How Religion Can Help You Cope With Life
Photo by Ismael Paramo on Unsplash
Written by: Sabrina Sourjah
Date Updated: 7/19/2021
Reviewed by: Patrick D. Randolph, Ph.D.
Religion plays a significant role in some people’s lives, while others may think that religion is the cause of many wars and conflicts in this world.
For me, religion is simply a way to connect with myself better and understand how the universe works. Religion can uplift us and give us direction and purpose in life. It also provides us with a moral compass when we need to make difficult decisions.
The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.
~ Thomas Paine
Definition of Religion in Psychology
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines religion as “a system of spiritual beliefs, practices, or both, typically organized around the worship of an all-powerful deity (or deities) and involving behaviors such as prayer, meditation, and participation in collective rituals.”
Organized religions also believe that “certain moral teachings have divine authority,” and certain people, places, texts, and objects are recognized as holy.
Religion vs. Spirituality
Religion is a set of beliefs, rules, and practices shared by followers of that religion, while spirituality has no specific rules and is mostly practiced at an individual level.
Spirituality revolves around attaining peace in this lifetime, and religious people primarily aim to live life in a way that allows them to achieve bliss in the afterlife.
Types of Religions
There are about 4300 different religions in the world. Most of these fall into the following types:
Polytheism: These religions believe in the existence of multiple gods.
Monotheism: Religions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam fall into this category as these religions believe in a single god.
Atheism: Atheists do not believe in the existence of gods.
Animism: Some ancient religions believe in the divinity of nonhuman elements such as animals and plants.
Totemism: These religions believe in the divine connection between humans and nature.
How Religion Can Help You
1. Overall Health
Religious practices can calm you down and take your focus away from day-to-day worries. This can decrease the release of stress hormones like cortisol. Chronic stress can lead to many long-term diseases such as cardiovascular dysfunctions, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune syndromes.
Those who are religious are more likely to avoid addictive behavior and substance use due to religious beliefs. So, they are able to avoid serious illnesses like cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, fibrosis, cirrhosis, and pancreatitis.
2. Surgery Outcomes
Research suggests that “the relaxation response and the sense of self-efficacy gained through the act of praying may enhance the immune system.” Immunity is key for recovery during the postoperative period as surgical incisions and wounds need to heal.
3. Mental Health
In addition to the connection between prayer and stress discussed above, studies confirm that prayer can also lower the likelihood of general anxiety disorder, social anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Religious practices call for values like respect, compassion, gratitude, charity, humility, and harmony. These values can predict longevity. In addition, a study on cancerous patients has shown a connection between prayer and overcoming the disease, leading to a longer life expectancy.
5. Life Satisfaction
According to the Pew Research Center, those with religious affiliations are more likely to describe themselves as “very happy” compared to their less religious peers. They also frequently join other types of non-religious organizations like charities and clubs, thus living more fulfilling lives.
They say too much of anything can become harmful. The same goes for your religious beliefs as well. In the worst case, religion can result in religious trauma syndrome (RTS), a set of symptoms of being exposed to a toxic religious environment in the long term.
However, you will know how much religion you need in your life. You can be selective and embrace aspects of religion that benefit your well-being.