Neuroscience – How spirituality can improve your brain health?

brain light

In a recent survey, 95% of American physicians said that spirituality is important to the well-being of their patients.

What is spirituality?  You can have your own concept. Read the different definitions published by The Ohio State University website and create yours:

1.    “The idea of a process or journey of self-discovery and of learning not only who you are, but who you want to be.

2.    The challenge of reaching beyond your current limits. This can include keeping an open mind, questioning current beliefs, or trying to better understand others’ beliefs.

3.    A connectedness to yourself and to others. Spirituality is personal, but it is also rooted in being connected with others and with the world around you. This connection can facilitate you finding “your place in the world.

4.    Meaning, purpose, and direction. Spirituality, while it doesn’t necessarily solve or reach conclusions, often embraces the concept of searching and moving forward in the direction of meaning, purpose, and direction for your life.

5.    A higher power, whether rooted in a religion, nature, or some kind of unknown essence.”

Scientific Benefits of Spirituality

Based on new evidence culled from their brain-scan studies on memory patients and meditators, their Web-based survey of people’s religious and spiritual experiences, and their analysis of adult drawings of God, neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, therapist Mark Robert Waldman, and their research team have concluded that active and positive spiritual belief changes the human brain for the better. What’s more, actual faith isn’t always necessary: atheists who meditate on positive imagery can obtain similar neurological benefits.

Neuroscience discoveries: 

  • Not only do prayer and spiritual practice reduce stress and anxiety, but just twelve minutes of meditation per day may slow down the aging process.
  • Contemplating a loving God rather than a punitive God reduces anxiety, depression, and stress and increases feelings of security, compassion, and love.
  • Fundamentalism, in and of itself, is benign and can be personally beneficial, but the anger and prejudice generated by extreme beliefs can permanently damage your brain.
  • Intense prayer and meditation permanently change numerous structures and functions in the brain – altering your values and the way you perceive reality.

Researchers found that meditation:

  • Influences the amygdala, a portion of the brain responsible for emotions and for memory.
  • Produce lasting changes in emotional processing in the brain.
  • Reduces loneliness among the elderly and improves the functioning of the immune system combating the increase in the activity of genes related to inflammation and diseases caused by the feeling of isolation.

How can I “practice” spirituality and improve my brain health?

1.    Create your own definition of spirituality and write down your spiritual goal.

2.    Have a spiritual plan. Make a list of small steps that you can do to reach your goal. It might include reading books, praying, doing meditation, choosing a spiritual path/church/philosophy/mentor, traveling, etc. Answer the question beside each step: When am I going to do it? Set up date and time.

Cultivate spiritual habits

  • Do meditation
  • Recognize your spiritual nature 
  • Cultivate good feelings 
  • Forgive
  • Being thankful
  • Find inner peace

Written by: Ester Castruita – Founder & Teacher of Dharana Star

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