Is there a faith and health connection?
I don’t, pun intended, put a lot of faith in religious beliefs.
I like to think I’m more spiritual than adhering to simply one religious dogma. Yet I am fascinated by the pageantry and traditions of religions. I am also always a bit envious of people who seem to have a peace that comes from their beliefs.
People worldwide observe and celebrate the holidays and traditions of their respective faiths. The question must be asked if their state of happiness is affected by what they believe. Does religion make you happier? Or does it simply amplify what you already have?
Religion has two important things going for it. The first is a sense of community with others who share the same belief system . Out of this community comes a social connection that can be helpful and supportive in many ways. It is a positive sense of belonging we all seem to look for in our lives.
Dr. Edward Diener, a psychologist who has studied healthy lifestyles and happiness in various cultures, believes that those who have a belief system are healthier as well as happier. He may be right.
The second component of a strongly held belief is a firm conviction that you’re not alone in life. The idea that there is a loving, caring God to whom you can go for guidance, coupled with the belief that life doesn’t end after death, is comforting. This can add to your state of well-being. It can create personal happiness, successful living, and individual growth
Religion can be good for you.
If you look at people who truly believe in their faith and a benevolent God, you will find those who see themselves as worthy of a good life. God loves them, what could be better than that? They generally attract like-minded individuals into their lives because that is what they are subconsciously looking for. They don’t allow themselves to be made to feel less than what they know they are worth. Their religion confirms who they are and what they achieve in life. Happiness is a by-product of faith.
But, cautions my friend and fellow writer, Rabbi Ben Elias, religion can also be bad for you.
“If you had a religious experience that made you feel miserable and fearful then religion affects your health in adverse ways. You can’t feel a strong connection to a punishing God.”
This statement is seconded by Bill Taylor, an Episcopal priest and friend, who adds,
“Religious experience is everything. While religion doesn’t guarantee you’ll be healthy and happy, a good one can be a catalyst that ups the odds for a positive life; a bad one has little value. ”
Believing in a higher power does seem to be a happiness factor for many people.
We seem to go on spiritual searches to find the right match for our needs. Perhaps that is why some people are willing to change beliefs. We are looking for a feeling of belonging and peace that is comforting as well as comfortable.
Can you be healthy and happy even if you’re not religious? Yes. As Bill Taylor said, religion doesn’t guarantee either. A healthy lifestyle is created from both inside and outside forces in your life. Successfully combining both is the key.
Maybe religion doesn’t make you live a healthy life but perhaps it does enhance what you already do have. The connection seems to affirm this.
Read more from Kristen Houghton on her website