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There is much value in having a strong spiritual practice.  According to this article, it would suggest that religion’s power can be found in connection.  If we are connected to others socially and connected to G-d, a person will likely have a more positive outlook.  It is interesting that the author doesn’t title this piece, Grow Your Religious Muscle…  The article focuses in on formal practice and ritual and conflates religion and spirituality.  Religion and spirituality can be mutually exclusive.  And both can also be detrimental if left unchecked.  Religion often becomes stale for people over time, especially when the sense of spirituality gets lost to rote practice.  Another element missing is that while greater well-being often occurs when religion and spirituality are brought into people’s lives, there is a need for guidance to help the person along a path of growth.  It is quite difficult to grow on one’s own without being pointed in the right direction.

An often highly contentious topic of conversation is religion. Religious beliefs are deeply rooted and hard held convictions for many people. Because these beliefs can be so firm, it may lead to strong animosity and conflict when opposing extremes meet.

Many people are skeptical and question whether religion does more harm than good because of this acrimony.

Despite the controversy, religion and its benefits aren’t something to be mocked or disparaged.

In the bigger picture, religious teachings lead to tremendous value, and promote positive concepts, such as generosity, love, forgiveness, and hope.

In fact, studies have found some very important benefits of religion to well-being.

When you explore your overall health, do you consider spirituality as a core aspect? If this is something you have been overlooking, this may be a valuable area of growth for emotional, physical, and relational health.

Here are a few ways that religion can bolster positivity in everyday life.

1. Religion brings people together and builds social resources. The social support and connection of a congregation can provide support to cope during difficult times and can bring a sense of joy when interacting during favorable times. It can help people feel accepted and a part of a unified community, where there are like-minded people on a similar journey and following the same traditions.

2. Religion and spirituality can connect people to something greater than themselves. If we are to be engaged in a meaningful life it helps to have a purpose beyond our humble existence. Having a spiritual relationship can give people a sense of greater significance and allow them the opportunity to rally behind a generous and noble cause.

3. Spirituality and religious affiliations can lead to increases in positive emotions. There are many aspects of a spiritual life that enhance positive emotions. For instance, people may be more likely to pray and meditate, engage in charity work, and live an overall healthier lifestyle. These type of activities can lead to spiritual feelings of gratitude, compassion, peace, and hope. The Fruits of the Spirit provide a wonderful example of these positive states.

I am not someone who grew up in a home environment extolling religion. I was introduced to it early in life, though it took me awhile to recognize the purpose and value.

Through practicing meditation and prayer, worshiping at churches, and paying attention to divine interactions in my life, I was able to recognize and connect with the overall message of living a good life. A life that is moral and humble, a life focused on acceptance and connections, and simply a life of love, compassion, and gratitude are what spiritual growth can offer.

Photo credit: Peter Friederich

Reference:

Diener, E., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2008). Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth. Malden, MA. Blackwell Publishing.

Joe Wilner is a life coach, educator, and writer who helps inspire and empower people to find their purpose and meaning. He has a Masters Degree in Psychology and a Masters in Liberal Arts, with a concentration in Management and Leadership. He is a certified meditation instructor through the American Institute of Health Care Professionals (AIHC) and a certified life coach with Compass Global Group. He is a member of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA), and provides training and coaching to assist people in stress and anxiety reduction, and to help them enhance positive emotional experiences.

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