Combat the Negative Effects of Stress Through Spiritual Practices and Meditation

Stress is prevalent in our modern fast-paced world. From work deadlines to money issues, you've got lots of things on your plate and tons of reasons to worry. You know you need to get a handle on all these anxious thoughts because they're unproductive. Constant stress can lead to poor decision making, physical health problems, emotional turmoil, loss of sleep and a host of other problems. So how can you manage the overwhelm? Beyond seeing a therapist or simply trying to muddle through, you can actually benefit a great deal by cultivating your spirituality by engaging in meditation, yoga or even prayer to deal with these feelings that threaten to overtake you. Read on to discover how to combat the negative effects of stress through spiritual practices and meditation.

How Spirituality Lowers Stress

Spirituality, or your pursuit of a higher purpose, can enhance your well-being, particularly by lowering your stress levels. This is accomplished in various ways. Taking up spiritual activities helps you to feel connected to something beyond yourself, giving you a sense of belonging in the world. This can lead you to feel less lonely and like you have to take on every difficulty on your own. Spiritual pursuits can also provide you with insights into your greater purpose and give you an understanding of what you want out of life. Having a glimpse into the bigger picture allows you to feel more at peace. Your spiritual journey will more than likely lead you to a support network you may not have had before. Whether it's a formal church group or simply convening with nature, this connection to those outside yourself is liberating.

How to Become More Spiritual

If you're new to the idea of discovering your spiritual path, you may not be sure how to get started. There's a lot of self-discovery involved in this journey. Let's look at just a few ways you can get moving in the right direction. Once you begin, you'll find the momentum will push you toward broadening your spiritual horizons. Start by asking yourself some questions and follow where your answers take you. Consider your values and what's most important to you. Delve deeper to identify what it is you really want out of your life. This goes beyond the material things. Think about the kinds of relationships you desire, what you want to do in terms of vocation and the ways in which you enjoy spending your free time. What makes you feel hopeful and joyful? Conjure a memory of a time you felt pride. Start taking notes and see if you notice a pattern. The answers to these questions might just paint a picture of the types of spiritual pursuits that will make your soul sing.

Ways to Reduce Stress Through Spiritual Practice

There are so many ways to incorporate spirituality into your life that can lower your stress levels at the same time. The key is choosing activities that are most meaningful to you and that will lead to the highest sense of fulfillment. Some practices we've already spoken of include meditation and yoga. These physical acts involve strengthening the body and focusing the mind in order to gain an appreciation for the present moment and to feel more in control of your own circumstances. Prayer is another spiritual tool that can help you to obtain a stronger sense of inner-peace. You don't have to belong to a formal religion in order to pray. Simply stating a desired intent with meaning and sending it out to the Universe or to whatever greater source you believe in will do. There are hosts of other ways you can become closer to your higher self, such as getting out into nature, exercising, spending time with animals, reading, journaling or engaging in fellowship with friends.

Your spiritual path can connect you to so many outlets for stress reduction. The opportunities are practically endless, as you'll see once you begin to create your own practice. You'll notice your stress levels decreasing before you know it.

Using Yoga to Tap Into Your Spiritual Side

You may think of yoga as a form of physical exercise. You'd be correct. It definitely is. In fact, yoga requires a great deal of strength and focus to perform some of the more advanced poses and postures. This centuries-old practice goes beyond simply being good for you physically. It offers a number of benefits for your mind, body and spirit.  Let's take a look at how using yoga to tap into your spiritual side can work.

About Yoga

First, I'd like to take a moment to ensure we're all on the same page with regard to what yoga is. It is both a spiritual and physical practice involving focused breathing, stretching, purposeful movements and a cool-down period. Physical benefits of yoga include increased strength, greater flexibility, enhanced stamina, improved posture and better balance. Yoga has mental benefits, as well. These are relaxation, body awareness, reduced stress and better sleep, among others. When these benefits combine, they transcend into becoming a spiritual practice. Keep reading, and we'll get into the specifics of that.

A Quieter Mind

Much like practicing meditation, the act of performing yoga poses can lead to a calmer and quieter mind. One of the ways in which it does this is by allowing you to focus on the postures at hand, holding them and breathing through the pose. During this time, you're no longer thinking about the outside stressors and obligations of your life and you have the opportunity to just be. In this moment, you are actually experiencing a form of spiritual transcendence.


