Understanding Spirituality


Spirituality is a very broad concept that leaves lots of room for numerous perspectives. In general, spirituality includes a sense of connection to something larger than ourselves and a search for meaning in life. It is considered a universal human experience that touches everyone. People sometimes describe a spiritual experience as transcendent or a deep sense of aliveness and interconnectedness with everything and everyone. Some may find that their spiritual life is linked to an association with something organized like a temple, church, or synagogue, but others take comfort in a personal relationship with a higher power or even God. Others may seek their meaning in a connection with art or nature. A personal definition of spirituality is like a sense of purpose that may change throughout your life as you adapt to your own experiences and interpersonal relationships.

Experts have their own definitions of spirituality. One contends that spirituality is an aspect of humanity that refers to how individuals both seek and express purpose and meaning. This is the way they experience connectedness to self, others, the moment, nature, and anything else deemed sacred. Another expert claim spirituality is any experience that brings the person into contact with the divine, not just one that is meaningful. Still another writes that the spiritual dimension tries to be in harmony with the environment and universe as it strives for answers. This all comes into focus when a person is forced to face something stressful like physical illness or death.

Spirituality vs. Emotional Health

As you read and research about spirituality, you may notice that many of the practices recommended for cultivating it are similar to those used to improve emotional wellbeing. This is in part because there is a connection between these two life areas as they influence one another and overlap. Spirituality is focused on seeking a meaningful connection with something larger than yourself. This can result in positive emotions like gratitude, acceptance, and contentment, as well as peace. Emotional health, by comparison, is about cultivating a positive state of mind which is able to broaden your outlook so you can recognize and incorporate a connection to something larger than yourself. These are very much alike and linked while still being distinct.

Religion vs. Spirituality

Though spirituality may incorporate aspects of religion, it is considered a broader concept. The two, religion and spirituality, are not the same thing, yet they are also not entirely distinct. The best way to understand is through a Venn diagram in which one side, the spirituality side asks “where do I personally find meaning, value, and connection?” In the religion circle, ask “what is true and right for me?” The aspects that overlap is an individual experience in the way that people feel, think, and even behave. Again, these are two separate things, but offer some overlap.

Understanding spirituality is important whether you consider yourself a spiritual person or not. Remember, it is a unique and individual experience so it is something you should feel comfortable with on your own even when others may take a different viewpoint.