When times are tough or illness strikes, it can be difficult to keep your spirits up. But research now shows that, no matter what your religious affiliations are, having strong spiritual beliefs can strengthen your mental health.
When University of Missouri (MU) researchers analyzed surveys of Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Catholics and Protestants, they found that a high level of spirituality was related to better mental health.
“Our prior research shows that the mental health of people recovering from different medical conditions, such as cancer, stroke, spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury, appears to be related significantly to positive spiritual beliefs and especially congregational support and spiritual interventions,” observes Dan Cohen, professor of religious studies at MU and one of the co-authors of the study.
“In many ways, the results of our study support the idea that spirituality functions as a personality trait,” says Cohen. “With increased spirituality people reduce their sense of self and feel a greater sense of oneness and connectedness with the rest of the universe. What was interesting was that frequency of participation in religious activities or the perceived degree of congregational support was not found to be significant in the relationships between personality, spirituality, religion and health.”