How Spirituality Improves Your Mental and Physical Health and Longevity [Episode #838]
This week’s topic is: How Spirituality Improves Your Mental and Physical Health and Longevity
I love to delve into all things spiritual and our inner connection to who we are in our core, in our heart, in our true self nature. And I love how this interplay’s and affects all other aspects of our wellbeing, including evidence based research, as well as tips and tools, our physical health, our mental and emotional wellbeing. And that is the power of our Four Cornerstones and how everything works synergistically.
The reason that I’m so passionate about sharing this, if you are new to our community, or you’ve been with me for many years, you’ll know that I started off very much focused on our Food Cornerstone as a nutritionist and being a real advocate of healthy natural eating.
And what I saw in my work with thousands of readers and clients was that food was not enough to take us to the full level of wellbeing, vibrancy, radiance, and energy. We do have to go beyond this holistic lifestyle. And that is why we rotate around the Cornerstones and often they’re connected because everything works together. We are whole beings and we need to nurture ourselves on all levels in order to feel our best.
I’m in my 60’s and a beginner meditator and looking for ways to up my game sort of speak, to improve my mental health and overall wellness. Can you share some tools to help me go deeper into my practice?
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Kimberly: 00:00 Namaste loves and welcome back to our Thursday Q&A show. Our topic this week is How Spirituality Improves Your Mental and Physical Health and Longevity. And I love this topic because as many of you know, I love to delve into all things spiritual and our inner connection to who we are in our core, in our heart, in our true self nature. And I love how this interplays and affects all other aspects of our wellbeing, including as we’ll get into today with concrete research, evidence backed research, as well as tips and tools, our physical health, our mental and emotional wellbeing. And that is the power of our four cornerstones and how everything works synergistically. And the reason that I’m so passionate about sharing about this, if you are new to our community, if you’ve been with me for many years, you’ll know that I started off very much focused on our food cornerstone as a nutritionist and being a real advocate of healthy natural eating.
01:14 And what I saw in my work with working with thousands of readers and clients was that food was not enough to take us to the full level of wellbeing and vibrancy and radiance and energy. We do have to go beyond into this holistic lifestyle. So that is why we rotate around the cornerstones and often they’re connected because everything works together. We are whole beings and we need to nurture ourselves on all levels in order to feel our best. So I’m very excited to get into our show today Before we start, a little reminder that if you have a question you’d like me to answer, you can submit it to over on our website, my sauna.com. That’s M-Y-S-O-L-L-U-N a.com. You can also find other articles, podcasts, meditations, many, many easy, delicious, properly food, combined food recipes and more. So it really is our central hub, and please check it out and join our newsletter if you haven’t yet signed up.
Question around the topic of: How Spirituality Improves Your Mental and Physical Health and Longevity: I’m in my 60’s and a beginner meditator and looking for ways to up my game sort of speak, to improve my mental health and overall wellness. Can you share some tools to help me go deeper into my practice?
02:25 All right, let’s get into our show today. And our question comes from Patty, who lives in North Dakota. Patty, thank you so much for being here, being in our community. It’s amazing that we get to connect from across the country through time and space connection pierces through everything. So I give you a big huge virtual hug if you can feel that in your heart. My hands are in my heart and I’m so honored and grateful for our connection. Thank you for submitting your question, which is, I am in my sixties and a beginner meditator and looking for ways to up my game, so to speak, to improve my mental health and overall wellness. Can you share some tools to help me go deeper into my practice? So Patty, thank you so much for your question once again, and I’m so excited that you are getting into meditation and there’s many reasons to do it.
03:26 Many different reasons that I spoke about in my last book. You are more than you think you are, but one of the reasons, as you mentioned here, is for your mental health and overall wellness. When we become centered in our selves, in our true self, what I’ve experienced and what the great ones, the great yogis, Paramahansa, Yogananda, Swami, Sri ti, and the others tell us that we become more clear and our purpose in the world becomes more clear. We become more confident, we become unshakeable to all the ups and downs and the times that feel really dark and the confusion and the things that could derail us. We start to feel a deep centeredness inside of us. And so this doesn’t come from identifying with our bodies, which we all know, age and decay eventually and change and shift, and our weight fluctuates and all of that.
