Religion and spirituality can influence a women’s well being. Some people may believe that spirituality is a synonym for religion. Even though they are related, they both have different meanings. Spirituality has 3 major conceptualization. This includes that spirituality is (1) a belief in a god or gods that is expressed by participating in rituals or practices, (2) it’s a belief in a higher being that’s expressed in a nontraditional or eclectic way and (3) lastly, it’s the essence or spirit of a person expressed as a total functioning being in the world (Condon, 2004). It’s considered to be a “uniquely individual experience” (Pesut et al., 2008). This includes everything from the persons “relationship with a higher being, to the lived experience of being human, and also the connection between an individual and cosmic energy of consciousness…”(Pesut et al., 2008). This is different from religion because religion is based on institutionalized “beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe” (Dictionary,). It usually “involves devotional and ritual observances, and often contains a moral code, governing the conduct of human affairs” (Dictionary,).
So, how does religion and spirituality influence the well being of women? Condon (2004) noted that “religious people have been found to have lower rates of many conditions and diseases, including uterine, cervical, and intestinal cancer; ulcer disease, coronary artery disease, and high blood pressure”. This is because religious people tend to have healthier lifestyles that non-religious people. Religious people smoke less, drink less alcohol and consume healthier diets, which decreases their risk developing a disease (Condon, 2004). Also it has been said that spirituality and religion supports mental health (Condon, 2004). For example, praying causes the body to relax, which induces the relaxation response. This relaxation response causes the heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and metabolic rate to decrease, leading to a calming demeanor (Condon, 2004).
Also in 2009, a study was conducted to evaluate the association of quality of life to religion and spirituality among Latina breast cancer survivors. In this study, they mentioned previous studies that “shown that religious coping is used frequently, and is positively related to outcomes such as quality of life, depression, and self-esteem…”(Wildes et al, 2009). It also “effectively aids in adjustment to stressful events, such as health threats” (Wildes et al, 2009). Other studies have shown the opposite effect of religion and spirituality. It showed that it can have a negative effect on health. For example, a person may have anxiety especially if they need to uphold religious beliefs during time of crisis (Wildes et al, 2009). In this study, the authors conducted 117 interviews through telephone. Based on the interviews, they concluded that Latinas that had high religious and spiritual beliefs had better quality of life, in terms of relationship with doctor, social well-being, and functional well being.
When it comes to spirituality and religion, there are two different forms. There is the traditional form and non-traditional form. In the traditional form, the belief in God represents a belief that is centralized by Christian traditions (and various non-Christian traditions) (Aird, 2007). As for the non-traditional form, it views the divine as some sort of spiritual, higher power force, that represents a clear departure from traditional religious doctrines (Aird, 2007).
While the traditional form views God to be the ultimate authority and emphasizes moral duty and social obligation within their doctrines, the non-traditional views God as the supreme being and emphasizes on a individualistic approach to life (Aird, 2007). The non-traditional emphasizes that all things are related or connected, even though the person is engaged in a individual spiritual journey (Aird, 2007). Some common forms of nontraditional spirituality include astrology, Hinduism, gnostic traditions, yoga, and meditation.
Yoga and meditation are used in everyday life to reduce or relieve stress as well as promote ones well being. Yoga involves the mind, body and spirit. It requires a persons senses, mental concentration, and discipline. The regimen requires the person move into different postures that helps the body relax (Condon, 2004, p. 199). Meditation is also a stress reliever. There are different types of meditation. Some require the person to sit still, while others allow a person to do activities (Condon, 2004, p. 198). This relieves stress because it allows the person to take in the environment and different sensations that the person is experiencing at that time (Condon, 2004, p. 198). This is what makes these 2 different things, but some what related. During yoga and meditation, as a person is concentrating on themselves , there also becoming one with their environment.
Hinduism is a religion that sees human kind as spiritual beings whose mind, body and spirit are connected and linked with the universe. This includes other beings, planets, animals and inanimate objects. “Hinduism further affirms that all beings are an equal manifestation of Divinity (Bhagwan, 2012). In other words, “a person is God”…and that god is not “up there” but within all beings”(Bhagwan, 2012). Astrology is something that is practiced within Hinduism.
Astrology is the study of how the positions of the stars and planets have an influence on events, as well on the lives and behavior of people. The way it’s positioned can have a positive or negative effect on a persons well being. In Hinduism, certain days and times are “auspicious or inauspicious, for events such as marriage and for spiritual rituals. Most clients when confronted with a problem, will immediately consult a priest to determine if it’s due to the position of the planet (“grahas”) (Bhagwan, 2012). “When “grahas” are present, clients will begin religious ceremonies, and prayer to ward off evil influences or fast and chant sacred verses unique to warding off their difficulties” (Bhagwan, 2012).
