Life is much more than than just another cruise or a round of golf. As we age, searching for something more meaningful becomes a priority. Whether we are engaged in a relatively comfortable ageing process or a difficult one, it is likely that we will be stuck in the important process known as ‘life review’, a time of reflection upon the successes and failures of our life.
In the journey through ageing, research has shown that religion, spirituality and/or belief not only become more important for many people, providing structure, meaning and understanding to everyday life, as well as support through life challenges, but also, spiritual needs are intertwined with health, well-being and quality of life. In fact, nurturing our own spirituality can help us deal with life transitions and painful seasons of loss.
Although cultivating faith (trust in life and in other people) doesn’t eradicate fear, it may help to minimize the effect that fear may have and makes it possible to live ‘in the tension.’ Several studies confirm a positive approach to spirituality can decrease some of the feelings of helplessness and loss of control that people experience with illness, as well as reduce stress and bring about increased feelings of purpose in life. Praying, for instance, can reduce feelings of isolation and the community aspect surrounding spirituality can have positive outcomes for older adults.
In many ways, the results of our study support the idea that spirituality functions as a personality trait – said Dan Cohen, assistant teaching professor of religious studies at University of Missouri and author of ‘Mental Health, Religion & Culture’-. With increased spirituality, people reduce their sense of self and feel a greater sense of oneness and connectedness with the rest of the universe. What was interesting was that frequency of participation in religious activities or the perceived degree of congregational support was not found to be significant in the relationships between personality, spirituality, religion and health.
Cohen also believes spirituality may help people’s mental health by reducing their self-centeredness and developing their sense of belonging to a larger whole. Also, the selflessness that comes with spirituality enhances characteristics that are important for fostering a global society based on the virtues of peace and cooperation.
No matter how old we get to be, no matter what the circumstances of our ageing and dying, it’s time to believe within our relationships with other people and through our unique experience of being alive, flashes of insight, moments of healing and transformation are always possible.
Do you consider yourself to be a spiritual person? Has the way that you looked at spirituality changed as you have gotten a little older?