Yoga puts you in touch with yourself. If you're taking a class, there will be others surrounding you. With practice, you'll learn to tune out the world around you and focus only on yourself, your physical space, your responses to the poses and the places that your mind takes you during this quiet repose. It's rare that we are able to find this kind of opportunity for introspection in our busy, hectic lives. Take advantage of it to learn more about whom you are and the person you want to be.

Ability to Give Up Control

Losing control of our circumstances is one of the biggest fears of many people. The fact is there are countless events and circumstances that are beyond our control in life. Living in fear of that is a big contributor to bouts of anxiety, frustration and neuroticism. We don't have to be on edge in the face of ambiguity. Yoga gives you the freedom to let go and to realize what happens around you won't necessarily destroy your world. It's that sense of a calm and quiet mind that gives you the power to handle not knowing what the future may bring because you're now better equipped to be mindful of the present. It's a very freeing feeling.

This is just an overview of the ways in which yoga can help you to tap into your spiritual side. Once you begin to incorporate it into your life, you'll soon discover for yourself the unique personal benefits it can bring.

The Long Term Benefits of Daily Meditation Practice

Meditation is increasing in popularity. Lots of folks engage in the practice for various reasons related to health and mind. We've already discussed some of the reasons you should consider giving meditation a shot. It will enhance your spiritual pursuits and provide you with a mindset that is open to a number of possibilities. There are also some physical and emotional benefits to be gained that have been proven by science. The meditating you do today can enhance your mind, body and spirit for years to come. Keep reading to explore the long-term benefits of daily meditation practice.

Quiets “Monkey Mind”

You've heard the term “monkey mind”, right? It refers to those racing thoughts that come out of nowhere and just won't quit, often when you're trying like mad to drift off to sleep. Meditation has been linked to a reduction in the mind's default mode network (DMN), the area of the brain that is responsible for allowing the mind to wander. This is great news when you're trying to get in touch with your spirituality. A focused mind lets you prioritize when pursuing your higher purpose goals.

Enhanced Focus and Concentration

Meditation has been shown to sharpen the mind and attune it more readily to what's known as “visual discrimination” tasks, allowing them to more readily notice small discrepancies those in the non-meditating control group were likely to miss. Other studies have demonstrated the ways in which meditation leads to improved cognitive skills and sustained attention span. These are long-term effects of meditation that can truly improve numerous facets of your life.

Strengthens the Immune System

You know that meditation quiets the mind and helps you to focus, but you may be surprised to learn it also has a tremendously positive effect on your body as a whole. Studies have actually shown that those who engage in a regular meditation practice begin to produce more antibodies when compared to non-meditators. Researchers found that meditation actually has a direct influence on the manner in which the body functions.

Lessens Anxiety

Even those who don't suffer from a formal anxiety disorder can experience minor bouts of this uncomfortable emotion. They tend to come on without warning and can truly impede your daily functioning and well-being in clinical cases. Regular meditation can help to lessen anxiety and to promote an overall sense of calm. There's a specific form of meditating known as “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction”, or MBSR, that has the specific aim of lowering stress levels. It's actually been shown to have a positive effect on anxiety levels that can last well into the future. Mindfulness meditation, in general, can also reduce anxiety due to its impact on the earlier-reference DMN section of your brain.

This is just a partial list of the many long-term benefits of meditation. Getting into a routine of meditating will lead to actual changes in your brain's makeup in positive ways that will spread across various parts of your life.

Finding Spirituality Through Meditation

So you want to begin adding spiritual practice to your everyday life, but you don't know where to start. Whether you currently are engaged in a formal religion or if you simply feel a calling to get in touch with your highest self, adding activities to enhance your connection to the divine is definitely worth the investment of your time and energy. As I've talked about throughout this series, meditation is one of the most impactful things you can do to reap the types of benefits you seek in a relatively short amount of time. The practice of meditation involves focusing your thoughts and releasing the stress of your everyday life. Taking this mindful step daily can have powerful effects on your life. Let's examine this idea further by looking at the ways you can find spirituality through meditation.

Move Beyond Consciousness

We often hinder ourselves from reaching our goals due to issues such as fear, skepticism or outside influence. Meditation lets you overcome such things by putting you in touch with your higher self, leaving behind your ego. You'll begin to gain clarity on your experience, thus having the ability to move forward in a more purposeful manner. Moving beyond your ego allows you to flourish in a more authentic way and to live in a way is unhindered.

