by engaging in activities that have the power to incite inner transformation.

Graduate business schools should consider infusing spirituality into their programs to enhance their students’ well-being and prepare them to handle stress at work.

For instance, for Hindus , spirituality is seeking the divine through tolerance, oneness, and universal consciousness. In Islam , the three spiritual rites are purification, remembrance, and prayer. For many Native American religions , place, land, and nature are important.

We believe that other graduate business schools should consider infusing spirituality into their own programs as a way to enhance their students’ well-being. Of course, many schools already offer wellness weeks and mental health counseling aimed at addressing the “anxiety pandemic.” But we believe initiatives that develop spirituality could do even more to prepare students to handle stress as they enter the workforce.

Three Paths for Spiritual Growth

In my role as spiritual life officer at Pepperdine Graziadio, I have seen that there are universal spiritual paths all MBA students can pursue to manage anxiety and establish greater well-being. In a special issue of The Leadership Quarterly edited by Louis “Jody” Fry, three paths receive particular attention:

Inner life. According to consulting firm Creativity At Work , those who have rich inner lives are in touch with their true selves and the vast terrain of their hopes, dreams, thoughts, emotions, instincts, and intuition. MBA programs that encourage exploration of a rich inner life prepare students to be secure and achieve higher-level leadership. For example, meditation and prayer can provide students with a sense of value and connection to a higher being or larger life scheme. Spiritual practices like yoga and meditation also can help students develop their inner lives.

At Pepperdine Graziadio, students engage in online and in-person reflective meditation exercises focused on sacred Christian texts such as the Book of Psalms, creeds, and confessions. Students also are encouraged to consider narratives such as poetry and art. These traditions can encourage perspective, bring about inner peace, and reduce anxiety.

For example, the prayerful reflection of The Daily Examen , an ancient practice of the Jesuit faith, encourages participants to quiet inner talk and consider the events of the day in order to detect the presence and direction of God. Through these exercises, students experience feelings such as gratefulness and belonging that build a sturdy inner life. From there, students are better able to reframe their attitudes and make changes to positively impact their mental health.

MBA programs are optimal proving grounds where aspiring professionals can discover the gifts and strengths that will help them achieve meaning and joy.

Calling. Many religions teach that the concept of calling goes deeper than any one aspect of life. It is an urge, desire, and passion that fuels an overall sense of purpose. MBA programs are optimal proving grounds where aspiring professionals can discover the gifts and strengths that will help them achieve meaning and joy. MBA programs can push students outside their comfort zones and inspire new thinking. Together, these experiences help students set their internal compasses toward their true callings.

At Pepperdine Graziadio, I teach Strength-Based Leadership, a required but ungraded course in the Master of Leadership program. In this workshop, students complete the Clifton Strength Assessment to identify their top five strengths out of 34 possibilities. With this baseline, students can reflect on how their strengths—such as self-assurance, empathy, and focus—can direct their time, purpose, and path. Simply having a terminology to identify their strengths helps them think about how they were created and where the spirit of God might be directing them. Thus, their mindsets shift to the big-picture life plan, which quiets everyday stress.

Community. MBA programs should promote cooperation and friendship, the foundation of community. MBA programs also can encourage students to dedicate themselves to noble values such as kindness and respect that help foster a positive community. Especially in times of adversity, having a community of supportive, caring peers can help MBA students respond, adapt, and recover.

For instance, the custom of sharing a meal, breaking bread, and giving thanks naturally invites the spiritual practices of hospitality, kindness, and generosity. At Pepperdine Graziadio, we host a weekly meal for business students and law students at the home of the dean of the law school. During these meals, students hear from guest speakers and consider spiritual aspects in their daily lives and future business practices. Through this shared time, students do more than simply eat together—they also develop meaningful, comforting connections and a respect for healthy cooperation.

Spirituality and Mental Health

Well beyond the campus borders, the practice of spirituality can have broad benefits for society at large. For instance, there is some evidence that it can help address prolific mental health concerns that exist on a global level. According to a 2021 report in the medical journal The Lancet, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an environment that exacerbates many determinants of poor mental health, particularly anxiety disorders. The predominant spiritual traditions in many countries’ cultures are well-positioned to address this issue.

In Japan, for example, business culture is often influenced by religion. Core spiritual practices of Shintoism focus on respecting nature and establishing a balance where both humans and kami (spirits) coexist in their proper places. For many African cultures, the past ancestor spiritual traditions help individuals find healing and peace of mind. Traditional ceremonies of Native American religions encourage the spiritual and real world to seamlessly intersect. In such ways, spiritual cultures around the world can impact the mental health of those who practice their traditions.

There is some evidence that the practice of spirituality can help address prolific mental health concerns that exist on a global level.

The practice of mindfulness, which is growing in popularity, also has positive correlations to spirituality. According to researchers and practitioners, there are mental health benefits to focusing awareness on the current moment and eliminating concerns that come from outside the present.

At Pepperdine Graziadio, Darren Good, an associate professor of applied behavioral science, is a mindfulness scholar who teaches in the Master of Science in Organization Development (MSOD) program. He focuses on how mindfulness practices can be used in both individual and organizational contexts.

Within the MSOD, one specific program explores the spiritual dimension of leadership and organizational behavior as summarized by the acronym SPINE (Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, iNtuitive, and Emotional). This program exposes students to higher-consciousness mindfulness practices and encourages graduates to adopt these practices as a way to influence a company’s entire culture.

Benefits for a Lifetime

Business school programs that focus on mental health are more important now than ever, because the anxiety pandemic is still having widespread effects in the workplace. According to the most recent data available , 13.2 percent of adults aged 18 and over used antidepressant medications in the past 30 days. Antidepressant use was higher for adults with at least some college education (14.3 percent) than it was for those with a high school education (11.5 percent) or less (11.4 percent). Making a finer point, these findings were based on data from 2015 through 2018— before the COVID pandemic.

Flash forward to present day, and mental health remains an issue of crisis proportions. Those suffering anxiety display behavior such as uncontrollable worry, irritability, exhaustion, sleeplessness, panic attacks, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. The net impact of anxiety is so far-reaching that, in September 2022, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended anxiety screening in primary care even for adults without symptoms.

Spirituality is not a replacement for a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan for severe anxiety. However, the practices and mindsets associated with spirituality can mitigate the effects of distressed mental health. When business students learn these practices, they will experience benefits that far outlast their MBA experiences and that support them professionally and personally throughout their lifetimes.

  • emotional intelligence
  • mental health
  • soft skills

Why Is Spirituality Important?

  • Link copied!

light flare of sun

There is a growing body of evidence indicating that spiritual practices are associated with better health and wellbeing for many reasons, including:

Contemplative practice is good for you.

Contemplative practices are activities that guide you to direct your attention to a specific focus—often an inward-looking reflection or concentration on a specific sensation or concept. Many spiritual traditions have a long history of using contemplative practices to increase compassion, empathy, and attention, as well as quiet the mind.

