Some people regularly take part in some part of organized worship at a church, mosque or synagogue while others prefer to commune with nature or take part in volunteer projects that create a deeper connection with humanity. No matter the place of worship or rituals of practice, spirituality and religion can play a pivotal role in a person’s life. And although the definition of spirituality varies from one person to the next, it often includes a belief in a higher power and the quest for finding deeper meaning in life. Whether you consider yourself to be religious or spiritual, research indicates both have health benefits.
Improves Emotional State
Studies show that the pursuit of spirituality and/or religious practices can play a significant role in the state of overall health and can foster a sense of calm and well-being. Spirituality can help shift the focus away from the mundane and to the more important themes in life, like values and family. People who describe themselves as spiritual or religious often have stronger family and personal ties which can be helpful in coping with illnesses, injuries or emotional pain. Bonding with like-minded people in a spiritual community can help combat the feelings of isolation that many people struggle with from time to time.
Strengthens Immune System
Many older adults are prone to bacterial or viral infections or chronic illnesses that can wreak havoc on the immune system. One key to staying healthy is to keep stress low, as stress is one of the biggest triggers for immune system compromise. Organized religion and spirituality can promote an overall sense of peace and well-being while delivering a strong dose of immune-boosting hormones to the brain.
Improves Fitness and Boosts Self Confidence
Being a part of an active and engaging spiritual community with close personal bonds can improve overall mental outlook and help build self confidence. Many people find that simply communing with nature on a morning walk or practicing yoga with meditation to be highly spiritual. These experiences trigger the circulation of hormones such as dopamine and endorphins to the brain. The exercise component of these activities is beneficial too as it helps regulate blood pressure, increases blood and oxygen throughout the body and can improve mood.
Reduces Risk of Disease
In addition to compromising the immune system, stress is frequently associated with elevated blood pressure. Left untreated, high blood pressure, also called hypertension, can lead to a host of life-altering or life-threatening events such as heart disease, kidney disease or stroke. The positive feelings associated with spirituality can reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure and can have a significant impact on lifestyle choices.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people who are religious or spiritual are likely to live longer than others. The clinic hypothesizes that many of the benefits outlined above lead to reduced stress levels and healthier lifestyle choices, both of which can ward off disease and illness.
At Lighthouse Senior Living’s Ellicott City and Hopkins Creek (Baltimore County) communities, residents enjoy ready access to spiritual activities and a rich variety of social programming. Our supportive communities ensure changing needs are met and provide opportunities to build close connections. Contact us to learn more or to schedule a tour.