Feelings of spirituality may help you effectively cope with stress.
The sudden and terrible nature of last year's terrorist attack left many people searching for ways to explain the event and cope with it. Some intuitively turn to their religion as a means of coping. Researchers, however, have not consistently found religion to be an effective coping mechanism. One reason may be that "religion" is a somewhat vague concept that researchers have a hard time measuring. For instance, should people who believe in God but don't belong to any specific religious group be considered "religious"? Instead of religion itself, perhaps some aspect of being religious would help people cope with their stress better. To find out, researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and University of Rochester Medical Center examined how people's specific feelings of spirituality affected their ability to cope with stress.
What was the research about?
One hundred and thirteen university students (73 men and 40 women) took part in the study. The participants completed two sets of questionnaires over the course of the study. The first set of questionnaires measured each participant's level of stress, feelings of spirituality, methods of coping with stress (other than spirituality), current positive and negative feelings, and any physical symptoms experienced during the past month. One month later participants again indicated their level of stress, current positive and negative feelings and any physical symptoms experienced during the past month.
Study results indicated that participants with stronger feelings of spirituality experienced fewer negative feelings and fewer physical symptoms during times of high stress. Thus, spirituality seems to have buffered or protected participants from stress-induced negative feelings and physical symptoms. It is important to keep in mind these buffering effects of spirituality were found even after participants' other methods of coping were taken into account. In other words, spirituality helped participants cope in addition to their other coping methods.
Why should it matter to me?
Based on this study, feelings of spirituality seem to help people cope by protecting them from negative feelings and physical symptoms associated with stress. Therefore, when your life becomes stressful, you can have faith in using your faith to cope.
Source: Kim, Youngmee, & Seidlitz, Larry (2002). Spirituality moderates the effect of stress on emotional and physical adjustment. Personality and Individual Differences, 32, 1377-1390.