Is there really a connection between religion and health; between going to church and enjoying a longer than average life; between spending Sunday at home and celebrating your 101st birthday with your great-grandchildren?
Several studies seem to indicate this is so. Here is what the jury has found so far:
Time Well Spent
What most studies have found is that people belonging to all faiths across the globe, spend lots of time socializing with like-minded people, helping the community, and carrying out rituals that mostly emphasize a healthy, austere kind of life.
Although it may seem like an endless chore sometimes, spending time with family members results in a stronger support system to rely on should you ever need help. Just knowing support is there relieves unnecessary stress. Plus, older family members tend to insist on balanced meals and eating on time, thus improving the health of the younger ones at home.
Studies show that marriage improves the health of most men. This is because the emphasis on cooking meals at home gets stronger. And having a partner to take care of chores around the house reduces stress.
However, the modern day story is changing a little. Working women, single or married, tend to skip cooking meals sometimes, opting for ready-to-eat foods. Working women also need partners who are willing to share responsibilities such as cooking and cleaning.
Hope As An Antidepressant
Those who are spiritual or practice religion have an abiding faith in love and divine justice. This hope for goodness is enough to function as a powerful antidepressant. The body feels less stress, thus reducing chances of high blood pressure, various heart diseases and even cancer. In fact, some researchers have found that very few senior citizens who regularly attend religious gatherings suffer from cognitive decline, an essential feature of Alzheimer’s disease.
Discipline Your Mind
Meditation makes you happy. Not just because you spend some quality time calming yourself, but because the act of meditating disciplines the amygdala (the area in the brain that is activated in fearful situations). The amygdala plays an important role in motivation and emotional behavior. Regular meditation can help you keep your temper in check, ensure that you do not get flustered too easily and thus include self-control in its list of life-long benefits.
Being Involved, Being Important
Studies have found that having faith is associated with a constructive outlook. This includes taking part in community efforts, maintaining relationships with others of the same community, and having a more positive attitude about life.
I’m not suggesting you go out and join your local church, synagogue, mosque, or temple if you don’t already belong to one. If that works for you at this time, fine.
Religion is about belief in the Supreme Creator and a life beyond this mortal body. How you choose to acknowledge that has nothing to do with a building or belonging to a group. The scriptures of every major religion in the world are available to read and study without depending on someone else to interpret them and interject their own prejudices.
Of course religion & family ties alone will not bring you longevity, but they go a long way to improving the quality of life.