  • Meditation can induce feelings of calm and clear-headedness as well as improve concentration and attention. Brain researcher Richard Davidson’s research shows that meditation increases the brain’s gray matter density, which can reduce sensitivity to pain, enhance your immune system, help you regulate difficult emotions , and relieve stress . Mindfulness meditation in particular has been proven helpful for people with depression and anxiety , cancer , fibromyalgia, chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis , type 2 diabetes , chronic fatigue syndrome, and cardiovascular disease .
  • Prayer may elicit the relaxation response, along with feelings of hope, gratitude, and compassion—all of which have a positive effect on overall wellbeing. There are several types of prayer , many of which are rooted in the belief that there is a higher power that has some level of influence over your life. This belief can provide a sense of comfort and support in difficult times—a recent study found that clinically depressed adults who believed their prayers were heard by a concerned presence responded much better to treatment than those who did not believe.
  • Yoga is a centuries-old spiritual practice that aims to create a sense of union within the practitioner through physical postures, ethical behaviors, and breath expansion. The systematic practice of yoga has been found to reduce inflammation and stress, decrease depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure, and increase feelings of wellbeing.
  • Journaling is another, often overlooked, contemplative practice that can help you become more aware of your inner life and feel more connected to your experience and the world around you. Studies show that writing during difficult times may help you find meaning in life’s challenges and become more resilient in the face of obstacles.

A spiritual community can improve your life.

Many spiritual traditions encourage participation in a community. Spiritual fellowship, such as attending church or a meditation group, can be sources of social support which may provide a sense of belonging, security, and community. Strong relationships have been proven to increase wellbeing and bolster life expectancy, which is perhaps why one study found a strong association between church attendance and improved health, mood, and wellbeing.

Spiritual strength can help you overcome hardships.

smiling elderly woman against a green background

Having a strong spiritual outlook may help you find meaning in life’s difficult circumstances. Southwick describes the story of a woman who overcame the post-traumatic stress following an abduction and rape by believing that her trauma “served as a platform for her personal development, forcing her to evaluate her life and gradually change it for the better. She credits her ability to move forward with her life…to her dedication to spirituality.”

The spiritual practice of recognizing the interconnectedness of all life can also help buffer the pain that comes with difficult experiences. Researcher Kristin Neff says that “if we can compassionately remind ourselves in moments of falling down that failure is part of the shared human experience, then that moment becomes one of togetherness rather than isolation. When our troubled, painful experiences are framed by the recognition that countless others have undergone similar hardships, the blow is softened.”

Spiritual people make healthier choices.

Adhering to a particular spiritual tradition may bring an indirect health benefit because many traditions have rules about treating the body with kindness and avoiding unhealthy behaviors. Research shows that perhaps because of these tenets, people who practice a religion or faith tradition are less likely to smoke or drink, commit a crime, or become involved in violent activity, and they are more likely to engage in preventative habits like wearing seatbelts and taking vitamins.

Spirituality may help you live longer.

An exhaustive review that compared spirituality and religiousness to other health interventions found that people with a strong spiritual life had an 18% reduction in mortality. Giancarlo Lucchetti, lead author of the study, calculates that the life-lengthening benefits of spirituality can be compared to eating a high amount of fruits and vegetables or taking blood pressure medication. Although some researchers have suggested that the extent of spirituality’s benefit on health is exaggerated, most researchers agree there is a positive relationship between religious and spiritual practices and better health outcomes.

Forgiveness is good medicine.

Letting go of blame and negative feelings after a hurtful incident is a practice that is reflected by a number of spiritual traditions, including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism. Modern science shows the health benefits of forgiveness are numerous: better immune function, longer lifespan, lowered blood pressure, improved cardiovascular health, and fewer feelings of anger or hurt.

Prayer for peace

In whatever form you use, prayer benefits health through the physiological effects of positive emotion.

Select a daily reading (for example, a psalm or an excerpt from a book of meditations. Read it slowly, connecting with the words, and reflecting on them. You may want to read the passage several times. To enter a contemplative state more quickly, it helps to do this at the same time and place each day.

Listen to, and reflect upon, the following prayer for peace.

May I be at peace May my heart remain open May I awaken to the light of my own true nature May I be healed May I be a source of healing for all beings.

Bohlmeijer, E., Prenger, R., Taal, E., Cuijpers, P. (2010). The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy on mental health of adults with a chronic medical disease: a meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research; 68 (6):539-44.

Brassai, L., Piko, B. F., & Steger, M. F. (2011). Meaning in life: Is it a protective factor for adolescents' psychological health? International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 18 (1), 44-51.

Charles, J.P. (2010). Journaling: creating space for "I". Creative Nursing;16 (4):180-4.

Davidson, R.J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S.F., Urbanowski, F., Harrington, A., Bonus, K., Sheridan, J.F. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine; 65 (4):564-70.

Grant, J.A., Courtemanche, J., Duerden, E.G., Duncan, G.H., Rainville, P. (2010). Cortical thickness and pain sensitivity in zen meditators. Emotion; 10 (1):43-53.

Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review. PLoS Medicine, 7 (7), e1000316.

Hölzel, B.K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S.M., Gard, T., Lazar, S.W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research;191 (1):36-43.

Katzman, M. A., Vermani, M., Gerbarg, P. L., Brown, R. P., Iorio, C., Davis, M., et al. (2012). A multicomponent yoga-based, breath intervention program as an adjunctive treatment in patients suffering from generalized anxiety disorder with or without comorbidities.  International Journal of Yoga,   5 (1), 57-65. 

Koenig, L.B., Vaillant, G.E. (2009). A prospective study of church attendance and health over the lifespan. Health Psychology;28 (1):117-24.

Lucchetti, G., Lucchetti, A.L., Koenig, H.G. (2011). Impact of spirituality/religiosity on mortality: comparison with other health interventions. Explore; 7 (4):234-8.

McCullough, M. E., Hoyt, W. T., Larson, D. B., Koenig, H. G., & Thoresen, C. (2000). Religious involvement and mortality: A meta-analytic review. Health Psychology: Official Journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 19 (3), 211-222.

McCullough, M.E., Willoughby, B.L. (2009). Religion, self-regulation, and self-control: Associations, explanations, and implications. Psychological Bulletin;135 (1):69-93.

Merkes, M. (2010). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for people with chronic diseases. Australian Journal of Primary Health;16 (3):200-10.

Murphy, P.E., Fitchett, G. (2009). Belief in a concerned god predicts response to treatment for adults with clinical depression. Journal of Clinical Psychology; 65 (9):1000-8.

Musial, F., Büssing, A., Heusser, P., Choi, K.E., Ostermann, T. (2011). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for integrative cancer care: a summary of evidence. Forsch Komplementmed;18 (4):192-202.

Neff, K. (2011). Self - compassion . New York: Harper Collins.

Pennebaker, J. W., Chung, C. K. (in press). Expressive writing and its links to mental and physical health. In H. S. Friedman (Ed.), Oxford handbook of health psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Sengupta, P. (2012). Health impacts of yoga and pranayama: A state-of-the-art review. International Journal of Preventative Medicine;3 (7):444-58.

Southwick, S., Charney, D. (2012). Resilience: The science of mastering life’s greatest challenges. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Yadav, R. K., Magan, D., Mehta, M., Mehta, N., & Mahapatra, S. C. (2012). A short-term, comprehensive, yoga-based lifestyle intervention is efficacious in reducing anxiety, improving subjective well-being and personality. International Journal of Yoga, 5 (2), 134-139.

Related Articles

group of people laughing in a park

Social Support

An older woman smiling

Increase positivity

man with hands in prayer

Read This Next

person looking over large city from above

What is spirituality?

Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life.

person standing on rock in bright sun

Develop spirituality

a couple looking happily at one another in the forest

Seven spiritual needs

More resources.

