Even from a scientific point of view, spirituality is not a waste of time. We now know that people who cultivate spirituality, either through spiritual or religious practices, tend to be happier and react to life’s events more positively.

Spirituality helps you:

  • Acknowledge that health and wellbeing are holistic and that all elements of your being are deeply interconnected
  • Become aware of your own psychic/mental energy and its movements, and make the unconscious more conscious
  • Choose to see the world in a way that benefits others as well as yourself; choose the most positive, most useful outlook/attitude

Spirituality: definition

Before we dive in, let’s make it clear: the word “spirituality” itself has as many meanings as its interpretations.

In other words, there isn’t a standard, objective definition of spirituality, especially since spirituality and religion aren’t necessarily synonyms.

All religions are, or at least should be, based on spiritual discovery and beliefs; however, not all spiritual people are religious.

For example, I don’t identify with any religion or doctrine in particular, yet I am into spirituality and spiritual practices e.g. meditation.

So… what is spirituality, then? I like Google’s definition (from Oxford Languages) as it’s very broad yet precise. Here it is:

Notice how spirituality is defined as “the quality of being concerned with” rather than a cult, religion, or set of doctrines.

Also notice how the objective/purpose of spirituality is referred to as something that goes beyond “material or physical things”.

In this sense, disciplines like psychology and philosophy are actually linked to spirituality; some psychological theories reflect spiritual ones, and vice versa.

Thoughts, psyche, inner demons… these certainly don’t belong to the material world, yet they influence our behavior. And then there’s transpersonal psychology, which takes it even further.

The truth is, the spiritual experience is always subjective, and I personally encourage anyone who’s into spirituality to find their own meaning and definition.

Is spirituality nonsense?

No, spirituality is not nonsense. I feel there are quite a lot of misconceptions about the spiritual world out there, for two main reasons:

  • Religious fanaticism and the idea that all forms of spirituality eventually lead to some kind of dangerous cult or extremism
  • The idea that all spiritual practices are either businesses built on people’s naivety or ways to manipulate/control the masses

Yes, there have been religious wars; yes, there are fake gurus out there. However, these things have nothing to do with spirituality — in fact, they’re the complete opposite.

Throughout history, some people/organizations have given spirituality a bad name… but isn’t that true for pretty much anything else, when money or power are involved?

For every fake guru out there, there are hundreds of real spiritual teachers who make the world a better place.

For every religious extremism, there are hundreds of spiritual theories that dig deep into the human psyche, human behavior, and the universe itself.

Is spirituality a delusion?

Spirituality should never be an excuse to do nothing and expect some higher entity to do things for you, or not live to the fullest because there will be an afterlife.

Some refer to spirituality as a “delusion” because they imagine the only way one could ever be spiritual is if one were dissatisfied with the real world and felt the need to create an imaginary one.

Again, that’s not what spirituality is about. Spirituality isn’t a psychiatric disorder. Nor is it a way to passively accept everything, or worse, pretend the material world isn’t important.

The spiritual person explores the spiritual world to get to know the material world, and vice versa; and cultivates not just the spirit, but body and mind too.

As for the statement that “spiritual things cannot be proven”, that’s only partly true. If spiritual things exist beyond anything that’s tangible, then naturally it’s going to be very hard to prove spirituality scientifically.

Just like it would be very hard to demonstrate love and empathy with mathematical formulae, or explain math with feelings and emotions. Does it make sense?

The spiritual and the material world are interconnected, but one doesn’t necessarily prove or reveal the other. I doubt spirituality could ever be explained logically, and it’s probably a good thing.

Why spirituality isn’t a waste of time

1. Spirituality changes your life

Seriously, the data is out there. Science and spirituality don’t always coexist, yet thanks to scientific studies we now know that spiritual people do tend to be happier.

Also, it turns out that pretty much all spiritual practices — from fasting, to meditation, to journaling — can have profound effects on your wellbeing, mentally but also physically.

Ancient cultures may have cultivated spirituality and spiritual practices intuitively, but recent scientific research confirms that such practices can indeed change your life.

2. Spirituality helps you look within

To meditate, fast, pray, or engage in any other spiritual practice, you first need to hit the pause button and reach a state of conscious, deliberate relaxation.

Yet during e.g. meditation, you don’t exactly do nothing. You look within, you learn to pay attention to your own thought patterns and feelings and to how they are interconnected.

It’s a bit like being your own therapist. You get in touch with parts of your mind you wouldn’t normally have access to, and turn unconscious automatisms into conscious choices. That’s powerful.

3. Health isn’t just mental or physical

“Religion, medicine, and healthcare have been related in one way or another (…) since the beginning of recorded history. Only in recent times have these systems of healing been separated (…).”

That’s taken from the introduction of the happiness study linked in point 1. I find this to be a key fact because we often take for granted that mental and physical illnesses should be treated separately.

In reality, true health can only be holistic and embrace all elements of our wellbeing. Aim to treat only one or two of the elements and the result will be some type of imbalance.

4. Truth is never absolute

Choose the truth that makes you happy and that feels right. I get it: for most of us it’s hard to imagine different types of truth, let alone truth that’s based on feelings rather than cold hard facts.

Yet as long as you use common sense and respect others, it’s probably the best approach. At the end of the day, does it really matter that spirit isn’t as “real” as gross matter?

Everything is real; everything exists. So rather than trying to determine the most objective reality, why not focus on the one that makes us happier and more fulfilled (and makes the world a better place)?