Is Being Spiritual, Being Religious? A Common Misconception

By Alexa Simonics

reviewed by mounir hamed

You’ve probably heard the term “spirituality” before; it is a highly popular term. However, despite its popularity, there are many misconceptions about what it means to be spiritual. Most of the time, spirituality is equated with religion and being religious, with the two terms being used interchangeably. Here’s the thing, though: you don’t have to be religious to be spiritual, because spirituality and religion are not the same thing.

 

Being Spiritual vs. Being Religious

Let’s look at it a little more closely:

Religion is difficult to define. Often, it is understood as worshipping a higher being or a God. However, there are also many other ways that religion can be defined. For example, there are also non-theistic religions (where this is no direct belief in a God.) An exact, precise definition of religion is difficult to pinpoint due to its many interpretations and this is almost constantly shifting. Religion can be seen as a culture; as a belief and meaning; as an ideology and mystification; and many more. 

Spirituality, on the other hand, is the experience of connecting to something that is much larger than you. It is the way that a person seeks meaning and purpose in their everyday life, and the way in which they connect to not just the moment but to themselves, to others, and to nature. Spirituality does not require external objects: the goal instead is to look within yourself and gain an internal awareness. The focus is on your own path of discovery, rather than an overreliance on the teachings found in external objects. Spirituality is actually a very broad term, and a precise definition of it varies from person to person precisely because it is such a personal experience.

 

How can someone become more spiritual in their everyday life?

Telling you what spirituality is and how much it can benefit you is all well and good, but how do you go about practicing it? Since spirituality is so personal, each individual tends to find their own way to practice, to be in the moment and look within themselves. There are, however, some tried-and-true methods that can get you started; here are three of them:

  • Meditate. Meditation can be a great way to be more in tune with yourself. It helps you be more peaceful, feel more centered, and more grounded. It helps calm stress, increases your patience, and helps you get better sleep, all of which are important for your day-to-day.
  • Practice gratitude. Practicing gratitude and mindfulness are some of the best ways to help you look within yourself. Keep a journal and write down the things that you are grateful for, as well as some positive affirmations every day. 
  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness, on the other hand, helps you to remain calm. Try to remember to stop a few times a day, take a deep breath, and bring your mind back to the present moment (the task that you are currently doing or should be focusing on, for example).
  • Connect with nature. Many of us live in busy cities, or near one. It can be easy to get caught up in city life when we are always on the move from one place to another, sitting in the office all day and then the car or public transport, and then being at home. Every once in a while, however, it’s good for you to get a change of scenery. Go out into nature. If you have a park or hiking trail near you, try to visit it at least once a week. Going for a walk somewhere you don’t often go is not only good for your mind, but also your body since it counts as a form of exercise.

 

Why be more spiritual? What are the benefits of it?

It’s easy to shrug off something like spirituality.

“Its so hippie.”

“It’s so frilly.”

In actual fact, when we look at it more closely, spirituality brings a number of benefits with it:

  • It reduces stress. Stress can be very harmful for your body; too much stress can wear it down and make you more susceptible to illness. By calming the mind, it also calms you in the process and helps reduce the amount of stress that you feel.
  • It reduces depression and anxiety. By adopting practices such as mindful meditation and yoga, with the help of spirituality, you can reduce the symptoms of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Mindful meditation helps you learn awareness of your situation and acceptance of the moment, bringing you back to the present and allowing you to assess your situation with a clear mind. Yoga, on the other hand, involves different slow movements and breathing techniques that help promote calmness, as well as flexibility.
  • It helps lower blood pressure. These practices have been a proven way to help lower blood pressure by reducing stress and therefore physical strain on the body. Additionally, they can help decrease the production of stress hormones, which lead to an increased heart rate and narrow blood vessels.
  • A positive mind leads to positive health. Health begins with the mind; by embracing spiritual practices in your everyday life, you can improve your mental health, which will, in turn, improve your physical health. There have been many studies that have examined how the mind affects overall health. Factors such as stress can cause poor health, visible through problems such as seen through things such as high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, migraines (with or without aura), palpitations, insomnia, poor appetite and binge eating (which in turn results in excessive weight gain or excessive weight loss). 

 

So, how can a good attitude bring about positive health? The brain produces substances that naturally aid your body. Endorphins, for example, not only make you happier, but also act as a natural painkiller. Gamma globulin as another example, helps to strengthen the immune system. The catch is that if you’re always in a negative mood, stressed, or anxious, this halts the brain’s production of these beneficial substances. This, in turn, makes you more susceptible to the ailments mentioned above, as well as others. Therefore, embracing spirituality and positivity promotes good health in the long term.

To be spiritual is not strictly being religious. Spirituality can help a person both mentally and physically by focusing on themselves and their surroundings. Remember, though, it is easy to overwhelm yourself at first, so try to adopt changes slowly. You can adopt these practices gradually in order to reap the benefits they readily provide.

Alexa Simonics
A content creator through and through and passionate about the importance of holistic living and a preventative lifestyle. Combining this with my passion for writing has meant that I can educate and empower others to do the same.

Mounir Hamed

Experienced health researcher and pharmacist with a demonstrated history of working in community and manufacturing fields. I worked in research and development, planning and production for different pharmaceutical companies. I have diplomatic experience too as I worked as an honorary consul, where I met various officials and ambassadors, and was able to strengthen relations with different countries. I am pursuing a Master’s degree in International Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU). I am interested in global and digital health, and believe that everyone should have the right to live a healthy and happy life.

Brady, A. (2020, August 4). Religion vs. Spirituality: The Difference Between Them. chopra. https://chopra.com/articles/religion-vs-spirituality-the-difference-between-them

Delagran, L. (n.d.). What Is Spirituality? University of Minnesota: Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing. Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/what-spirituality

Healthwise Staff. (2019, December 15). Mind-Body Wellness. UMHS. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/mente

Miller, K. (2020, October 31). The Science of Spirituality: 16 Tips to Build Your Spiritual Practice. Positive Psychology. https://positivepsychology.com/science-of-spirituality/

Nikung, B. (2017, January 23). Understanding basics of spirituality. Deccan Herald. https://www.deccanherald.com/content/592835/understanding-basics-spirituality.html

The School of Life. (2019, May 8). What Is the Point of Spirituality? [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xum35-XplNY

Shelton, A. (2017, January 20). Understanding Spirituality: Are You Spiritually Connected? Wings for the Spirit. http://wingsforthespirit.com/spiritual-growth/understanding-spirituality-spiritually-connected/

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