The degree to which Americans consider themselves spiritual can affect their overall well-being and feelings of satisfaction with their lives.
A new study released Monday by the Public Religion Research Institute in association with Florida State University found that Americans who identify as spiritual report higher levels of "life satisfaction," gratitude, and prosocial behavior than those who don't. .
PRRI measured spirituality by having participants self-report their experiences of feeling connected to something greater than themselves. The survey asked a random sample of 2,016 adults how often they "felt particularly connected to the world around them," "felt they were part of something much larger than yourself," and "had a sense of greater meaning or purpose in life". . ”
The survey, conducted between February 28 and March 29, also measured religiosity based on the frequency with which participants attended formal worship services and the degree to which they said religion is important in their lives. The report identified four main groups of Americans: those who are spiritual and religious; spiritual but not religious; not spiritual but religious; and neither spiritual nor religious.
PRRI found that Americans who identify as spiritual and religious or spiritual but not religious express greater satisfaction with life than those who are not spiritual. Sixty-one percent of spiritual but non-religious Americans and 70 percent of those who are both spiritual and religious report being very or completely satisfied with their lives overall.
In contrast, 53 percent of Americans who are not spiritual but religious and 47 percent of those who are not spiritual or religious say the same thing.
A similar divide was maintained when participants were asked to rate their feelings about their health. PRRI found that 53 percent of Americans who are spiritual and religious and 50 percent of those who are spiritual but not religious say they are very or completely satisfied with their personal health. Only 42 percent of Americans who are not spiritual but religious and 37 percent of those who are not spiritual or religious report being satisfied with their health.
Simply having a religious identity is not necessarily a diagnosis of the deeper sense of spirituality that makes one feel meaningful. "
The spiritual respondents also reported spending more time with friends, feeling more gratitude, and being more open to doing favors for others than those who are not spiritual.
“Americans who are spiritual, no matter how religious Whether they are, demonstrate a greater propensity to help others, PRRI research director Dan Cox said in a statement. "Americans who are more spiritual are more likely to listen to someone else's problems, do a personal favor, or even allowing a stranger to interfere. "
PRRI also found that a higher percentage of spiritual Americans report feeling inspired while they consume different forms of media than those who are not spiritual. The greatest source of inspiration for both groups was music. Seventy-one percent of spiritual respondents said they were touched or inspired during the past week while listening to music. Only 43 percent of non-spiritual Americans reported having the same experience in the week prior to the survey.
The relationship between spirituality and happiness has long been a topic of interest among researchers, who generally find that faith promotes life satisfaction by uniting people around a shared or common belief and helping them develop meaning. of personal meaning.
That could explain why the PRRI study showed that Americans who are religious but not particularly spiritual are less likely to express life satisfaction than those whose faith is strengthened by spiritual experiences such as feeling connected to the world around them and feeling a sense of meaning in life.
Clay Routledge, a North Dakota State University psychology professor who studies the relationship between faith and human search for meaning, said that religious affiliation does not necessarily guarantee well-being.
"Religiosity has long been linked to well-being, but simply having a religious identity is not necessarily a diagnosis of the deeper sense of spirituality that makes one feel meaningful," Routledge told HuffPost.
Religious affiliation also does not guarantee that a person feels particularly connected to the faith with which they identify, he added.
"Spirituality may be capturing a deeper sense of connection to something that feels personally meaningful, which would also help explain why people who report being spiritual and religious are more likely to have high life satisfaction," he noted. The teacher. . "These people have a personal spirituality that is probably related to a specific religious faith that provides meaning."
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