  • Activity & Exercise
  • Food and Wellbeing
  • Planetary Health
  • Mindfulness
  • Purpose & Spirituality
  • Relationships & Belonging
  • Safety & Security
  • Wellbeing Experts
  • Anxiety & Depression
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Cancer and Rare Disease Survivorship
  • End of Life
  • Heart Disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Stress Mastery
  • Acupuncture & TCM
  • Aromatherapy
  • Ayurvedic Medicine
  • Botanical Medicine
  • Chiropractic
  • Clinical Hypnosis
  • Craniosacral Therapy
  • Creative Therapies
  • Food as Medicine
  • Guided Imagery
  • Healing Environment
  • Healing Touch
  • Health Coaching In Primary Care
  • Massage Therapy
  • Mind Body Therapies
  • Naturopathy
  • Osteopathic Medicine
  • Refloxology
  • Therapeutic Touch
  • Tibetan Medicine
  • Finding a Provider
  • Communication
  • Why Take Charge?
  • All Topics A-Z
  • About Taking Charge
  • How To's
  • Student Wellbeing
  • Taking Charge of Your Survivorship

Science of Spirituality (+16 Ways to Become More Spiritual)

science of spirituality

When war hits, people pray for and depend on one another.

When terror tries to steal life from us, we stand in solidarity and hope for the goodness of humanity.

Science is a very valuable part of humanity. However, it hasn’t yet explained it all. Stepping fully into a meaningful life requires a shift in the way we show up for ourselves and others.

Building the science of spirituality into a practice takes intention and effort. The benefits are far reaching, even if perfect scientific experimentation is somewhat elusive.

Read on to see how science and spirituality mix into what makes life meaningful and beautiful.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Mindfulness Exercises for free . These science-based, comprehensive exercises will not only help you cultivate a sense of inner peace throughout your daily life, but will also give you the tools to enhance the mindfulness of your clients, students, or employees.

This Article Contains:

Defining spirituality, relationship between spirituality and science, science vs. spirituality: skeptical take.

  • 6 Empirically Proven Benefits of Spirituality (Stress Reduction Segment)

Starting Your Own Practice

5 tips for your business, 5 books on the topic, a take-home message.

Spirituality can be defined broadly as a sense of connection to something higher than ourselves. Many people search for meaning in their lives. The sense of transcendence experienced in spirituality is a universal experience. Some find it in monotheistic religion, while others find it in meditation.

While the understanding of spirituality differs across religions and belief systems, it can be described by finding meaning and purpose in life. Religion and spirituality are not understood in the same way, though they often overlap. Spirituality describes a much broader understanding of an individual’s connection with the transcendent aspects of life.

Seeking a meaningful connection with something bigger than yourself can result in increased positive emotions. Transcendent moments are filled with peace, awe, and contentment. Emotional and spiritual wellbeing overlap, like most aspects of wellbeing.

Self-transcendent emotions are linked to increased spirituality (Saroglou, Buxant, & Tilquin, 2008). It is hypothesized that spirituality is related to the broaden and build theory  (Fredrickson, 1998, 2001). Though not all positive emotions stimulate a self-transcendent state, some increase with practices in spirituality.

spirituality and science

Scientifically tracking emotions can be like searching for meaning in the shapes we see in the clouds. While the experience of emotions varies from person to person, the experience of transcendent emotions can be seen as more universal and is connected to spirituality.

Self-transcendent emotions connect us all through prosocial behavior (Stellar et al., 2017). Emotions like gratitude , compassion, and awe connect us all through their prosocial capacity. Transcendent emotions promote behaviors that connect human beings and stabilize prosocial connection (Haidt, 2003).

Self-transcendent emotions include:

  • Appreciation
  • Inspiration

These emotions have a particular capability of bonding individuals together. They are linked with higher levels of spirituality. As self-transcendent emotions are focused on others, more meaningful, purpose-filled interactions are possible.

Many positive psychology interventions are grounded in ancient religious and spiritual teachings, which are not typically included in treatment for psychopathology. There are empirically validated interventions for the following four virtues: hope, gratitude, forgiveness, and self-compassion (Rye, Wade, Fleri, & Kidwell, 2013).

By exploring the psychological theory behind these four virtues, science and spirituality can collectively serve more people.

The psychology of hope began in the 1950s. The explanation of hope was, at that time, focused on goal attainment. In positive psychology, it has expanded to explain the process of goal attainment better.

The theory includes both pathways to goal attainment and agency. Hopeful thought reflects the belief that one can find pathways to desired goals and become motivated to use those pathways (Snyder et al., 1991). Hope, by this definition, drives the emotions and wellbeing of human beings.

Depending on one’s world view, hope interventions can help find pathways to connect with the divine and improve one’s wellbeing. It will differ by religion and one’s understanding of the role of the divine in the agency of hope. Interventions that respect the individual’s worldview will clearly be more accepted and helpful.

The psychology of gratitude is conceptualized as a higher emotion connected to morality. Gratitude has been described in science as a prosocial moral emotion that is useful for two key reasons:

a) It functions as a moral barometer because it indicates when an interpersonal interaction is perceived as beneficial.

b) It reminds us that our power is limited (McCullough & Tsang, 2004).

The benefits of the practice of gratitude are far reaching, regardless of religious ideation.

The psychology of forgiveness has various definitions. The broadest definition is an adaptive human instinct activated in certain social situations (McCullough, 2008). By this definition, forgiveness does not require a future relationship with someone who has wronged you. It frees you instead of the instinct for vengeance.

The psychology of self-compassion has been empirically backed through the work of Kristin Neff. Self-compassion is conceptualized in three components (Neff, 2003):

  • Expressing kindness toward oneself and viewing one’s shortcomings with a nonjudgmental attitude
  • Connecting one’s experience of suffering with that of the collective human experience
  • Become mindful of suffering without becoming attached or making it a part of one’s identity

These four virtues of hope, gratitude, forgiveness, and self-compassion are found in all areas of religion in various ways. Spirituality and science overlap in foundational ways to allow for the human experience to bond us in a collective experience. Interventions that value the unique worldview of each individual will be more impactful, as they allow for individual belief systems to be enhanced by science.

science versus spirituality

Spirituality is universally connective in the realization that suffering is a part of human existence. Science and tough-minded folks often try to downplay the role that innate spiritual practice has on wellbeing.

Even well-meaning psychologists may have a negativity bias toward interventions offered in positive psychology (Sheldon & King, 2001). With a traditional focus on diagnosis and pathology treatment, less attention is spent on psychological health. Opening minds to interventions that encompass spirituality might help aid the individual in treatment.

There have been over 300 studies seeking to understand the relationship between spirituality and health (Thoresen, 1999). Yet, there remain many who question the validity of the impact spirituality can have on wellbeing. Many practitioners in the hard sciences have a healthy skepticism toward data and hypotheses that are correlational rather than causal (Feinstein, 1988).

One might say to the skeptics, though, “ what will it hurt? ” Discussing an individual’s spirituality in treatment could be a spark that they need to ignite their hope and motivation toward personal goals. A descriptive, rather than prescriptive, understanding of spirituality may do more good than harm, especially when action is later self-motivated.

6 Empirically Proven Benefits of Spirituality

benefits of spirituality

Theorists as early as William James have hypothesized that an individual’s spiritual practices can influence physiological as well as psychological wellbeing.

With so many links to immune system boosts and higher survival rates in heart surgery survivors, it is important to have a look at the proven benefits of spirituality.

Though the causality of spiritual influence in physiological wellbeing is more challenging to prove, there is ample evidence to highlight the benefits one might experience by having a spiritual practice.

Most studies are correlational. However, most are also empirically proven across religions. Most people would agree that they don’t need experiential evidence to intuit that spirituality will help them have higher rates of overall wellbeing and life satisfaction.

