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Want to live longer? Start a spiritual practice

Posted by Karen M. Wyatt on March 3, 2012 at 8:00 AM



Several studies conducted in the past decade have shown that people who have a regular spiritual practice are healthier during their older years and may even live longer than those who avoid spirituality. In fact, those who do embrace either a religion or their own personal form of spiritual practice have been shown to have lower blood pressure, fewer strokes, less depression and anxiety, and a greater sense of wellbeing than their non-spiritual counterparts.


According to a survey done in association with the Pew Research Group about 10% of Americans identify themselves as having no religious or spiritual affiliation whatsoever, and another 6% are seeking for some sort of spiritual path. The other 84% all claim to be associated with one form of religion or another. But having a belief is different than actually putting that belief into practice, so the question still remains, how many of us have incorporated a daily spiritual practice into our lives?


The truth is that day-to-day life has become so hectic and fast-paced that most of us don’t have time to relax, let alone take up a spiritual practice. Americans are working longer hours now and leisure time has decreased by about 30% since the 1970’s. Along with more work hours we engage in more and more time-consuming technology in our free time, such as web-surfing, email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and the list goes on and on.


So where do you find yourself in this situation? Are you a “practicer” or a “pretender”? In other words, do you actually do the work of spirituality or is it something you know you should be doing but just don’t have time for?


If you are ready to incorporate some spiritual activities into your life, here are some suggestions for getting started:  

 

  • Set aside just 15 minutes a day in the beginning. You might need to get up a little earlier or go to bed a little later to fit this time in, but figure out when you are most likely to stick with this new plan and write it on your schedule. 
  • Start a journal. No matter what other practice you take up, I believe that journaling is very useful as a means of looking at your life, your dreams and your path. Keeping a written record of your spiritual journey also helps you stay committed to it. (Read more about journaling.) 
  • Find a practice – or several – that feels comfortable and natural for you. Try mindfulness meditation, walking meditation, prayer, yoga, reading and contemplating sacred literature, or even just deep breathing.  
  • Create a sacred space. Have a special place in your home where you do your practice and light a candle or play soft music to help reinforce the idea that this time is devoted to your spiritual growth. Try to minimize interruptions, including your own thoughts, which may wander in the beginning. 
  • Be as consistent as possible. Even on days when you don’t feel like it and can’t get into your spiritual practice, at least go to your space and write something in your journal. Going through the motions is better than abandoning the practice altogether.

 

Remember, it takes time and effort to develop a spiritual practice, but the results are worth it in the end. Eventually you will find that your entire day feels less stressful and you experience fewer frustrations with other people as you start to grow in awareness. And that can make your life more joyful and meaningful, which is something everyone in our society needs right now.


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Categories: Spiritual Practice, Lifestyle, Spirituality

Copyright ©2010 Karen Wyatt, MD

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