Psychospiritual Well-being: Balancing the Three Dimensions of Life

There are various dimensions of our life such as social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. We function and operate on multiple levels without reflecting or giving it a second thought. The focus of my work as a Spiritual and Positive Psychology well-being practitioner has always been the psychospiritual well-being of my students and clients. For many years I have been interested in investigating the interaction between these 3 forces; religion, spirituality, and faith. How are these forces affecting our psychological well-being? Why some people are more developed and have spiritual maturity while others are religious but lack spiritual awareness. Each area of growth requires our attention and nurturing for holistic wellbeing. These forces play a critical role in our lives and affecting our physical, emotional, and mental health.

Sometimes one or the other forces are more dominant in our life based on our interest level which can throw us off balance. Conflict within any of these dimensions can lead to a spiritual crisis, maladaptive behavior, healthy and unhealthy religious practices, destructive religious habits which affect our overall well-being -mental and physical state as well. Unfortunately, it is not limited to our own personal growth and wellbeing but has a negative impact on others who are associated with us. When these forces are out of balance within us, it causes chaos in a society in a form of religious intolerance, oppression, or superiority complex. The inner conflict of the soul manifests in interpersonal and social conflicts as well.

A connection of spirituality to physical and psychological well-being.

According to Religion and Spirituality Health Research conducted at the University of MI states,”. For example, in an eight-year study of National Health Interview Survey data, Hummer et al. (1999) showed that regular attendance at religious services is associated with an additional eight years of life expectancy when compared with never attending. These effects of religious attendance were consistent across all age, gender, and race/ethnicity groups and for all major causes of death.

A second mortality study, in Utah, found three to seven times as many suicides among male nonmembers of the Mormon church and less active members when compared with active members (Hilton, Fellingham, and Lyon 2002).

A third study, of 87 elderly inpatients diagnosed with clinical depression, found that those with higher levels of intrinsic religiosity had significantly shorter times to remission than those who were less religious; for every 10- point increase on a 50-point scale, the time to recovery increased by 70% (Koenig, George, and Peterson, 1998)

Have you ever thought what exactly it means to be“spiritual but not religious”

Some people are overly religious but not spiritual. Some are religious but lack spirituality. It is because we fail to balance these 3 forces in our personal life. Therefore one is more dominant than the other two or two are more dominant than the one. Many people are not consciously aware to create harmony within this three-level of consciousness that motivates our actions and behavior. We function almost mindlessly on autopilot, go to church, synagogue, or mosque without reflecting on these aspects of our life. Creating a balance needs deep reflection and introspection and sometimes professional help is required to achieve this goal.

So, why are we talking about this topic because according to the survey there is a great deal of interest in spirituality in America? According to the National Health interview survey results,”

· A large proportion of Americans, and particularly elderly Americans, religion is important for its own sake.

· 71–90% of individuals reported having a firm belief in God.

· 79% describe themselves as spiritual and 64 % as religious.

· Fifty-nine percent of the adult U.S. population and 73% of those age 65 and older consider religion to be “very important”

· 53% of older Americans attend services weekly, compared with 43% for adults overall (Princeton Religion Research Center 1994)

· 73% of Americans age 61 and older pray once or more often every day, compared with 54% overall (Levin and Taylor 1997; Woodward 1997).

· Moreover, many Americans believe that there is a connection of religion to health: 79% believe that God answers prayers for healing from incurable diseases (Woodward 1997),

· 25% pray regularly for healing for their own illnesses (Eisenberg et al. 1993),

Everyone defines religion, faith, and spirituality based on their perception, interaction with religious authorities, and life experience. People who have a negative experience of religious institutions will associate religion with the following words; it is restrictive, authoritative, dominating, and controlling, emphasizing ritualistic practices as if they are not a mean but an end in itself.

The term religion is described with a negative connotation, where spirituality is associated with personal growth and wellbeing with or without the influence of religious institutions.

The benefit of Integrating spirituality and faith for wellbeing.

According to my experience as a trained in Islamic Psychology and Positive Psychology Practitioner, I have seen multiple benefits of integrating spirituality for psychological wellbeing. Believe in myths, biblical and Quranic stories give the events of life and death a spiritual significance. Individuals can extract wisdom from the stories and analyze their lives in the light of their faith tradition which helps them put their life events in perspective. Quranic stories are not merely tales of the past but it has a valuable lesson to learn from others who have faced similar life challenges, obstacles, fears and overcome uncertainty of life through the strength of faith.

These are the following benefits of integrating spirituality and faith for psycho-spiritual wellbeing.

· Provides coping mechanism and skills

· Provides social and communal support

· Provides meaning and purpose to life.

· Religion is a source of social cohesion.

· Help one reconcile complex and difficult situations.

· Enhance psychological and existential well-being.

Measuring religiosity and spirituality

How do we measure religiosity, spirituality, and faith? We cannot measure spirituality on a scale of 1–10 except by questioner. Neither can we measure religiosity but merely by observation. We draw a conclusion if a person is religious or not. How often does he/she visit the church, synagogue, or mosque?

What is the level of association or commitment to the religious community? But lack of participation in church or mosques does not mean that an individual is not interested in spirituality and faith. For some people, faith is a very personal and intimate matter between them and God.

The concern for psychospiritual wellbeing arises when religious institutions are not able to cultivate spirituality, develop a plan or create a spiritual education material that enhances the overall well-being of the participants. This creates an imbalance between the three dimensions. People get frustrated when their spiritual needs are not met and move away from the affiliated religious group or institutions. Some eventually give up their faith altogether. Therefore, we see a decline in the participation in the services provided in religious institutions and a crisis of faith among a new generation.

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Global Instructor, Educator, Author, Transformation Life Coach; Existential Positive Psychology & Spiritual well-being Practitioner (EPP, SWB)

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Uzma Sharaf

Uzma Sharaf

Global Instructor, Educator, Author, Transformation Life Coach; Existential Positive Psychology & Spiritual well-being Practitioner (EPP, SWB)

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