4 Ways A PhD Uses Spirituality To Bolster Mental Health

Spirituality and the brain: What’s the connection? We’ll admit, the neuroscience has been a bit limited (even though research has gotten closer to mapping the specific brain circuit responsible for spirituality), but Lisa Miller, Ph.D., an award-winning researcher in spirituality and psychology and the author of The Awakened Brain, is on the case. 

Specifically, she combed through MRI scans of participants who have struggled with feelings of sadness (blues) to assess whether a sense of spirituality had any effect on their mental well-being—and, frankly, the results are astounding. “People who [had] a spiritual response to suffering showed entirely different brains,” she says on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. “They showed not thinning but thickening across the regions of perception and reflection, the parietal, precuneus, and occipital [regions].” 

In other words, a sense of spirituality can have a huge impact on your brain health and mood. The question becomes: How do you incorporate spirituality into your everyday life? According to Miller, a deep sense of awareness is not tied to religion, per se—rather, the ability to connect spiritually is innate within us. “We are all born with this capacity to see into the deeper nature of life, but the muscle has been left to atrophy in the great majority of people in our country,” she says. 

Below, she offers her personal tips to flex those spiritual muscles. 

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