What Is Spirituality?


Spirituality refers to a person’s internal state, beliefs, values, and relationships with self and others, as well as their inner sense of peace. People’s spirituality may be influenced by religion, culture, and other experiences. It can also be viewed in different ways during various life experiences, such as illness or death.

Many misconceptions surround the definition of spirituality and its relationship with religiosity. A lack of agreement on a definition complicates research and practice, as well as the assessment and care of spiritual issues. Often, spirituality and religiosity are used interchangeably, but one can be religious without being considered spiritual (Lemmer, 2010).

Some definitions of spirituality are cognitive or philosophic in nature, while others are experiential or emotional. Still, other definitions are behavioral in nature. For example, some forms of yoga are a way for people to experience spirituality by purifying the mind and soul; becoming one with the universe; and being the true self. Other examples of behavioral spirituality are Christian mysticism and Daoism/Taoism.

The underlying principles of all these traditions are very similar, although the focus varies. For instance, in Christianity, it is about a relationship with God, while in Buddhism, achieving the cessation of suffering (enlightenment or nirvana) is the main goal. A more general definition of spirituality might include the concept that a higher power exists, and that all people are connected to this power. These concepts can be useful in helping patients and clinicians better understand spirituality, and the ways that it can impact a patient’s overall wellness.