The benefits found from both religiosity and spirituality are numerous, and should not be ignored if they could be a good fit for you. The incorporation of religious and spiritual coping mechanisms can be an important, effective tool for health, and unlike many other aspects of a healthy lifestyle, has a very attractive price tag: free.
For that price, people have seen many benefits. Studies find that those who are rated as religious require fewer medical services, and could be adding 7 to 14 years to their lives with their religious participation. A study conducted with brain injury patients found that religious well-being (defined as a sense of connection to a higher power) was a unique predictor of life satisfaction, lower distress, and higher functionality, where public religious practice or existential well-being alone were not. Research on meditation, which is a popular spiritual practice used in many major religious, demonstrates a reduction in symptoms of anxiety, panic, and depression, as well as a reduction in perceived pain. One specific form of meditation, transcendental meditation (TM) has been found to reverse the effects of stress on neuroendocrine functioning, decrease hypertension, cholesterol, insomnia, as well as posttraumatic stress and other negative symptoms and conditions. Prayer has been found to have a positive effect on health as well, including reductions in stress and pain, though this is more difficult to qualify with research, and some believe that this may be due to the placebo effect. (Regardless, there is a connection between prayer and wellness that should not be ignored, particularly if you experience it as helpful.) Many people, including those in the medical profession, use spirituality and religion to bring about healing, relieve stress, or ease physical or emotional pain.
How can you use spirituality or religion to build resilience and find better ways to cope with stress? The following resources can help.
Spirituality and Stress Resources:
- Spiritual Stress Relief
- Spirituality and Mental Health
- POLL: Do spirituality or religion help you to cope with stress?
Bryant-Davis, Thema; Ellis, Monica; Burke-Maynard, Elizabeth; Moon, Nathan; Counts, Pamela & Anderson, Gera. (August 2012). Religiousity, spirituality, and trauma recovery in the lives of children and adolescents. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Vol 43(4).
Clements, Andrea D. & Ermakova, Anna V. (May, 2012). Surrender to God and stress: A possible link between religiosity and health. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Vol 4(2).
Freeman, L. W. (2009). Mosby's complementary and alternative medicine. (3 ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby.
Koenig, H.G. (2000). Religion, spirituality, and medicine: Application to clinical practice. JAMA, 284:1708.
Koenig H.G. et al. (1999). Does religious attendance prolong survival? Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. (5(2): 131.
Waldron-Perrine, Brigid; Rapport, Lisa J.; Hanks, Robin A.; Lumley, Mark; Meachen, Sarah-Jane, & Hubbarth, Paul. (May, 2011). Religion and spirituality in rehabilitation outcomes among individuals with traumatic brain injury. Rehabilitation Psychology, Vol 56(2).