You might think religion and spirituality often go hand in hand – and perhaps they do in some ways for some people – but they can have different effects on how we feel and act, according to research from Oregon State University.
The study says that spirituality, which may include practices such as meditation and ‘self transcendence’ – where we feel our lives part of something bigger than our physical selves – can regulate our emotions. Fair enough. Anyone with a spiritual practice is likely to feel more connected with him/herself and with the universe. But that connection doesn’t end with increased wellbeing, says the study. Spirituality can also have an impact on “the inflammatory processes underlying chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and cancer”. The researchers added: “Measures of spirituality were more strongly linked to biomarkers, including blood pressure, cardiac reactivity, immune factors, and disease progression.”
Religion – defined as an affiliation or service attendance – was “strongly associated with better health behaviour habits, including lower smoking and alcohol consumption, and greater likelihood of medical screenings”.
The results aren’t conclusive, and are open to further research, but from this study it seems that the impact of religion and/or spirituality in our lives could have a positive effect.