Spirituality affects feeling and religion regulates behaviour, says academic study

Spirituality regulates our emotions, while religion affects our habits.

Spirituality regulates our emotions, while religion affects our habits.

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.

Related article:

Can spirituality make you more resilient to depression?

Why gratitude can improve our sense of self-worth

thank you

Gratitude can boost a sense of self-worth. (Pic: istockphoto.com/anyaberkut)

Never underestimate the power of thank-you. Gratitude bestows the giver and receiver with a sense of self-worth that is totally missing when a thank-you is absent or forgotten. This has been proven in research carried out by Francesca Gino from Harvard Business School. She discusses her findings in an article on the Harvard Gazette on The Power of Thanks.

Her psychology experiment showed that receiving an acknowledgement of feedback without gratitude produced a 25% level of self-worth among the receivers. However, 55% of the test group that received a thank-you alongside the feedback felt higher levels of self-worth. And more than double those who were thanked were likely to help the person out in the future (66% versus 32% who didn’t get a thank-you).

She says she hates to miss an opportunity to thank-you, as it is always worth the effort. “Receiving expressions of gratitude makes us feel a heightened sense of self-worth, and that in turn triggers other helpful behaviors toward both the person we are helping and other people, too.”

Other articles I like on the subject of gratitude are The transformative power of gratitude on Psychology Today and How gratitude can change your life on The Change Blog. They’re full of tips on how to make gratitude a welcome, mindful and compassionate part of your life.

A simple tip is to keep a ‘gratitude book’. Write 10 things you’re grateful for every evening and spot what a difference it can make to your wellbeing.

Be mindful to stress less and sleep better

Mindfulness can benefit you day and night. (pic: istockphoto.com/2Mmedia)

Mindfulness can benefit you day and night. (pic: istockphoto.com/2Mmedia)

Mindfulness can have benefits during the night as well as the day, bringing peace of mind and more restful sleep, according to new research from the University of Utah.

People who describe themselves as mindful were proven to have more control over their mood and behaviour in daylight hours. And because their minds were quieter and their emotions more stable during the day, this translated into better sleep at night-time and an increased ability to manage stress.

People who took part in the research were prompted at various points of their everyday lives to “rate their emotional state and mental functioning”. The results suggest that “mindfulness may be linked to self-regulation throughout the day, and that this many be an important way that mindfulness contributes to better emotional and physical wellbeing”.

You don’t need to be trained in mindfulness meditation to reap the benefits of being mindful. Just check in with yourself at various points of the day to give you a chance to become conscious of how you’re feeling, and turn the volume up or down on your emotions.