People who have more daily spiritual experiences are happier, research finds.
These regular experiences also help reduce the effects of stress.
It may be partly because spirituality promotes a greater sense of oneness and connectedness with the rest of the universe.
Spiritual experiences include both those related to God and transcendent feelings not linked to God.
For example, some people in the study agreed with the statement:
- “I feel God’s love for me directly or through others.”
Whereas, others endorsed a statement such as:
- “I feel a deep inner peace or harmony.”
The study tracked people’s moment-by-moment spiritual experiences like these through their phones over two weeks.
Dr Matt Bradshaw, study co-author, said:
“This study is unique because it examines daily spiritual experiences—such as feeling God’s presence, finding strength in religion or spirituality, and feeling inner peace and harmony—as both stable traits and as states that fluctuate.”
The study included 2,795 people who also answered questions which accessed positive and negative emotions.
Dr Bradshaw explained that…
“…these findings suggest that stable, consistent spiritual experiences as well as short-term periodic ones both serve as resources to promote human flourishing and help individuals cope with stressful conditions.”
Stressful events were also taken into account, explained Dr Blake Victor Kent, the study’s first author:
“The findings indicate, as you would expect, that the wear and tear of daily stressors are associated with increased depressive symptoms and lower levels of flourishing.
What this study really contributes is that daily spiritual experiences play an important role as well.
Essentially, if you take two people who have equal levels of stress, the one with more spiritual experiences will be less likely to report depressive symptoms and more likely to indicate feelings of flourishing.
That’s a comparison between two people.
But what about one person?
The unique thing about this study is we are able to show that when someone’s spiritual experiences vary day to day, the ‘above average’ days of spiritual experience are associated with better mental well-being than the ‘below average’ days.”
Previous studies have found that people who are more spiritual have better mental health.
Spiritual people feel a greater connection with the rest of the universe.
Being spiritual may boost people’s mental health because it reduces self-centredness.
The study was published in the The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion (Kent et al., 2020).