What is spirituality?

Not sure what spirituality is? Well firstly, it's different to religion. Read on to find out about the types of spirituality that exist and the reasons why some people decide to live spiritual lives.

This might help if:

  • You’re experiencing discrimination
  • You want to gain a better understanding of spirituality
  • You want to know more about what spirituality is
girl facing the sun

What is spirituality? 

Spirituality is something that’s often debated and commonly misunderstood. Many people confuse spirituality with religion and so bring pre-existing beliefs about the impact of religion to discussions about spirituality. Though all religions emphasise spirituality as being an important part of faith, it's possible to be ‘spiritual’ without necessarily being a part of an organised religious community.

What’s the difference between religion and spirituality?

Spirituality and religion can be hard to tell apart but there are some pretty defined differences between the two:

  • Religion is a specific set of organised beliefs and practices, usually shared by a community or group.
  • Spirituality is more of an individual practice and has to do with having a sense of peace and purpose. It also relates to the process of developing beliefs around the meaning of life and connection with others.
One way that might help you to understand the relationship between spirituality and religion is imagine a game of football. The rules, referees, other players, and field markings help guide you as you play the game in a similar way that religion might guide you to find your spirituality.

Kicking the ball around a park, without having to play on the field or with all the rules and regulations, can also give you fulfilment and fun and still expresses the essence of the game, similar to spirituality in life.

People may identify as being any combination of religious and spiritual, but to be religious does not automatically make you spiritual or vice-versa.

What types of spirituality are there?

Mystical spirituality is based around a desire to move beyond the material world, beyond the senses, ego and even beyond time. This approach centres on personal relationships and a sense of unity with all things.

Authoritarian spirituality is a particularly strong form of spirituality based around a need for definition and rules. This type of spirituality is particularly common in specific religious practices.

Intellectual spirituality focuses on building knowledge and understanding of spirituality through analysing history and spiritual theories. This approach can be found in the study of religion, also known as theology.

Service spirituality is a common form of spirituality in many religious faiths. This is predominantly built around serving others as a form of spiritual expression.

Social spirituality is often practiced by people who experience a spiritual feeling in the company of others. Social support is often seen as one of the important aspects of spirituality in general.

Why do people practice spirituality?

Many people see spirituality as a great way of seeking solace and peace in their life. It can often be practiced alongside things like yoga, which ultimately focus on stress relief and release of emotion.

Spirituality is also used as a way of gaining perspective, recognising that our role in life has a greater value than just what we do every day. It can separate a person from dependence on material things and establish a greater purpose. Some people also see spirituality as a way of coping with change or uncertainty.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 04 September, 2015
Did you find this article helpful?

You have already rated this article

Add a comment

Read the commenting guidelines: keep ReachOut.com safe and respectful


  • Ben-RO    (8 days ago)

    Hi CMarz this article was created on 6/18/2012

  • CMarz    (12 days ago)

    Hello. I too would like to reference your article. Could you please tell me the year this was published?posted?Many thanks

  • bighip    (313 days ago)

    Could you please drop the authors name in a comment? as I have looked over the page a couple of time but must be missing it lol thanks again

View more