04:27 It doesn’t come from our job title, which we also know can shift and fluctuate and change and shift. It has to come from a deeper place. And to me that is really the strength of spirituality in our lives. It gives us a rock solid center no matter what’s going on in our lives, no matter what’s going on in the greater collective, what’s playing out in the news, we have an inner sanctuary that we can work to increasingly connect with more deeply over time. And the benefits of having this inner connection are so profound. We’ll get into some research right now, but what I feel is this steadiness steadies our nervous system. And when we have a steadier nervous system, we tend to have more stability within the systems in our body, literally between our parasympathetic and our sympathetic nervous system. But in our hormonal balance, in our endocrine system, in our immune system, in our digestive system, we are more resilient to all that life is bringing us.
05:48 And we’ll get into a bit of research now, but I wanted to start off the show by saying this. There’s that I parable that’s saying from the Bible, and I don’t know exactly which verse it comes from, where it talks about building your house on rock versus building it on sand, right? I’m paraphrasing here, but this idea of building your foundation of your life on something really solid. Now, when we’re talking about spirituality, we are not talking about a specific religion, although for you spirituality may be your religion, but we’re talking to having this conscious, expansive perspective that there is something beyond what we can see with our physical eyes that connects us all. This higher intelligence that runs through all things. And at your center, you are more than this physical body. You are this true self formless energy that is, yes, there’s a human part, there’s this physical part, but there’s also this formless part.
06:56 Call it your soul, your higher self, the true self, whatever you want to say. And this is where we intersect and connect with spirit. So you don’t have to subscribe to a particular religion or you may or in my case, I connect with spirit through meditation and through prayer. And what’s really spoken to me, I grew up Catholic and I grew up in an organized religion, and I think it’s great if that’s where you connect for me. I really am drawn to the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, who is a yogi who brought yoga to the west. And his message was that there’s this underlying connection in all of us, all the paths up the mountain to spirit or to God or higher intelligence, higher power, however you want to say it. And so he spoke of the underlying unity between the message of Jesus Christ and Bhagavan Krishna from the east and all religions, all true religions.
08:01 So for me, that idea of unity really appeals to me. But of course, whatever authentically resonates with you is wonderful. Whether that’s an organized religion or if that’s simply praying to source or spirit or through meditation, stillness, nature, whatever it is, it’s a very individual thing. It’s very personal. And so that’s not the focus of our show as your particular orientation to spirituality, but rather how, as Patty asks here, how we can lean into our spirituality and how that improves our mental and physical health and longevity. So there was an interesting study from a journal of psychiatry in 2018 finding religiousness, as they call it in spirituality, play a protective role against depression in individuals with bipolar disorder. So one of the things that I think is so powerful about spirituality is that it allows us to transcend, as I mentioned, these everyday happenings because we start to lean in and glimpse experience through these moments. When we go into that oneness, that stillness and prayer or meditation, we start to glimpse that there’s something so much more. And to me, depression can often come when we feel frustrated with life, things feel dark, things feel stagnant, and spirituality helps lift us beyond that to again say we are so much more than these bodies. We are so much more than our weight or what we’ve created in our careers or how we identify ourselves on the outside.
09:58 And this may be why. An interesting study from the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine found that religious attendance was associated with lower mortality rates and suggested that religious involvement may have a protective effect on health. It gives us hope, faith, these really powerful words that we can transcend our everyday challenges. And that the fact that we’re here alive and breathing and all unique creations of spirit means that our lives innately have deep meaning and purpose. There is no accidents. We are all meant to be here. We are all meant to grow and to come back, I believe, to our true self nature, to realize more of who we really are. And so there’s great power in that.
10:55 Now, there was an interesting study from the National Institute of Health in 2019 actually found in this study that religious involvement influenced health and longevity positively through psychosocial mechanisms. So the psychology of being involved in a group of not feeling alone, of feeling a strong community, which you may currently feel at your meditation center or your temple or your church or your synagogue or your mosque or in a prayer circle or wherever you feel very close to others when you are connecting on this deeper level. And there are profound benefits. Again, there’s no more scientific group than the National Institute of Health. I love that they’re actually looking into this and researching it. It’s quite powerful.
