Practicing Seeking

The Science Behind Spirituality

Spirituality, in its simplest form, is a belief or connection to something greater than us.

For a long-time spirituality was synonymous with religion. To be spiritual meant to be guided by the beliefs, practices, and teachings of a particular religious framework. But now, in our more secular society, to be spiritual has acquired new meanings.

People in the West are increasingly leaving organized religions and moving towards a kind of non-religious spirituality. Approximately 1 in 5 Americans identify as ‘spiritual but not religious; they reject the political views or dogmatic restraints of organized religion but maintain a belief in some sort of greater meaning, higher power, and the experience of transcendent emotions. Think meditation, yoga, gratitude journaling, manifestations, affirmations, and raising vibrations. It’s a personal ‘inner search’ for answers to the ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions in life.

Related: “The Return of Intuition (and How to Use Yours)”

You probably have a clear picture in your head of this kind of ‘spiritual’ being, and it’s likely a stereotype: the baggy-pants, juice-cleansed, and a-morning-routine-that-starts-at-5AM type. Like anything new and different, it’s met with a lot of resistance. It’s seen as an antithesis to modern science: it can’t be proven, so why are people bothering with it?

But what if this modern kind of spirituality isn’t on the opposite end of the scale to modern science? Let’s take two spiritual beliefs, The Law of Attraction and The Law of Vibration. These principles are the basis behind practices such as setting affirmations and journaling, they form part of many people’s meditations, and can be the motivation for healthy eating and exercise.

I’m going to tell you the factual side of two prominent spiritual “laws” which you probably didn’t think existed.

The Law of Attraction 

The Law of Attraction is the idea that we can invite what we desire into our lives by focusing on it.

When you simplify it into a sentence, admittedly, it does sound completely ridiculous. There’s no way that you can just think things, and they’ll magically appear. Otherwise, I’d be traveling around the world in immaculate outfits right now.

But there is medical evidence around the idea that if you focus your attention and energy on a clear “mental picture” of what you want, you’re more likely to get it. Scientists working at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at the Institute of Neurology in London have discovered that people who visualize their desired future are more likely to be able to bring that future into existence. Furthermore, one researcher at the University of Exeter found that people who consistently tell themselves they can meet a goal are more likely to achieve it.

The brain regions involved in setting ‘intentions’ are connected to the regions involved in ‘action,’ so by firing up the ‘intention’ regions, you start to provoke the ‘action’ regions. Also, when you direct your attention towards a feeling it can heighten that feeling. For example, if we direct our attention towards pain that pain feels worse, and if we divert our attention away from the pain it decreases.

Therefore, it isn’t just thinking about what we want, but visualizing what we intend to do and attending to the feelings behind it; that attracts what we desire. If you can picture yourself achieving something, then you are breaking past self-imposed limitations, and are more likely to have the confidence and motivation to make it happen.

Related: “Does Kindness Create Happiness?”

The Law of Vibrations 

The Law of Vibrations starts from the scientific principle that humans only perceive the reality that we are vibrationally compatible with. For example, we only hear sound waves that are between 20 and 20,000 vibrations per second, even though we know that other sound waves exist.

Following on from this principle, the Law of Vibrations suggests that changing the way we think, feel, speak and act can change our ‘vibrational energy’, and therefore, we can bring new things into our perception and alter the world around us. It’s essentially about being a person who ‘vibrates on a higher frequency’ and therefore attracts or induces, other positive people and things.

I know it sounds very wishy-washy, which explains its repeated dismissal as ‘pseudo-science.’ Additionally, the whole ‘you can only be positive’ thing is problematic and can lead to a toxic idea that bad things are your own fault. There is, however, some evidence around the basic principle that if you put positivity out into the world, that positivity will spread.

The most prominent evidence for this comes from ‘mirror neurons’ in the human brain. When we observe someone doing something, the same pattern of brain activation is mirrored in our brains, even when we aren’t doing the same action. This is how fear and anxiety spread so easily. Equally, when someone recognizes our positivity, their brain mirrors it, which encourages them to act positively towards us.

I don’t personally believe that you’re only allowed to ‘spread positivity’ towards others – sometimes you have to vent. But I do agree that assessing the effect you have on the energy of others is never a bad thing; why shouldn’t we at least try to make others happy and spread good thoughts when we can?

In conclusion, I’m not telling you to light some incense, manifest your dreams, and they’ll be there tomorrow (although that would be amazing!), but I am telling you that these so-called ‘laws’ of attraction and vibration make more sense than you may have first thought.

-Heather Grant

Photo: Bigstock images

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