Religion plays an important role in the lives of many, many people around the world.
In fact, it’s estimated that over 80% of the world’s population identifies with some form of religion .
Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, and countless more—every one of these faiths are central to their believers.
Religion does so much more than just provide a focus for belief; it can also benefit your body in a number of truly fascinating ways!
Studies have shown that religion and spirituality can have a direct effect on health. Not just physical health primarily, but also mental and emotional health.
One study from 2012  looked at ways that religion improved the wellbeing of believers. They discovered:
Greater ability to cope with adversity, including stressful situations and a wide range of illnesses.
An increase in positive emotions (including hope, optimism, self-esteem, a sense of purpose, and positive character traits) that translated into better overall wellbeing.
A decrease in depression and suicide rates.
Lower anxiety levels (in some studies, though other studies found higher anxiety levels).
Lower risk of bipolar disorder among those with regular religious attendance.
Reduced substance abuse.
Lower rates of delinquency, crime, and marital instability.
Greater tendency to engage in healthy behavior, such as exercise and healthy diet
Healthy sexual activity
Another meta-analysis, published in 2020 , highlighted a fascinating link between religion/spirituality and decreased risk of a number of health conditions. The research discovered that people who were more religious or spiritual tended to have lower blood pressure, better cardiovascular health, and less C-reactive proteins (markers of inflammation) in their bloodstream. This suggests that belief can have a direct health benefit, possibly by preventing depression and stress from causing inflammation.
As another study stated, “recent research, with more representative samples and multivariate analysis, provides stronger evidence linking Judeo-Christian religious practices to blood pressure and immune function.” 
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Though it highlighted Judeo-Christian religion, it went on to clarify that “the strongest evidence comes from randomized interventional trials reporting the beneficial physiological impact of meditation (primarily transcendental meditation)”. And, as you well know, meditative practices are incorporated into virtually every form of religion and spiritual belief system.
As the study summed up, “Religiosity/spirituality is linked to health-related physiological processes--including cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, and immune function”. Though it did highlight the need for further research to provide more concrete evidence, the tone was overall positive and optimistic that religion and spirituality could provide tangible health benefits.
For those who are already believers or practitioners of some faith, good for you! You are already enjoying the health benefits derived from your religion or spirituality. May it, and your belief, bring you many happy years of life to come.
But for those who have not given religion or spirituality a priority in their lives, it may be time to consider it, if only for the health benefits alone.
I want to make it clear that the research mentioned above didn’t highlight any one particular religion as being “better for your health” than any others. The one study that mentioned Judeo-Christian religions merely used believers of those faiths as the subjects of their research, likely because of the easy availability of those subjects.
And pay close attention to the emphasis that every one of those studies put on specifying “religion and spirituality.” Spirituality without a religion can provide the same health benefits as religion and spirituality combined. If you don’t feel drawn to any particular religion, spirituality may be for you.
To become a more spiritual person, try:
Meditating. As you saw above, meditation practices are behind a lot of the health benefits of both religion and spirituality. Meditation calms your mind and body, activating your parasympathetic nervous system to lower your blood pressure and reduce muscle tension. Spend 5-15 minutes in meditation every morning and night, and use the meditation practices to help you develop your spirituality.
Read. Reading religious and spiritual literature helps to draw your attention to the intangible, invisible spiritual aspects of your life. The more you’re focused on it, the more in tune with your spirituality you will become. Dedicate a few hours each week to reading something that helps you to express and explore your spiritual side.
Spend time outdoors. There’s something profoundly spiritual about the beauty of nature: a calm lake, a towering mountain, a forest filled with only the sounds of nature, even a beautiful park or flower garden. Spend more time outdoors, being mindful of your surroundings.
Watch for signs. Whatever you believe in—the Universe, God, Allah, or any other higher power—there will always be signs that someone is watching out for you, working to bring good things your way. Pay closer attention to everything that happens in your day and look for those “impossible coincidences”. It’s a positive mindset that will help you get in touch with your spiritual side.
Put these steps into action today, and you will find that developing your spiritual and/or religious side can lead to visible improvements in your health!
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