Today we have evidence-based research and imaging technology that show the effects of spiritual engagement on the brain, mind, and body. In scans and data we can now see the difference in brain structure and function in people for whom spirituality is the lead foot in life versus those for whom spirituality is not a strong presence. For example, in the spiritually attuned person we see flourishing, healthy, thick portions of the brain right where, in the case of depression, for instance, we would have expected to see the thinner brain. Also, in the face of stressful events, a strong personal spirituality regulates our levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, which if disregulated or at sustained high levels wears on brain and body and slows growth in children.
This interconnectivity is precisely what we see in studies that show that spirituality has a clear impact on our mental health and thriving. From the perspective of mental health and wellness, spirituality is associated with significantly lower rates of depression, substance use and abuse, and risk taking. This includes sexual risk taking in young adults and exposure to STDs, along with thrill seeking, driving fast, and physical endangerment, especially in boys. No other preventive factor known to science and medicine has such a broad-reaching and powerful influence on the daily decisions that make or break health and wellness.
From “The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving” By Lisa Miller, PhD