Some of us like to go to church. Some of us to temple. Or perhaps a mosque. And some of us find our religion on the baseball field or in a yoga studio.
It doesn't really matter how you choose to define your practice of religion, but it may matter if you choose it at all.
Research has been done to examine our health and risk factors for our health in relationship to our religious and spiritual practices. Turns out that those of us who identify as being spiritual may be better off.
In a study published just last week in Journal Watch Psychiatry, researchers looked at spirituality as protective against depression. Specifically, these researchers looked at Protestant and Catholic women (so we certainly can't generalize to all of us, but it is interesting...) for ten years.
That's a long time! They followed these women, some of whom were identified as high risk for depression because of family history: they were questioned about their own history of major depression, as well as the importance of religion or spirituality in their lives, their frequency of attendance at religious services, and their denomination. After the researchers adjusted for age and sex, they found that the women who reported a high importance of religion/spirituality at the beginning of the study had a lower risk for a major depressive episode during follow-up than those who did not.
QUIZ: Are You Feeling Happy?
I like to think of spirituality as one more tool in my toolbox of health.
As long as you believe in the importance of spirituality, your health is likely to benefit. In particular, your mental health. Depression, anxiety, and overall stress levels. Taking it one step further, if you can impact your mental health, then you can potentially impact your overall physical health. And that's something to believe in!
We know, for example, that there is a link between a whole host of physical ailments and depression. The flip side is that if you address your mood, then it's another way to get at how you physically feel.
And the specifics of how you do this may not matter: I like yoga, and I like organized religion. Maybe for you it's running a 10K in honor of someone, or maybe it's a study group at your local house of worship. Just the fact that you believe in something greater than yourself may be great for yourself.
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