12:00 Another findings from the Baylor University Medical Center proceedings from 2017 found that when we are more spiritual, it tends to promote the overall quality of our wellbeing, quality of our life. There is a positive impact on coping with illness. Now, this was a scientific paper and they interviewed people, they did surveys and studies. So some of this is more tangible than others. I would say some of it’s more of a self-assessment. But what we can surmise from these different findings, as I mentioned, when we have a more solid rock that is within us, even beyond putting it into other people who can, let’s face it, they can shift and change and sometimes go away suddenly or not. So suddenly they can have illness. And I don’t say that to be bleak, but I say this to say that we need to find all of us a sanctuary within ourselves, and this is what the great ones have always taught us.
13:16 And in that way, we can feel really powerful. We don’t have to feel attached to others, although we can love them and love to share life with them and certainly benefit from being with others. We don’t have to feel distraught If something changes, a relationship ends or someone passes away, of course there’s a natural grief period. But over time we realize the truth, which is that our real power and our sanctuary can be found within us all. So to me, that’s the real power of spirituality if we don’t have some sort of spiritual practice. And I’ll speak now about deepening your practice, which was the other part of Patty’s question. Thank you again, Patty, for raising this, is that we can feel very susceptible to fear and worry, especially with the unknowns, especially with what is going on in the world currently where there’s a lot I don’t have to tell you.
14:22 There’s a lot happening in the news and a lot of it is very disheartening and sad and just tragic. And so if we don’t hold fast, keep our connection to that inner light, what can happen is that we can start to feel down. We can start to feel that darkness coming in and permeating us. And anytime we feel that downgrade, that depletion of light, it very much does affect our health and longevity. This was something that was pointed out by Dan Butner, who we speak about so often. I love his work because it was studying human populations who have the highest rates of longevity and the lowest rates of degenerative diseases. And one of the things that he showed in some of the communities he was studying, particularly the seventh Day Adventists, who are vegan by the way in Loma Linda, California, was that the faith-based community gave them purpose.
15:30 It gave them a sense of belonging. These are all really important factors in our health. If we don’t feel that we’re needed, if we don’t feel that we are an important part of society anymore or community, we start to fade away. Literally, our health starts to fade away. And this was demonstrated in the community in Italy that he studied where a through line to a lot of these centenarians was that they lived close to family and they also regularly went to church or prayer, whatever their spiritual practices were. So they had a really strong inner rich spiritual life as well. And let’s see here. So we’ll get into some more tips around this. Oh, I did want to say one last thing. This was raised at the Alzheimer’s event that I attended a few weeks ago, and I did a solo cast this week actually, around some of the research and the findings.
16:40 It was a really fascinating event, which we will link to in the show notes if you’d like to go listen to that if you haven’t yet already. And what we found was, or what they found in their research and we talked about on their behalf, was that depression and loneliness had a big impact on the brain, and there’s more research showing that it actually affects your brain health. And from there, we know that it has an effect on other organs in your body, including your immune system and so on. So everything is so interrelated and the power of spirituality is that it’s in our hands. We can choose to put aside time every day to dedicate to our spiritual practices. We don’t always get to choose what exactly happens with our bodies and different illnesses and things that we’re susceptible to, right? And that’s life.
17:37 There’s a lot of unknowns. But we can choose to light a candle, sit, pray, meditate, whatever form of worship feels good to us. Take time to do that on a regular basis and connect to the light within this week. Was Ali one of the most amazing Indian festival of light celebrations? I’ve always loved Diwali, and at our temple, which is part of the self-realization, fellowship, Yogananda’s meditation organization at service last week, there were thousands of lights everywhere, and it symbolizes from ancient times when, I won’t go into the whole story, but King Rama came back from being in the forest with his wife, SITA and his brother Lakshman, and the great servant of the Lord Numan the monkey. And they celebrated him coming out of the dark forest with thousands and thousands of lights, and it was the triumph of the light over the dark. So it’s very powerful, this acknowledgement that no matter what is happening in our lives, in our bodies, in our jobs, in the world, in the news, at work, at home, wherever, there is still the inner light always that we can count on and we can seek and we can seek nourishment from. So a practice that I like to do every day is to light a candle as I wake up.