A meta-analysis of over 40 independent samples reported that religious involvement is significantly and positively associated with longevity (McCullough, Hoyt, Larson, Koenig, & Thoresen, 2000). People live longer, have more satisfying, meaningful lives, and have lower rates of depressive states.

Though more studies need to be done to explore the mechanisms by which spirituality improves wellbeing, the studies that already exist indicate they’re at the very least related.

A study on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction showed improvement in overall life satisfaction and physical and mental health (Greeson et al., 2011).

Through participation in a meditation program, increases in spirituality lowered instances of depression. By becoming more mindful, a correlation with Gestalt psychology was noted, as a basis for reducing depressive thoughts in real time.

Several studies have shown an increase in job satisfaction with an increase in spirituality in the workplace (Akbari & Hossaini, 2018). The studies conclude that by building interconnective experiences into a workplace, people will be more productive and have greater satisfaction in their work.

Pharmaceuticals have not had great success in eliminating a problem if rising levels of depression. A specific form of prayer that is said to have a healing effect on depressive symptoms is meditative/centering prayer (Johnson, 2018).

The Mindful Way Through Depression – Dr. Zindel Segal

Lowering blood pressure and hypertensive levels has been shown as a benefit of spirituality. A study on the effects of Transactional Psychophysiological Therapy showed a significant impact on patients who participated (Thomas, 1989). With proper training, nurses can help patients lower their blood pressure by finding “inner peace.”

3 mindfulness exercises

Download 3 Free Mindfulness Exercises (PDF)

These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients enjoy the benefits of mindfulness and create positive shifts in their mental, physical, and emotional health.

Download 3 Free Mindfulness Tools Pack (PDF)

By filling out your name and email address below.

Spirituality and Stress Reduction – Dr. Emma Seppala

Dr. Emma Seppala, the science director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism and author of “ The Happiness Track ” (2017), explains the mechanisms that can lead to these outcomes.

According to Dr. Seppala’s research, spiritual people engage in practices known to reduce levels of stress. For example, spiritual people are more likely to:

  • Volunteer or donate to the poor. Regular community service can serve as a buffer against the effects of stress, thus leading to longer lives.
  • Meditate to cope with stress. Forty-two percent (42%) of spiritual people meditate when stressed rather than overeat or indulge in unhealthy coping behaviors. Meditation has all kinds of benefits, from improved health, happiness, and focus to decreased pain and depression.
  • Live with a  built-in community . After food and shelter, social connection is the top predictor of health, authentic happiness, and longevity. Religious people are more likely to spend time with family and feel a strong sense of belonging to a community of like-minded people.
  • Turn to prayer. Research suggests prayer helps people find comfort by assisting them to deal with difficult emotions, encourages forgiveness, and leads to healthier relationships.

Of course, these findings could also indicate a placebo effect. We tend to feel better when we believe something will make us feel better.

Even if they are placebo effects, can it hurt to go to a yoga class, volunteer at a homeless shelter, or attend a silent retreat? The benefits may be worthwhile.

Higher levels of psychological resilience, positive emotions, and improved immune response have all been linked with spirituality. Spirituality is not a simple subject for experimental study. However, knowing that there is such a high correlation with physical and psychological wellbeing, most practitioners would agree that improvement in how care providers include spirituality in practice is warranted.

starting your own practice

Most human beings are looking for meaning in their lives . Forming connections in troubling times eases stress and depressive symptoms, and increases immune response.

Here is a rough guideline on how to begin:

  • Start small and make new habits easy . There is no need to fully adopt a set of beliefs overnight. Becoming more spiritual can be as simple as staying silent for 5–10 minutes a day in a quiet, soothing environment .
  • Commit . Love yourself enough to attempt to find moments of transcendent emotions daily. Through increasing hope, kindness, self-compassion, gratitude, and awe, anyone can start being more spiritual right away. All it takes is one decision to change perspective.
  • Practice. Finding moments of transcendence to replace moments of frustration will not happen by waving a magic wand. Human beings must practice mindful attention to their thoughts, emotions, and behavior to find experiences in spirituality.
  • Study. Explore others’ experiences of spirituality, whether through religion or personal journeys. Find something that you find relatable. Ask questions and get curious about people who have cultivated this beautiful way of being in the world.
  • Develop an optimistic explanatory style . While getting curious and beginning to ask more questions, slowing down how you speak and exploring strong personally held beliefs can open your mind to more possibilities.
  • Choose love and respect . With every interaction, lead with a loving and kind way of being. Even when dealing with awkward interactions, staying calm and in a loving mindset can deescalate the situation. Can you imagine the Dalai Lama yelling at someone? He interacts with skeptics and highly intelligent people who might seek to threaten his way of being in the world, yet he shows up every single time with love. He respects his interactions as opportunities to learn from alternative perspectives.

What is the point of spirituality – The School of Life

Develop a space where spirituality is accepted. While there will always be differences in how people connect with their personal spirituality, having an open space for it to show up is an important place to start. Allowing for inclusion is a vital part of any business to begin to include spirituality.

Include gratitude. Businesses that have this attitude infused into their daily work typically thrive. Infusing gratitude in every interaction is a massive shift. For instance, when a difficult conversation is happening, thanking someone for their perspective is a grounding space for all parties.

Weave a mindset of integrity and service into every aspect of your business. The more an “others-focused” approach can be intertwined in business, the better employees and customers will receive the business. Decide how employees are expected to show up and who it is you’re serving with absolute integrity and honesty.

Include compassion in how your business gives back to the world. The most impactful businesses are those with a genuine contribution that they make to humanity. Imagine if marketing focused entirely on who needed a product or service as an act of compassion.

People who are inspired by the work they’re doing are more spiritually connected to the work they’re doing. Cultivate opportunities for your employees to connect with the higher meaning of the work you do. Hold space for each employee to find the value in the work they do and the effect it has on the world.

spiritual well being essay

Top 17 Exercises for Mindfulness & Meditation

Use these 17 Mindfulness & Meditation Exercises [PDF] to help others build life-changing habits and enhance their wellbeing with the physical and psychological benefits of mindfulness.

Created by Experts. 100% Science-based.

The selection of books below are thought-provoking and offers an interesting blend of old and new.

1. The Science of Spirituality: Integrating Science, Psychology, Philosophy, Spirituality & Religion – Lee Bladon

The Science of Spirituality by Lee Bladon

It covers a wide array of topics linked to spirituality and what traditional science might have the tendency to overlook.

Available from Amazon .

2. Handbook of Hope: Theory, Measures, and Applications – C. Richard Snyder

Handbook of Hope

This work offers not only the basis of psychological inquiry into hope, but also measures and applications for practitioners.

3. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom – Jonathan Haidt

The Happiness Hypothesis

Woven together in this wonderful work is what each of us can connect with to bring about a more meaningful life.

4. The Road Less Traveled, Timeless Edition: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth – M. Scott Peck

The Road Less Traveled

This work brilliantly wove psychology and spirituality into a guidebook for a meaningful life.

Dr. Peck tirelessly worked his whole life to improve community and wellbeing.

5. The Positive Psychology of Meaning and Spirituality: Selected Papers from Meaning Conferences – Paul T. P. Wong, Lilian C. J. Wong, and Marvin J. McDonald

The Positive Psychology of Meaning and Spirituality

The editors have covered a variety of topics to help understand meaning, purpose, and our way through the suffering that comes with being human.

The world is often in a state of tremendous suffering. Globally, humans are desperate to make sense of tragedy and psychological pain. From this vantage point, the only way through it is with spirituality.

