Science has long observed significant links between religion and spirituality and well-being. There seems to be a correlation with ones depth and comfort in spiritual or religious practices and their overall health. Empirical studies have shown this to be the case time and again, yet we do not know the exact reasons for these associations. The use of global indices to measure religiosity and spirituality (such as frequency of church attendance, or self-rated religiousness), has repeatedly proven that a correlation exists.
Faith and spirituality can be enormously advantageous for many reasons. We seem to be geared as a species to thrive under the passion and purpose that often accompanies a faith journey. Why is this the case? Why does practicing religion (or engaging in spiritual practices of whatever sort) enrich and inspire us in ways that are so powerful, so unique, and indispensable for the large majority of the worlds inhabitants?
If you are anything like me you have an inner voice that is immutable but often softly spoken. I’m talking about that place where your gut gets its information. The deepest part of your-self that knows innately how you feel before your brain catches up. You know what I’m talking about. The little piece of you that if betrayed begins a torrent of negative emotions to flow forth because it knows that something is amiss (and is hell-bent on correcting it).
As human beings we are extremely well equipped in choosing the right path. We each have a dual edged approach at decision making that comes standard with each new model. Usually though, we neglect to acknowledge both equally. Giving equal value to each is imperative. When this dual-edged approach is acknowledged, understood, and utilized we suffer less as we meander along this organic foot-path called life. Approaching from both sides allows us to hone in more accurately on the exact choice that is right for us. It allows us to step sure-footedly with confidence assured that we won’t feel any negative emotions such as regret, remorse, and pain. When we choose correctly there is no suffering of any kind.
You may already have guessed what two processes I am alluding to; the marvelous harbinger of cognition ‘The Brain’ and the depth of emotion that flows from ‘The Heart’. When these two are in agreement you can be sure that each choice will be both sound and reasonable and won’t disappoint. This brings me to the very point I am trying to make; that religious and spiritual practices often bring attention to the importance of both rather than leaning towards one or the other. A faith journey can be seen, not only as a path toward something, but a path into something. Wether we are reading scripture, partaking in traditions of old, or simply meditating on the beauty and depth in nature, we can deepen our understanding of our-selves. If your feeling nature has as equal footing with that reasoning mass between your ears it’s a sure-fire way to start making decisions that are more fulfilling and in alignment with your true nature.
Maybe this is the reason that there is a correlation between religiosity, spirituality, and health. Could it be that self-understanding is gained through practicing a system of beliefs? If it allows us to make better choices and avoid the ill effects and stress of self-betrayal than the short answer is yes. Which brings me back to the little voice within that represents your feeling nature; if you don’t listen and be honest with yourself (even if we’re talking about religion or race or politics or whatever), you will never be truly happy…or healthy for that matter.
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