A growing body of psychological science is suggesting that religious people are happier, healthier, and recover better after traumas than nonreligious people. Two reasons were found to underlie the benefit of religion on adjustment: Those active in their churches reported greater social support (perhaps through the church itself) and were able to find some meaning, however elusive.

 

Other studies have shown that relative to nonreligious folks, those active in their religions live longer with a variety of diseases and are healthier in general. The trouble is that we don’t really know why. One seemingly obvious reason could be that religious people are more likely to practice healthy behaviors. Religious people smoke and drink less than their less religious peers. Indeed, some studies show that religious involvement is related to reduced risk of crime, delinquency, and marital conflict.

 

This potentially explains the finding that religious people are physically healthier, but what about the fact that they’re happier, more satisfied with their lives, and cope better with crises? The social support and sense of identity provided be belonging to a close-knit religious organization could be the operative mechanisms. Members share not only the basic assumptions and beliefs inherent in their religion but important political and social values.

 

Even beyond negative or traumatic life events-when our days are merely ordinary-religion and spirituality undoubtedly help us find meaning in life. Spirituality is defined as a “search for the sacred”-that is, a search for meaning in life through something that is larger than the individual self (“self-transcendence” is a good label). Religion also involves a spiritual search, but this search usually takes place in a formal, institutional context. Spirituality offers something for those of us who are not, or do not want to be, affiliated with any formal religious institution. Instead of attending church or temple, we can work at searching for the sacred in many different ways-through meditation, prayer, or by instilling a spiritual dimension into our lives.

 

Practicing Religion and Spirituality

 

Seek Meaning and Purpose

 

  1. Life is more meaningful when you are pursuing goals that are harmonious and within reach
  2. Greater meaning comes from having a coherent “life scheme” Sit back and write your own life story.
  3. Creativity –in the arts, humanities, and sciences and even in self-discovery-can impart a sense of meaning to many people’s lives.
  4. For many, there is sometimes powerful meaning in anguish and trauma
  5. At the heart of religion and spirituality are strong emotional experiences, like the comfort you feel at a religious service or the awe and wonder you feel when in the presence of the mystery and majesty of the divine or when confronted with the intensity of love, the immensity of the universe, or scenes of exquisite natural beauty.
  6. In a sense, faith provides the answer to the “big” questions: Who am I? What is my life for?

 

Pray

 

A universal way to practice religion and spirituality is through prayer. Indeed, almost seven out of ten Americans report praying every single day, and only 6 percent report never praying. The following ideas are how to make prayer a bigger part of life.

 

Find the sacred in ordinary life

 

Develop an ability to see holiness in everyday things, both beautiful and plain. A meal can be holy, and so can a child’s laugh or new snowfall. Sanctifying day to day objects, experiences, and struggles takes great deal of practice, but it’s at the heart of spirituality.

 

  1. Psychological science suggests:

a)      Non religious people know more about science

b)      People who often get angry live longer

c)      Religious people are happier in general

d)      Chocolate makes you fall in love

 

  1. Why are religious people often healthier than non-religious people?

 

  1. Some possible reasons religious people are happier and healthier than others may be:

a)      they smoke and drink less

b)      social support from their religious community

c)      shared political and social identity

d)      all of the above

 

  1. A “search for the sacred” means                                                                        .

 

  1. What do you think “institutional context” means when discussing religion?

 

  1. How would you describe the difference between spirituality and religion?

 

  1. If you were to “sit back and write your own life story,” what event, or person, would you start with? Why?

 

  1. What creative activity gives you a sense of meaning and purpose? Drawing? Music? Carpentry? Explain

 

  1. How many Americans report that they pray? What percent say they never pray? What does that tell you?

 

  1. How do you imagine one would “find the sacred in ordinary life?” For instance, a meal, a walk in the forest, a chance meeting, talking with a person? Describe a time in your life you think you have experienced the “sacred in ordinary life.”