The need to grow our understanding of the meaning of life, the purpose we have within it, and the love that we share for humanity is eternal. Stepping fully into what matters for humans will aid us in survival and into lives that are flourishing.

With appreciation, love, self-compassion, gratitude, and kindness, we might have a chance to shift into a state of improved wellbeing. Be responsible with your thoughts. Be responsible with your emotions. Be responsible in the way you treat others.

Be well, and love the ones you can.

Thank you for reading.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Mindfulness Exercises for free .

  • Akbari, M., & Hossaini, S. M. (2018). The relationship of spiritual health with quality of life, mental health, and burnout: The mediating role of emotional regulation. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry, 12 (1), 22–31.
  • Bladon, L. (2007).  The science of spirituality: Integrating science, psychology, philosophy, spirituality & religion.  Lulu.com.
  • Feinstein, A. (1988). Scientific standards in epidemiologic studies of the menace of daily life. Science, 242 (4883), 1257–1263.
  • Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2 , 300–319.
  • Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56 , 218–226.
  • Greeson, J. M., Webber, D. M., Smoski, M. J., Brantley, J. G., Ekblad, A. G., Suarez, E. D., & Wolever, R. Q. (2011). Changes in spirituality partly explain health-related quality of life outcomes after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Journal of Behavioral Medicine , 34 (6), 508–518 .
  • Haidt, J. (2003). The moral emotions. Handbook of Affective Sciences, 11 , 852–870.
  • Haidt, J. (2005).  The happiness hypothesis: Finding modern truth in ancient wisdom . Basic Books.
  • Johnson, K. A. (2018). Prayer: A helpful aid in recovery from depression. Journal of Religion and Health , 57 , 2290–2230.
  • McCullough, M. E., Hoyt, W. T., Larson, D. B., Koenig, H. G., & Thoresen, C. (2000). Religious involvement and mortality: A meta-analytic review. Health Psychology , 19 (3), 211–222.
  • McCullough, M. E. (2008). Beyond revenge: The evolution of the forgiveness instinct. Jossey- Bass.
  • McCullough, M. E., & Tsang, J. A. (2004). Parent of the virtues? The prosocial contours of gratitude. In R. A. Emmons & M. E. McCullough (Eds.), The psychology of gratitude (pp. 123–141). Oxford University Press.
  • Neff, K. D. (2008). Self-compassion: Moving beyond the pitfalls of a separate self-concept. In H. A. Wayment & J. J. Bauer (Eds.), Transcending self-interest: Psychological explorations of the quiet ego (pp. 95–105). American Psychological Association.
  • Peck, M. S. (2003).  The road less traveled: A new psychology of love, traditional values and spiritual growth (Anniversary ed.). Touchstone.
  • Rye, M. S., Wade, N. G., Fleri, A. M., & Kidwell, J. E. M. (2013). The role of religion and spirituality in positive psychology interventions. In K. I. Pargament, A. Mahoney, & E. P. Shafranske (Eds.), APA handbooks in psychology. APA handbook of psychology, religion, and spirituality (vol. 2): An applied psychology of religion and spirituality (pp. 481–508). American Psychological Association
  • Saroglou, V., Buxant, C., & Tilquin, J. (2008). Positive emotions as leading to religion and spirituality. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 3 (3), 165–173.
  • Seppala, E. (2017).  The happiness track: How to apply the science of happiness to accelerate your success.  HarperOne.
  • Snyder, C. R. (2000).  Handbook of hope: Theory, measures, and applications.  Academic Press.
  • Snyder, C. R., Harris, C., Anderson, J. R., Holleran, S. A., Irving, L. M., Sigmon, S. T., … Harney, P. (1991). The will and the ways: Development and validation of an individual-differences measure of hope. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 570–585.
  • Sheldon, K. M., & King, L. (2001). Why positive psychology is necessary. American Psychologist, 56 (3), 216–217.
  • Stellar, J. E., Gordon, A. M., Piff, P. K., Cordaro, D., Anderson, C. L., Bai, Y., … Keltner, D. (2017). Self-transcendent emotions and their social functions: Compassion, gratitude, and awe bind us to others through prosociality. Emotion Review, 9 (3), 200–207.
  • Thomas, S. A. (1989). Spirituality. Holistic Nursing Practice, 3 (3), 47–55.
  • Thoresen, C. E. (1999). Spirituality and health: Is there a relationship? Journal of Health Psychology, 4 (3), 291–300.
  • Wong, P. T. P., Wong, L. C. J., & McDonald, M. J. (Eds.) (2012). The positive psychology of meaning and spirituality: Selected papers from meaning conferences . Purpose Research.

' src=

Share this article:

Article feedback

What our readers think.

Alfred Olatunbosun

I will be grateful if l can receive a mail in regard to this.

Julia Poernbacher

Could you elaborate on which e-mail you are referring to?

We are happy to help! Kind regards, Julia | Community Manager


I’m using this article for a English project 😭😭

Let us know your thoughts Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Related articles

Hierarchy of needs

Hierarchy of Needs: A 2024 Take on Maslow’s Findings

One of the most influential theories in human psychology that addresses our quest for wellbeing is Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. While Maslow’s theory of [...]

Emotional Development

Emotional Development in Childhood: 3 Theories Explained

We have all witnessed a sweet smile from a baby. That cute little gummy grin that makes us smile in return. Are babies born with [...]

Classical Conditioning Phobias

Using Classical Conditioning for Treating Phobias & Disorders

Does the name Pavlov ring a bell? Classical conditioning, a psychological phenomenon first discovered by Ivan Pavlov in the late 19th century, has proven to [...]

Read other articles by their category

  • Body & Brain (54)
  • Coaching & Application (58)
  • Compassion (26)
  • Counseling (51)
  • Emotional Intelligence (24)
  • Gratitude (18)
  • Grief & Bereavement (21)
  • Happiness & SWB (40)
  • Meaning & Values (27)
  • Meditation (20)
  • Mindfulness (44)
  • Motivation & Goals (46)
  • Optimism & Mindset (34)
  • Positive CBT (30)
  • Positive Communication (23)
  • Positive Education (48)
  • Positive Emotions (32)
  • Positive Leadership (20)
  • Positive Parenting (16)
  • Positive Psychology (34)
  • Positive Workplace (37)
  • Productivity (18)
  • Relationships (46)
  • Resilience & Coping (39)
  • Self Awareness (21)
  • Self Esteem (38)
  • Strengths & Virtues (32)
  • Stress & Burnout Prevention (35)
  • Theory & Books (46)
  • Therapy Exercises (37)
  • Types of Therapy (64)

3 positive psychology exercises

Download 3 Free Positive Psychology Tools Pack (PDF)

3 Positive Psychology Tools (PDF)


Spiritual Wellness: What Is Your Meaning and Purpose?

Home Lifelines Archive Mental & Emotional Health Spiritual Wellness: What Is Your Meaning and Purpose?

Our “Journey to a Healthier You” series kicked off this past January with a look at the differences between health and wellness . Over the last several months, we’ve looked at seven of the eight dimensions of wellness, which are covered in more detail on our Journey to a Healthier You page. This month, we examine spiritual wellness – often seen as the most personal dimension. Consider all of the reflection you’ve done up to this point as building towards the deepest level of self-reflection: exploring and answering the question “what is your meaning and purpose?”

Spiritual wellness is being connected to something greater than yourself and having a set of values, principles, morals and beliefs that provide a sense of purpose and meaning to life, then using those principles to guide your actions.

