What is spirituality?

Maybe you’ve heard about spirituality but aren’t really sure what it is. Well, it's different from religion, and you can practise it even if you’re not religious. Find out more about different types of spirituality and the reasons why some people decide to lead a spiritual life.

This can help if:

  • you're wondering what does spiritual mean.

  • you’re curious about the different types of spirituality.

  • you want to understand the difference between spirituality and religion

  • you’re looking for spiritual guidance without being religious.

Girl reading book in a library

What does spirituality mean?

Spirituality is something that’s talked about a lot but is often misunderstood. Many people think that spirituality and religion are the same thing, and so they bring their beliefs and prejudices about religion to discussions about spirituality. Though all religions emphasise spiritualism as being part of faith, you can be ‘spiritual’ without being religious or a member of an organised religion.

What are the different types of spirituality and spiritual practices?

Spirituality often involves looking for meaning, purpose, and a sense of interconnectedness with the universe, other people, or a higher power. Spirituality can be expressed in different practices, such as meditation and prayer. Some common spiritual practices are:

  • mindfulness

  • meditation

  • yoga

  • dance

  • creating art or music

  • being in nature

  • breathwork.

Spirituality vs religion: what’s the difference?

While they overlap there are some pretty clear ways in which religion and spirituality differ. Read our definitions below to better understand and compare the difference between spirituality and religion.


This is a specific set of organised beliefs and practices, usually shared by a community or group. Religion often includes acknowledgement of deities, gods, traditions and sacred texts.


This 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, without any set spiritual values.

Organised vs freeform spirituality

One way to understand the relationship between spirituality and religion is to imagine a game of football. The rules, referees, other players and the 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 leading a spiritual life.

You can do either spiritual or religious, or both

You may identify as being any combination of religious and spiritual, but being religious doesn’t automatically make you spiritual, or vice versa.

What is a spiritual awakening and how does it relate to spirituality?

Sometimes you might hear people say they’ve had a “spiritual awakening”. They might describe it as a profound experience after which they see the world in a whole new way. A spiritual awakening can make you feel a deep connection to something bigger than yourself, like the universe or a higher power. You might also start feeling more peaceful, intuitive, and connected to others and the environment. While they can be seen as a sign of connecting deeper to your spirituality, spiritual awakenings aren’t necessary for you to live a spiritual life.

What is spiritual health?

Just like physical and mental health, spiritual health can be an important aspect of your wellbeing but it doesn’t have to be connected to structured or organised practices. Spiritual health often means discovering what makes you truly happy and fulfilled, whether it's spending time with friends and family, helping others, or exploring things you’re passionate about. Taking care of your spiritual health can help you live a more meaningful and satisfying life.

Why do people practise spirituality?

Life can be full of ups and downs, good times and bad. Many people see spirituality as a great way to seek comfort and peace in their life. It can often be practised alongside things like yoga, which ultimately focus on stress relief and release of emotion.

Spirituality is a way of gaining perspective

Spirituality recognises that your role in life has a greater value than what you do every day. It can relieve you from dependence on material things and help you to understand your life’s greater purpose. Spirituality can also be used as a way of coping with change or uncertainty.

What can I do now?

  • Try meditation or mindfulness as a way to gain some insight into your life.

  • Read up on the history and practice of different types of spirituality.