Enhance Connections

This unfettered spirit attained through meditation brings you more clarity and the ability to leave behind your ego and the limits it can put upon you. Getting in touch with your higher self through meditating will open you up to new connections, as well. When you approach the world in a more open manner, not held back by fear or societal constraints, you're more apt to connect with others on a more authentic level. You won't be held back by limiting factors and can reach for the kinds of relationships and interactions that are important to you. While spirituality can be a solo pursuit that is quite personal, meaningful relationships do nourish your soul.

Improve Empathy and Compassion

In fact, it's been shown that meditation can even make you a more empathic and compassionate person. These are important character traits among highly spiritual people. Feeling compassion for others, as well as yourself, allows you to get in touch more readily with your higher purpose. A 2013 study by Harvard and Northwestern University researchers showed that the participant group who underwent eight weeks of training in two different meditation types responded more compassionately to a staged scenario involving providing assistance to a person in distress. Only 15 percent of those in the non-meditating group made an effort to help a person struggling with crutches, while 50 percent of the meditation group acted to assist.

Lessen Emotional Reactivity and Increase Calm

As reported by the American Psychological Association, meditation can decrease one's levels of emotional reactivity. Researchers studied people with various experience in the practice of mindfulness meditation. They found that meditation significantly helped participants to disengage from pictures that were emotionally upsetting, focusing their attention on a cognitive task instead. The ability to balance emotions with practical considerations is a valuable skill when it comes to reaching a high level of spirituality.

Meditation offers so many tangible benefits. It's been proven to be good for your body and mind. It also goes deeper by helping to prepare you for spiritual pursuits. Once you begin a practice of meditating, you'll see for yourself the ways in which it can help you to grow as a person.

Why You Should Make Meditation Part of Your Morning Routine

I've touched briefly on the concept of a morning routine when I talked about adding 30 minutes of reading to start off your day. Well, a morning routine consists of other activities to help focus your intent for the day ahead. It can be comprised of things that make sense for you, and everyone's morning routine will be different. However, one thing you should definitely think about including is meditation. The benefits of implementing an everyday habit when you first wake up are quite vast, and meditating during that time can totally boost those advantages.  Let's take a closer look at this concept to help you understand why you should make meditation part of your morning routine.

About Morning Routines

A morning routine is a habit of setting aside a regular amount of time each day for some sort of purposeful intention. It sets the tone for the rest of your day, and it can be comprised of various activities. The amount of time you spend on your morning routine is up to you. However, an hour is a significant amount that doesn't seem to give people too much trouble to attain. You can fit a great deal of purposeful meditation and spiritual growth work into that time. Beyond meditation, you may want to consider adding some of these activities to your morning ritual:

  • A glass of water with lemon for hydration and energy
  • Stretching or short exercise routine to warm your body up
  • Reading to open your mind and motivate you
  • Journaling to flesh out the ideas from what you've read or to reflect on issues of interest
  • Daily planning to get set for your day and to limit any surprises
  • Goal setting to place focus on your intentions for the day ahead and to provide you a map

These are just some examples. Your morning routine should be meaningful and useful to you. Feel free to get creative with it. You'll probably need to experiment a bit to figure out the best combination. But don't worry; it will come with time.

Why Morning Meditation?

Meditation is an excellent form of self-care. You're purposefully setting aside time to focus your thoughts and to spend a quiet moment to work toward achieving your highest self. Meditating helps you to create the calm and quiet mindset you need to start the day off right. It also helps you to develop the focus that can be carried onward as you encounter various problems or issues, making problem solving much easier. In fact, your overall state of mind will be enhanced through meditation. You'll feel you're more motivated to accomplish your goals, you have more persistence to push through obstacles and you're more patience when encountering minor difficulties. All of these are good things.

How to Make It a Habit

Creating a morning routine of meditation and mindfulness might take some work. Like most new activities, it will take practice to become a habit. However, there are some things you can do to help make this a habit that sticks. One way to do this is to know your why. Write down the reasons why you'd like to make this routine a daily habit. Stick the list somewhere visible as a reminder and to motivate you. You may also want to recruit a buddy to share the experience with you. Having an accountability partner is useful because you'll have a support system and someone to whom you must answer if you find yourself slacking. Your morning routine buddy can be a spouse or roommate within your home or a friend who doesn't live with you. Just be sure to check in with that person at least every few days and as needed for encouragement. Don't give up. Try to at least commit to your morning routine for a month. As you may know, repetition is the key to forming lasting habits.

Meditation is a crucial part of a strong morning routine. Hopefully, you now get a better picture of how the two go hand in hand, along with the powerful benefits they can offer. Give it a try for a month and see just how your life transforms.