Finding meaning and purpose may be a lifelong process that evolves based on unique circumstances, individual experiences and global events. Along with the other dimensions of wellness, a person’s level of spiritual wellness often fluctuates throughout their life. It is natural to experience a variety of emotions along the path to spiritual wellness – both positive (hope, forgiveness, acceptance, joy) and negative (doubt, fear, disappointment, conflict).

Spiritual wellness has the power and capability to make our decisions and choices easier, ground us during periods of change and give us the resiliency to survive with grace and inner peace in the face of adversity. Having a spiritual element in our lives may even help us heal when suffering from a physical or mental condition.

Personal Reflection

Take a moment to assess your own spiritual wellness by asking yourself the following questions.

  • What gives my life meaning and purpose?
  • What gives me hope?
  • How do I get through tough times? Where do I find comfort?
  • Am I tolerant of other people’s views about life issues?
  • Do I make attempts to expand my awareness of different ethnic, racial and religious groups?
  • Do I make time for relaxation in my day?
  • Do my values guide my decisions and actions?

Practice Spiritual Wellness

When striving to develop and practice your own spiritual wellness, it is best to find the technique and approach that works for you; similar to the other dimensions of wellness, there is no “one size fits all” approach.

Your journey to spiritual wellness may involve the following:

  • Practicing meditation or yoga
  • Praying or taking part in organized religion
  • Spending quiet time alone pondering the meaning of life
  • Building awareness through journaling
  • Serving your community, spending time in nature, appreciating music and the arts

Future articles about spiritual wellness will examine how to determine your meaning or purpose and provide suggestions for activities that can help you build on or develop your spiritual wellness.

[Emily Smith is the Health Promotion Division’s Senior Benefit & Wellness Specialist.]

  • Back to all Lifelines

Recent Lifelines

Understanding the hierarchy of controls, liuna member’s quick thinking, heroic action saves a life, florida bars municipalities from creating life-saving heat standards, emily vollmer named co-chairperson for don’t fry day committee, message from the co-chairmen: collective bargaining power takes center stage, creating a safe space for female members on a liuna megaproject.

  • 905 16th St., NW Washington, DC, 20006
  • (202) 628-5465

Privacy Policy Terms & Conditions

LIUNA Training

About Us Trustees & Staff Contact Us

Health Promotion

Occupational Safety & Health

Topics Lifelines Archive

search icon

Your cart is empty


Meditate with Deepak and well-being experts in the Chopra App.

Up to 70% off all Chopra products. Shop the sale.

Set sail with us this summer from Italy to Greece. Learn more.

Daily Practices for Spiritual, Mental, Emotional, and Physical Well-being

The spiritual body, practices for the spiritual body:.

  • Practice meditation daily
  • Learn to work with energy (through practices such as Huna, Reiki, chi gong, and acupuncture) as a way to keep the energy channels open
  • Study consciousness, religion, or philosophy
  • Attend a silent retreat to deepen your connection to Self

The Mental Body

Practices for the mental body:.

  • Get a coach or mentor to keep you focused on your goals
  • Daily Recapitulation
  • Continue your education (e.g., read books or take classes)
  • Eliminate stressors from your life

The Emotional Body

Practices for the emotional body:.

  • Self-reflect (journal about your experiences and how they made you feel)
  • Practice forgiveness (toward yourself and other people)
  • Deepen your connection with others
  • Spend time cultivating gratitude for the gifts and opportunities you’ve been given
  • Practice Mental and Emotional Release® Techniques

The Physical Body

Practices for the physical body:.

  • Move your body (practice strengthening, lengthening, and balancing)
  • Prepare fresh, organic meals and pre-plan for healthy away-from-home snacks
  • Get plenty of restful sleep
  • Receive regular massages
  • Spend time in nature

Related Articles

Mental health, meditation, and loving presence: a convers..., satisfaction at work: cultivating sattva, reiki-inspired practices for self-love, bring balance to your inbox.

We’ll send you content you’ll want to read—and put to use. By submitting, I consent to Chopra, and its affiliates contacting me by email at the address provided and/or by telephone at the number provided (by live, automated, or prerecorded phone calls or text messages) about its products and services.

Recommended Products

Ritual care kit, renew & restore detox kit, chopra ayurvedic body oil trio, ground + nourish ayurvedic body oil, soothe + refresh ayurvedic body oil, revive + rejuvenate ayurvedic body oil, clarity & serenity tinctures, fiber bundle, ritual care journal.

  • Choosing a selection results in a full page refresh.
  • Opens in a new window.
  • Religious Studies
  • Indian Religions

The Impact of Meditation on the Spiritual Well-Being

  • January 2020
  • CC BY-NC 4.0
  • Conference: Tarumanagara International Conference on the Applications of Social Sciences and Humanities (TICASH 2019)
  • This person is not on ResearchGate, or hasn't claimed this research yet.

Icenik - Ardana at Tarumanagara University

  • Tarumanagara University

Validity test after meditation

Discover the world's research

  • 25+ million members
  • 160+ million publication pages
  • 2.3+ billion citations

Taufik Taufik

  • Permata Ashfi Raihana

Marcos Maciel

  • Daisy Hazarika

Kenneth Chukwujioke Agbim

  • Fidelis Aondoaseer Ayatseer
  • Godday Orziemgbe Oriarewo
  • Michael Andreas Leman

aji dedi Mulawarman

  • Unti Ludigdo

Wiwied Nugrahaning arum Widyastuti

  • Richard J. Davidson

Alfred W Kaszniak

  • Nur Alimin Azis
  • Yenni Mangoting
  • Novrida Qudsi Lutfillah

Dilwar Hussain

  • Mohsen Tavakol

Reg Dennick

  • Barbara L. Fredrickson
  • Recruit researchers
  • Join for free
  • Login Email Tip: Most researchers use their institutional email address as their ResearchGate login Password Forgot password? Keep me logged in Log in or Continue with Google Welcome back! Please log in. Email · Hint Tip: Most researchers use their institutional email address as their ResearchGate login Password Forgot password? Keep me logged in Log in or Continue with Google No account? Sign up


Michael J. Tyler

Michael J. Tyler

spiritual well being essay

What is Spiritual Well-Being?

Spiritual well-being is an essential element in people’s lives characterized by the meaning of life and hope. It is the feeling of an internal force that helps people transcend themselves, that accompanies them day by day and allows them to orient themselves towards what they consider sacred in their lives. Whoever has achieved spiritual well-being is very clear about the meaning of their existence. We share 10 keys to develop emotional well-being in your day to day:

