Rabbi Jeffery M. Silberman, DMin and Lisa Tremont, MPH, RD
The positive influence of faith on well-being is direct and substantial:
- individuals with strong religious faith report higher levels of life satisfaction, greater personal happiness, and fewer negative psychological consequences of traumatic life events. Further, such positive effects are especially pronounced for older persons and those with low levels of formal education.
- Research shows that religion positively influences subjective well-being in four ways:
- (1)strong religious beliefs significantly enhance quality of life.
(2) religious attendance (eg., going to church or temple) and private devotion (prayer) contribute to well-being indirectly, by strengthening religious beliefs and world views.
(3) religious faith buffers the negative effects of trauma.
(4) persons with some tie to a religious organization (whether liberal, traditional, nontraditional, or nondenominational) have greater life satisfaction than unaffiliated individuals. This is related to the positive effects of belonging to a community.
There is mounting evidence that persons who enjoy a greater sense of coherence and order in their lives also have better physical and psychological health than those who do not, and that religious faith is a cornerstone to a stable lifestyle. Faith may be fostered through sincere prayer and for believers is a mighty force for the promotion of personal happiness, individual self-control, social harmony, moral progress, and spiritual attainment. It certainly seems that if something can enhance overall health, it should be made available to all persons. Indeed, religious faith or spirituality is in no way dependent on the worshiper's educational level, philosophic acumen, socioeconomic level, geographic location, nor cultural status. And while there are definite benefits to affiliating with a religious group (e.g., community), the most important aspect of faith is the personal spiritual relationship with God, or the Universal Spirit.
Reprinted by permission