Time-tested guidelines for ethical living - Are spiritual people more healthy?
Research has demonstrated the many mental and physical health benefits of regular meditative practices. Research also supports the health benefits of prayer (which can also be seen as a special form of meditation). Religious and spiritual traditions encourage prayer but they differ in style and technique. Prayer has been found to result in a many health benefits including improved psychological functioning, a sense of well-being and meaning, and better stress reduction and coping.
Spirituality and religion offer an opportunity to secure and develop meaning, purpose, calling, and vocation in life. All of the religious traditions provide some answers to questions about what someone should do with their life with particular strategies for finding more meaning and purpose.
Religious and spiritual traditions provide advice about the benefits of accepting ourselves and others. Much of psychotherapy focuses on helping people accept what they cannot change and change what they can to improve the quality of their lives. The well known “serenity prayer” well articulates what traditional and secular psychotherapy both try to accomplish stating: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
The religious and spiritual wisdom traditions provide time-tested guidelines for ethical living. Living more ethically, with or without religious involvement, is likely to have psychotherapeutic benefits. The ethical principles for psychologists include most of the same ethical guidelines offered by the religious and spiritual traditions. These include respect, responsibility, integrity, competence, and concern for others. Both professional ethics codes and religious and spiritual traditions encourages people to be concerned about the welfare of others, to be honest and maintain integrity, to be respectful to everyone and to life, and so forth.
Religion and spirituality often contributes to a sense of being part of something larger than ourselves. Religion offers a way to put life in perspective and speaks to issues that occurred long before us and long after our passing. Furthermore, feeling part of something bigger than ourselves can help us better cope with the many challenges in life.
Religion and spirituality, at its best, encourages people to be forgiving, grateful, loving, kind, and compassionate. For example, research has demonstrated positive benefits of forgiveness. Forgiveness is an antidote to anger, hostility, and bitterness. Research indicates that those who tend to be grateful sleep better, are more optimistic, more energetic, and maintain better interpersonal relationships. Finally, all of the major religious traditions encourage love, kindness, and compassion, which also has mental and physical health benefits. Treating others as you wish to be treated, often referred to as the “golden rule,” is found and emphasized in all of the major religious traditions. Research indicates that volunteer activities results in mental and physical health benefits and reduces mortality risks as much as 40%. Religion provides an organizational structure to support productive community engagement that usually emphasize helping those in greatest need such as the poor and marginalized. Additionally, volunteerism can provide the volunteer with an enhanced sense of meaning, purpose, and calling which can help keep their own troubles in better perspective.
Religious and spiritual models provide followers with exemplars to imitate. The popular question, “What would Jesus Do?” is an excellent example. Religious models such as Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammad, as well as more contemporary models such as Gandhi, Mother Teresa, the Dali Lama, Martin Luther King, and even family and friends can be a template for better living. Research has indicated that observational learning is a powerful way to learn new skills and behaviors. Having role models can be a useful way to help motivate and inspire others to “go and do likewise”.
The religious and spiritual traditions emphasize the belief that life is sacred and that the divine or something sacred lives within us all. This understanding that we are all important, sacred, a “child of God” has implications for how we think about ourselves and interact with everyone. The faith communities and traditions instruct that if we are all sacred, then everyone should be treated with great respect, kindness, love, and compassion.
This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.