  • Self-esteem Being a friend of yourself, loving yourself more and more and without fear of being who you are, this is the basis to enhance self-esteem and spiritual well-being. Get yourself, enjoy yourself, accept yourself as you are, and allow yourself to enter an optimal state every day to be able to interact in a healthy coexistence with your environment. Spiritual well-being is nothing more than learning to enjoy who you are in the present moment.
  • Open mind All people are different when we refer to spirituality. The important thing is to keep our minds open and receptive to fully experiencing ourselves in the present. Eliminating the need to establish judgments, allowing us to be attentive observers of our entire being, from the breath to the flow of thoughts.
  • Take time for yourself One way to achieve a higher spiritual state is by giving ourselves time to think about the things that have happened to us during the day. You will not achieve a state of well-being if you are not well with yourself. So it is important that you dedicate time to yourself, strive to take care of yourself at all levels, physical, emotional, psychological, and social.
  • Communicate with God, nature or whatever you want to call Him Another way to get in touch with inner peace is to give yourself enough time to reflect and communicate with God, in whatever way you do it. Perhaps you use prayer, but it is enough that you give time in your life to gratitude and contemplation of nature so that you experience well-being and fullness. One of the best ways to remind yourself about it, wear a spiritual necklace .
  • Align your beliefs, values ​​, and decisions Another extremely important aspect of spiritual well-being is that you realize if your beliefs and values ​​are aligned with the decisions you make on a daily basis. Acting according to your beliefs and values ​​means that you are upright and true to yourself. Therefore, these beliefs and values ​​function as a guide that guides your best determinations. Internal consistency is basic to finding peace on a mental, emotional, and spiritual level.
  • Learn to value and communicate differences Identify if you are able to accept the differences between people and if you manage to perceive them as something valuable that adds to your life. Learn to communicate your feelings in relation to those differences without hurting others, take an interest in knowing the emotions of others in relation to differences, and use that information to expand and improve your relationships. Valuing differences and understanding that each person is unique leads you to recognize what you can learn from the other.
  • Help others People with optimal spiritual well-being continually find themselves helping others to reach their full potential. These people have discovered and continue to experience that everything we really want is within us, therefore; each time they share with others they discover greater resources in themselves and in others.
  • Meditate Meditating is a way of being in the present moment accepting what is, just as it is. Balance is achieved when we can appreciate the good things in life and at the same time appreciate the pain we feel like a learning experience.
  • Reframe your questions and guide your growth Acknowledging the painful things you go through can transform them into a lever that helps you grow internally. Questions focused on answering why things happen to us, which we interpret as bad, need to be reformulated in another way, otherwise, you will end up feeling and acting like a victim. For example, be interested in knowing what you are experiencing this challenging situation for and what experience wants to teach you. This proactive way of facing life will lead you to develop greater self-esteem and you will see how your ability to transform threatening situations into great growth opportunities is enhanced.
  • Practice gratitude To feel gratitude is to experience a delicious feeling of well-being and blessing in the present moment. Gratitude fills us with strength and takes away things that do not serve us as an eraser, eliminates thousands of negative feelings, fills us with happiness. People who are grateful constantly show themselves, breathe better, and perfect their attitude day by day.


Essay on Spiritual Health

Students are often asked to write an essay on Spiritual Health in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

100 Words Essay on Spiritual Health

What is spiritual health.

Spiritual health means feeling connected to a bigger purpose or belief that guides your actions. It’s not just about religion; it’s about feeling at peace with yourself and the world around you. People find this through different ways like nature, meditation, or helping others.

Why is it Important?

Having good spiritual health helps you handle tough times better. It gives you a sense of calm and strength, knowing you’re part of something bigger. This can make you happier and help you get along better with others.

How to Improve It

250 words essay on spiritual health.

Spiritual health is about feeling a deep sense of peace and purpose in life. It’s not just about religion or belief in God. It’s more about our inner peace and how we connect with ourselves, others, and the world around us. When we are spiritually healthy, we feel more balanced and content.

Being spiritually healthy is important because it helps us during tough times. Imagine when you’re feeling sad or upset; knowing what makes you feel peaceful can be a big help. It’s like having a strong friend inside you that helps you to keep going, no matter what.

How to Improve Spiritual Health

Improving your spiritual health can be fun and easy. Spending time in nature, like a park or the beach, can help you feel more connected to the world. Also, doing things you love, like playing music or drawing, can help you understand yourself better. Talking with friends and family about your feelings and thoughts is also a great way to grow spiritually.

In short, spiritual health is about feeling good on the inside. It helps us deal with hard times and makes life more enjoyable. By taking small steps like enjoying nature and doing what we love, we can all improve our spiritual health and feel more joyful and peaceful.

500 Words Essay on Spiritual Health

Why is spiritual health important.

Being spiritually healthy can help us through tough times. When we face problems, knowing what we believe in gives us strength. It’s like having a friend who is always there for us, making us feel safe and giving us hope. Also, it makes us feel happy and at peace with the world.

Improving our spiritual health doesn’t have to be hard. We can start by spending time in nature, like going for a walk in the park. Nature makes us feel calm and helps us think about life. Talking with friends and family about what we believe in can also help. They might share their beliefs, and we can learn from each other. Another way is to find quiet time for ourselves, maybe by reading or just sitting quietly. This helps us listen to our inner thoughts and feelings.

The Role of Community

Challenges to spiritual health.

Sometimes, life gets busy, and it’s hard to think about our spiritual health. We might feel too tired or think we have more important things to do. It’s normal to feel this way sometimes. But remembering to take a little time for our spiritual health can make a big difference in how we feel.

Spiritual health is a special part of our overall well-being. It helps us understand the world better and find our place in it. By taking small steps to improve our spiritual health, like spending time in nature or with loved ones, we can feel happier and more at peace. Remember, it’s okay to start small, and what works for one person might not work for another. The important thing is to find what makes us feel connected and keep it a part of our lives.

Apart from these, you can look at all the essays by clicking here .

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

spiritual well being essay

Home — Essay Samples — Life — Healthy Lifestyle — How to Stay Healthy: Strategies for Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Well-being


How to Stay Healthy: Strategies for Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Well-being

  • Categories: Healthy Lifestyle

About this sample


Words: 631 |

Published: Apr 17, 2023

Words: 631 | Page: 1 | 4 min read

Image of Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

Let us write you an essay from scratch

  • 450+ experts on 30 subjects ready to help
  • Custom essay delivered in as few as 3 hours

Get high-quality help


Prof Ernest (PhD)

Verified writer

  • Expert in: Life


+ 120 experts online

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy . We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

No need to pay just yet!

Related Essays

2 pages / 808 words

1 pages / 593 words

3 pages / 1553 words

3 pages / 1395 words

Remember! This is just a sample.

You can get your custom paper by one of our expert writers.

121 writers online

Still can’t find what you need?

Browse our vast selection of original essay samples, each expertly formatted and styled

Related Essays on Healthy Lifestyle

The World Health Organisation (WHO, 2020) defines health as 'A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity'. When most people consider what is meant by health they [...]

In the modern age, with the proliferation of technology and desk-bound occupations, a sedentary lifestyle has become the norm for many. This essay delves into the repercussions of a sedentary lifestyle on personal health and its [...]

Walking is often perceived as a mundane activity, a means to an end, or a simple mode of transport. However, beneath its seemingly pedestrian veneer lies a treasure trove of benefits that extend far beyond mere locomotion. From [...]

Exercise is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle, and its benefits are well-documented. Engaging in regular physical activity has been shown to improve both physical and mental health, reduce the risk of chronic [...]

Health is physical, mental and emotional state of being free from illness or injury. A proper sense of balance of these aspects is required for us to enjoy a fulfilling life where we work and relax. A healthy lifestyle is a [...]

What is a good diet? Is it good if it makes you lose weight? Perhaps it’s considered a great diet if you drop weight rapidly or does that harm us in ways we don’t even consider? These are some of the questions we will be asking [...]

Related Topics

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and Privacy statement . We will occasionally send you account related emails.

Where do you want us to send this sample?

By clicking “Continue”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.

Be careful. This essay is not unique

This essay was donated by a student and is likely to have been used and submitted before

Download this Sample

Free samples may contain mistakes and not unique parts

Sorry, we could not paraphrase this essay. Our professional writers can rewrite it and get you a unique paper.

Please check your inbox.

We can write you a custom essay that will follow your exact instructions and meet the deadlines. Let's fix your grades together!

Get Your Personalized Essay in 3 Hours or Less!

