Spirituality is such a broad term and one which is hard to define. In a general sense, it refers to having a belief and or/ connection to something we view as bigger than ourselves. Often this may include a search for the meaning of life or ways to grow and become better people.
Whatever our creed or belief we have probably all had brushes with spirituality at some point or another and will have entirely different perspectives on the matter. This innate desire to make meaning is unique to humans as a species and is truly fascinating.
It begs the question why humans have this deep need for a spiritual life, and how it affects us.
Scientists have also asked this question and have had some interesting findings.
Spirituality/ Religion and Well- being:
A number of studies have found a connection between religion and subjective well-being. A study conducted by Ellison (1991) found that those with a strong religious belief reported higher happiness and life satisfaction levels. Many studies have replicated these findings and found that religious people tend to be happier.
Dr. Edward Diener proposes that the explanation for this is “positive spirituality”. This includes a range of emotions including wonder, respect, gratitude and love. He argues that when we experience these emotions we feel connected to others and have a “higher purpose”. This can reduce stress levels and prevent us from worrying about day-to-day issues.
Organised religion or involvement in a spiritual group has other benefits for the individual. It provides an automatic social network which is often supportive of its members. Being involved in a religious/ spiritual organisation can help stave off loneliness. Many church groups also organise social events or have religious holidays throughout the year, this provides social structure and engagement to many who may otherwise be isolated.
Some psychologists also argue that a belief system which provides support for an afterlife prevents us from fearing death. This acceptance may lead to greater overall well-being.
Some studies have had conflicting findings however. One recent study has linked belief in a “punitive God” i.e. one who punishes, to certain mental disorders such as social anxiety and paranoia. It is not clear what the take-away finding of the study is, but it has been proposed that those with emotional problems may be more distressed by the idea of a negative higher power. It seems that our perspective on God really has an effect.
Benefits of Prayer
Taking time to reflect can have many benefits. Research has found that those who pray are less likely to suffer the negative physical effect associated with stress. Interestingly, benefits were more evident when people are praying for others.
Getting in touch with one’s inner self and taking time to invest in ourselves spiritually and mentally reaps a range of psychological rewards.
Some form of meditation or prayer would appear to give us relief from stress and improve well-being. In addition, incorporating gratitude, forgiveness and spirituality into our lives is of massive benefit to our mental health. There would also appear to be benefits to the community aspect of spirituality. A level of spirituality allows us to feel connected to others and may even provide a social outlet. This leads to a question of why spirituality helps. It may be evolution or we may have been created with this spirituality to seek a real Spirit. Exploring this question is a journey we encourage everyone to explore.
Spirit Room Team
Ellison, C. G. (1991). Religious involvement and subjective well-being.Journal of health and social behavior, 80-99.
Kahneman, D., Diener, E., & Schwarz, N. (1999). Well-being. The foundations of hedonic psychology.
McBride, J. L., Arthur, G., Brooks, R., & Pilkington, L. (1998). The relationship between a patient's spirituality and health experiences. FAMILY MEDICINE-KANSAS CITY-, 30, 122-126.