Lastly, gnostic tradition is based on the way individuals view god as well as the planet. In this belief system, there is only one god. They believe that an individual must have a balance of experience and knowledge to succeed in life (Truth or tradition, 2014). They believe in 2 worlds, the good and evil. The good world is the one that was made by god. Whereas the evil is composed of all the materialistic things that prevent a person from finding the true meaning in life (Truth or tradition, 2014). All five forms of nontraditional spirituality have something in common. There goal is to find a deeper meaning in life and to do so, you have to involve the mind, body and spirit as well as the environment we live in.
When it comes to spirituality, there are seven important marker of spirituality that one has to achieve in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes the ace factor, assertiveness, hardiness, the capacity to confide, affiliation, altruism and self complexity (Condon, 2004).
The ace factor focuses on the “ability to attend, connect with and express emotions” (Condon, 2004). For example, the way a person responds to stress. When a person is stressed out their blood pressure and heart rate rises, and their muscles tenses up. Those who had strong ace factors responded to stress in a healthy, less anxious way. This was because they acknowledge their feelings. Whereas those who were highly anxious responded to stress and not in touch with their feelings.
“Assertiveness is the capacity to stand up for oneself without disregarding the rights and interest of other people”(Condon, 2004). Being able to assert yourself is healthy, in the sense that you know your worth and what you deserve. Condon (2004) noted that those who are assertive tend to have well balanced immune systems.
Another marker is hardiness. Hardiness compromises of three qualities. This includes challenge, commitment, and control. All 3 qualities show ways of overcoming threats, finding meaning and purpose in life and have a influence on surroundings, respectively (Condon,2004). These 3 things combined can help a person lead a healthy life. It also promotes the immune system as well.
The capacity to confide is being able to talk about traumatic experiences from the past. All of us have secrets from the past that were afraid to tell. This is because we don’t want to be viewed or judged as bad. But these events are important to talk about because it promotes healing. Healing only takes place when “both facts and feelings” are expressed (Condon, 2004).
Another spiritual marker is affiliation. Affiliation, both power and human connection, motivates us in life. It makes us strive to become a better person with regards to relationship. Within affiliation, is trusts and cynicism. Trust is being able to form relationships based on respect. Whereas cynicism is based on the opposite. Cynicism is based on “mistrust regarding the intentions and motives of others” (Condon, 2004).
Altruism is being helpful to others. This can be something like volunteering at a nursing home. Altruism brings about feeling that makes one feel good about his or her self. It also makes a person feel at peace by knowing that they did something rewarding.
Lastly is self complexity. Self complexity is the presence of multiple roles in our lives (Condon, 2004). Condon (2004) noted that it’s important that we take on multiple roles. If we invest all our energy in one task, problems will arise. Whereas if you have multiple roles, if one goes bad, you have another task to bring you up and focus your attention to (Condon, 2004). It’s like the saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
Spirituality is a word that holds different meanings to different people. What I view as spiritual may not be spiritual to another person. I believe spirituality is finding the meaning or purpose in life. It’s not something we wake up knowing. It’s something that we find, deep within our souls that’s unique to us, as we age. I feel that the experiences we encounter, as well as the relationships we develop, helps mold us into the person we want to be. As we find out who we want to be, we then begins to develop a sense of spirituality or a sense of meaning in life as well as what’s important to us.
As a nurse, spirituality has influence me as a whole. It has had a positive influence on me and what I strive to be. Spirituality has made me a more accepting person. I forgive people and accept people for who they are and not what I want them to be. Spirituality has also opened up my eyes. At first I believed that to be spiritual, one had to be religious. But everyone is different and to be spiritual, you don’t have to be religious. Also, it made me aware that people have different ways of practicing spirituality. Some people may chose to mediate, while others may perform yoga. It also made me become at peace with life and death. This is a normal part of life and whether we accept it or not, eventually we all will die.
Learning about this makes me respect others and their beliefs more. As a nurse it’s always important that you identify your beliefs, this way it doesn’t impact the care you give negatively. This is what spirituality has done for me.
Aird, R. (2007). Religion, spirituality, and mental health and social behaviour in young adulthood: A longitudinal study. The University of Queensland. Retrieve on December 8, 2014 from http://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:158712/Aird_Full_thesis.pdf
Bhagwan, R. (2012). Glimpses of ancient Hindu spirituality: areas for integrative therapeutic intervention. Journal Of Social Work Practice, 26(2), 233-244. doi:10.1080/02650533.2011.610500
Condon, M.(2004). Women’s Health, an Integrated Approach to Wellness and Illness. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. Prentice Hall.
Pesut, B., Fowler, M., Taylor, E. J., Reimer-Kirkham, S., & Sawatzky, R. (2008). Conceptualising spirituality and religion for healthcare. Journal Of Clinical Nursing, 17(21), 2803-2810. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2008.02344.x
Truth or tradition. 2014. Gnosticism. Retrieved on December 8, 2014 from http://www.truthortradition.com/articles/gnosticism
Wildes, K. A., Miller, A. R., de Majors, S. M., & Ramirez, A. G. (2009). The religiosity/spirituality of Latina breast cancer survivors and influence on health-related quality of life. Psycho-Oncology, 18(8), 831-840. doi:10.1002/pon.1475