We use cookies to personalyze your web-site experience. By continuing we’ll assume you board with our cookie policy .

  • Instructions Followed To The Letter
  • Deadlines Met At Every Stage
  • Unique And Plagiarism Free

spiritual well being essay

Spiritual Wellbeing Essays

Dear in love and in doubt, popular essay topics.

  • American Dream
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Bullying Essay
  • Career Goals Essay
  • Causes of the Civil War
  • Child Abusing
  • Civil Rights Movement
  • Community Service
  • Cultural Identity
  • Cyber Bullying
  • Death Penalty
  • Depression Essay
  • Domestic Violence
  • Freedom of Speech
  • Global Warming
  • Gun Control
  • Human Trafficking
  • I Believe Essay
  • Immigration
  • Importance of Education
  • Israel and Palestine Conflict
  • Leadership Essay
  • Legalizing Marijuanas
  • Mental Health
  • National Honor Society
  • Police Brutality
  • Pollution Essay
  • Racism Essay
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Same Sex Marriages
  • Social Media
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Yellow Wallpaper
  • Time Management
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Violent Video Games
  • What Makes You Unique
  • Why I Want to Be a Nurse
  • Send us an e-mail


  1. Spirituality and Well-Being: Theory, Science, and the Nature Connection

    Abstract. The links between spirituality and eudaimonic well-being are examined, beginning with a look at theoretical issues as to whether spirituality is best construed as part of well-being, or as a possible influence on well-being. A brief review of scientific findings from the MIDUS study linking religion and spirituality to well-being and ...

  2. How Spirituality Can Benefit Your Health and Well-Being

    Spirituality is the broad concept of a belief in something beyond the self. Learn more about the many ways spirituality can lead to less stress and better health.

  3. Spirituality and Well-Being: Focusing on What Matters

    Spirituality and well-being are closely intertwined, and for many, spirituality affects all aspects of well-being. Well-being is a state of being in balance and alignment in body, mind, and spirit. It is a state in which people describe themselves as feeling healthy, content, purposeful, peaceful, energized, in harmony, happy, prosperous, and safe. The word spirit in Hebrew is ruah, which ...

  4. The Benefit of Spirituality on Our Well-Being

    What outcome does our spiritual well-being have on our lives? In this interview, Glen Milstein shares how we can use spirituality and religion to benefit our lives individually and relationally.

  5. What is Spiritual Well-being?

    The word "spiritual" refers to that core dimension of you - your innermost self - that provides you with a profound sense of who you are, where you came from, where you're going and how you might reach your goal. You may not think much about spiritual well-being and what role it plays in your life, but its significance is stronger ...

  6. The Role of Spirituality in Mental Well-Being

    While workers and students are experiencing high levels of post-COVID anxiety, they can turn to spiritual practices to improve their mental well-being and physical health. Individuals can reduce stress and experience positive benefits by following three paths: developing an inner life, embracing a calling, and creating a community.

  7. Why Is Spirituality Important?

    A spiritual community can improve your life. Many spiritual traditions encourage participation in a community. Spiritual fellowship, such as attending church or a meditation group, can be sources of social support which may provide a sense of belonging, security, and community. Strong relationships have been proven to increase wellbeing and ...

  8. The Importance of Maintaining Your Spiritual Well-Being

    We believe your whole health requires care and attention for not only your physical body but also your mind and spirit. The benefits of spiritual well-being are numerous - from more compassionate relationships to a deeper sense of inner peace - but how do we get there?

  9. Science of Spirituality (+16 Ways to Become More Spiritual)

    In The Science of Spirituality, we guide you through research on the benefits of having a spiritual practice and offer several first steps.

  10. Spiritual Well-Being Essay Examples

    Introduction Spiritual well-being is fundamental in an individual's life. In the article abridged by Mauk and Schmidt (2004), spiritual care in nursing practice (an original published by the National Library of Medicine) elaborates on nurses' competency in providing spiritual care to their subsequent patients.

  11. Spiritual Wellness: What Is Your Meaning and Purpose?

    Spiritual wellness is being connected to something greater than yourself and having a set of values, principles, morals and beliefs that provide a sense of purpose and meaning to life, then using those principles to guide your actions. Finding meaning and purpose may be a lifelong process that evolves based on unique circumstances, individual ...

  12. Daily Practices for Spiritual, Mental, Emotional, and Physical Well-being

    To fully access the spiritual aspect of your being, maintain a daily practice that keeps this connection open. If a blockage occurs, energy and information are unable to flow freely from the spiritual body down through the mental, emotional, and physical bodies.

  13. The Impact of Meditation on the Spiritual Well-Being

    PDF | On Jan 1, 2020, Yuniarwati and others published The Impact of Meditation on the Spiritual Well-Being | Find, read and cite all the research you need on ResearchGate

  14. Spirituality and well‐being

    Such activities, potentially, will allow happiness and emotional well‐being to flourish. Next, Jacqueline Hodder reports on her doctoral studies that explored the phenomenon of contemporary youth spirituality. She notes the complexity of the terms 'spirituality' and 'well‐being' because they are used and applied differently by ...

  15. Spiritual Nourishment: The Key to Complete Well-being

    To sum up my thoughts, 'nourishment' is a holistic word. So, let us begin to replenish ourselves on all planes, the most important being the spiritual plane.

  16. spiritual wellness essay

    It is much more than that, and involves full integration of our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being states, and includes social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, intellectual and physical wellness.


    What is Spiritual Well-Being? Spiritual well-being is an essential element in people's lives characterized by the meaning of life and hope. It is the feeling of an internal force that helps people transcend themselves, that accompanies them day by day and allows them to orient themselves towards what they consider sacred in their lives. Whoever … Continued

  18. Essay on Spiritual Health

    High-quality essay on the topic of "Spiritual Health" for students in schools and colleges.

  19. My Eight Dimensions of Wellness: [Essay Example], 1379 words

    My third strongest dimension of well-being is spiritual. Spiritual health is the increasing a sense of purpose and which means in life. I experience like this be quantity one because of my relationship with god.

  20. How to Stay Healthy: Strategies for Physical, Mental, and Spiritual

    In conclusion, physical, mental, and spiritual health interconnect, and each aspect is crucial to maintaining overall good health. By engaging in physical activities, eating a balanced diet, nurturing our mental health, connecting with our faith, questioning our purpose, avoiding detrimental habits, and taking time off.

  21. Spiritual Health Essay

    Spiritual Health Essay. Submitted By kk1795. Words: 640. Pages: 3. Open Document. Spiritual health means various things to different people. To me it means having a positive attitude toward life learning to love yourself and others, having values and finding sense of peace. It is about being able to trust someone and not being at defense at all ...

  22. Spiritual Wellbeing Essay Examples

    Dear reader, I understand how challenging it is to find your lover in bed with another partner. Before choosing what to do with him, the first thing to consider is the impact that cheating could have on you. First, allow me to talk about sexually transmitted infections.". Sexual intercourse with multiple partners could result in ...

  23. The Cinderella of positive psychology: spiritual well-being as an

    The findings highlight the importance and essence of the spiritual aspects predominant to pastors' well-being. Attending to spiritual well-being will enhance their resilience and constructive coping and is integral to their way of flourishing at work. This proposes an extension of the flourishing framework to include spiritual well-being as an explicitly conceptualized sub-dimension for ...

  24. Strategies for Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Well-being: A

    In this essay, we will discuss strategies that one can adapt to stay healthy, not only physically but also mentally and spiritually. The correlation between a healthy body and a fit physique is well established.