Spirituality: The Most Important Ingredient in a Strong, Resilient Life

In the interviews I have conducted over the years with various women, by far the most significant practice in dealing successfully with aging is spirituality. I would say that this has also been my experience with men.

Even though they were from different denominations, the faith community was integral to the lives of all the people I have studied. For each of them spirituality was a vital component of their resiliency. It’s not that being spiritually strong prevented problems or anxieties from arising. For many it simply meant that fear did not have the last word. Each of them had worries, but they did not get stuck in their anxieties. That’s the key: in spite of multiple losses and daily concerns, they did not “get stuck” in their worries and fears or regrets.

Again, when I talk about spirituality I am not talking about any particular religion or denomination. However, study after study does affirm that participation in a faith community can be a strong support to people undergoing various crises or personal difficulties. Dr. Jeff Levin, a biomedical scientist, asserts that “formal involvement in religious communities reduces the likelihood of experiencing stressors such as chronic and acute illness, marital tension and dissolution, and work-related and legal problems.”

Both public and private prayer are also important. Today many people, both religious and non-religious folks, have experienced enhanced self-esteem through the practice “mindfulness meditation”.

But there’s more. Duke University psychiatrist Harold G. Koenig says that by offering people hope, spirituality helps people to re-frame distressing life experiences and build personal resilience.  The Season of Easter, which we move into next Sunday, is really the perfect time to reframe the negative aspects of our lives. The resurrection of Jesus changes everything because it promises that this life, with its sorrow and disappointment, is not the end. Moreover, the Good News of Easter challenges us to work for a world where all are treated with love and compassion, and the whole of creation is cared for and respected.

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