1. How Spirituality Improves Your Mental and Physical Health and Longevity: Maintain a sense of constancy
19:13 And this symbolizes to me this constancy of connection to the inner light, which is core of spirituality. We don’t want to lose it. We don’t want to just connect to it once in a while or when we remember a couple of times a year. But there’s this constancy, I think is what will give us these health and longevity benefits as well, is keeping that alive, keeping that orientation in our life pointed towards our spiritual path, whatever that happens to be. And this will help us through stress, adversity, life challenges. And so one of the things that I would recommend Patty and all of us listening to this, is to maintain a sense of constancy. So we talk about our morning practice here quite a bit, which involves hot water with lemon and drinking, our glow and green smoothie, taking our SBO probiotics and journaling and meditation.
20:16 And I would say even if you don’t do a full meditation or practice, one of your practices, as I mentioned, can be to light that candle and to take a moment of pause to remind ourselves that there is more to life. There is more to you than just what you can see with your physical eyes. So the candle symbolizes this inner light. It symbolizes as we start our day that we will turn part of our attention and honor this inner light. No matter what’s happening in the day, we will feel that inner light and that presence and know that it’s always there and it’s always close.
2. How Spirituality Improves Your Mental and Physical Health and Longevity:Social Connection
21:00 Another thing that was mentioned in the research was the social connection aspect. So if you’re feeling lonely, if you’re feeling disconnected or you’re feeling like you want to have deeper connections, and sometimes maybe we get into a rutt or friendships or acquaintances, it can start to feel a bit surface. So I encourage you, again, whatever your personal religious or spiritual orientation is, whether that’s a Buddhist meditation temple or a church or mosque, temple, synagogue, whatever it is, it’s wonderful, wonderful to be involved in the community there. And I love being involved with the families and getting to know them when I see them every Sunday. And our older son goes to Sunday school and Moses is actually getting christened in just a few weeks. It’s a little later here because of the pandemic and so on. Whereas ee, our older bubby was christened around eight months.
22:17 So anyways, the point is feeling a connection to those in your spiritual community is so beautiful. I see the ladies that are working at the gift shop every week and in the bookstore I’ve gotten to know a lot of the monks and like to chat with them and the people that are coming. And it feels wonderful to be part of that type of community. So whatever resonates with you in any sort of aspect of it. And I will mention that sometimes we can even broaden the definition of spirituality. For some, it really is about the awe of nature. And so with this really broad definition, thinking about communities that are outdoor communities, even to be in nature and to feel that real connection with the mountains, rock climbing, camping and so on may be part of your practice as well.
3. How Spirituality Improves Your Mental and Physical Health and Longevity: Positive Emotions
23:19 And now we’ve seen that there are positive emotions that come forth from spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation, and that’s a really important part of health. One of the things that I’ll be talking about in my upcoming book, which is coming out in less than a year, feels long, but that’s how publishing goes. I’ll be speaking about it much sooner than that. But is this idea of your system getting in more sync and our emotional wellbeing and our emotional intelligence as a huge part to play in that, as Dr. Rollin McCraty spoke about in a podcast a few weeks ago when we were talking about heart coherence, two minutes of experiencing frustration or irritation can start to activate 1400 biochemical processes in your body, which will ultimately drain energy. So imagine, instead of feeling that irritation, we anchor ourselves inside and we start to feel more appreciation and gratitude and love and peace and compassion and what that does to our health is very real.
4. How Spirituality Improves Your Mental and Physical Health and Longevity: Healthier Lifestyle Choices
24:37 Another aspect of spirituality is that we tend to have deeper respect for our bodily temples. We are all guardians of our own bodies, and through spiritual practices, we start to connect more. And so we hopefully will start to adapt more healthier lifestyle options. And on the other hand, healthy lifestyle choices can help elevate our spirituality. So I’ll give you an example. The yogis have all talked about food. They’ve all talked about diet because there is a profound connection between what we’re eating and how we’re able to sit in meditation. It affects our indigestion, it affects the health of our joints, our bones, everything is really interrelated. So the yogis have always taught and traditionally a vegetarian diet for different reasons and not putting violent energy in our bodies from animals. So again, there’s many different beliefs, many different spiritual practices, but I’m just sharing one example of how we eat can help prepare our bodies, and we all know it’s easier to focus and meditate and pray when we are healthier and we feel better in our bodies and vice versa.
26:02 So I encourage you, if you’re looking to deepen your practice, going back to Patty’s question to also make it easier for your body to sit and focus. So it’s a good idea to pray and meditate, for instance, on an empty stomach, both in the evening, you can do it before dinner or a couple hours after dinner. And first thing in the morning is what I recommend. I also recommend taking your SBO Sauna probiotics every day because that helps to really balance your microbiome, which is so important for balanced emotions and balanced mental health and also stronger immunity. So we all know it’s very hard to go deeper in our practice when we’re feeling sick or we are sick and we’re constantly getting sick. So for all these reasons, we want to make sure that we’re taking care of our diets, we’re exercising, we’re moving our bodies, we’re walking, and we’re doing all of those other important lifestyle factors part of our lifestyle.
5. How Spirituality Improves Your Mental and Physical Health and Longevity: Create a sense of purpose
27:03 So it’s also really important, as I mentioned with constancy, is that we create a sense of purpose. I believe that’s beyond what our jobs are. So what I mean by that is through spirituality, it starts to get really simple. We start to see that each of us is an energetic, powerful, unique being, and just our being here has an effect on everyone around us. So our sense of purpose can be to include, to spread light and love, to spread peace, to be uplifting to those that are suffering or in darkness, and in this way, this very powerful sense of purpose, which was also spoken about in the Blue Zones as being an important factor in longevity, having a reason. There’s a Japanese term that Dan Buettner says, and I can’t think of it right now, but oh, it’s Ishi guy. I believe the reason Japanese term, the reason that I get up in the morning.
28:17 So from a spiritual perspective, we don’t want the reason that we get up just to take care of our kids because what happens when they grow up and they don’t need us as much anymore? Or what if our purpose is just to be an accountant at this company, but then one day we’re laid off? There’s levels of purpose. There’s the practical everyday ones, which you can incorporate. But when you start to connect spiritually to your purpose as being here, a force of good in the world, each of us can be a force of good, then that keeps us aligned, it keeps us motivated, it gives us incredible health and longevity because it rejuvenates our systems and keeps us in sync, keeps us in coherence between our heart, brain, and nervous system. We start to feel our usefulness on this planet is not contingent on how much money we make or what we look like or all these factors which shift and change, but rather on who we are, who we are in the world, and who we are, who we really are is this expansive wholeness, this energy on the inside.
29:29 And the more of us that connect to that energy and bring it forth in the world, the world will become more peaceful, more aligned, more unified, more healthy, more joyful, more loving. So each of us plays a really important role, and it starts with us. It starts with connecting to that spiritual part of us and bringing that forth in whatever practices feel good to us. Again, it could be organized religion, it could be in prayer and meditation. We have a whole library of meditations. Our practical enlightenment meditations are on our website to support you. Soon we will be uploading our heart aligned meditations, which we recently ran a study on and had incredible results in terms of increasing coherence, reducing stressing anxiety, and increasing peacefulness. And so we will have that up for you as well, or whatever practices resonate with you, I just encourage you to keep them regular and constant in your life, and you most certainly will deeply benefit. So thank you so much for tuning in today, and remember that we will be back here on Monday for our next interview show. Until then, please check out the show notes once again on my sauna.com. Keep your questions coming. Find me on social at underscore Kimberly Snyder. And as always, let me know how I can support you. I’m always here, I’m always listening. Sending you so much love and so much gratitude. Namaste.