Sunday, 13 January 2013

Feeling part of something.

Some say that having a religious belief makes you less likely to suffer from depression, and more inclined to recover faster from it if you do experience it. However, when the research organisation Gallup looked at this in the United States a couple of years ago, their findings were less clear-cut than you might have expected.

While it was true that very religious Americans (those who rarely missed a weekly visit to a place of worship) did indeed seem less prone to depression and anxiety than those who said they were non-religious, this last group actually did better (ie they reported fewer bouts of depression and anxiety) than people who described themselves as only moderately religious.

Don't you just love research? Right when you think you've got a strong hypothesis, along comes the real world to confound your thinking. It's not for me to claim I understand what's going on here, but I'm sure it's a complicated old mix of cause and effect, along with what people tell researchers and what they actually do/think, coupled with lots of other factors too.

I'm not (really) religious but some of my best friends are, and I'm perfectly comfortable with this. However, leaving religion to one side, I do still get the feeling that there's something important about feeling I'm part of something that's bigger than me. It helps give me the feeling that I'm living a life of some meaning (an outlook that can be seriously undermined if I'm going through a tough time).

Where do you find meaning? Well, without going into things too deeply, perhaps one easily accessible way is to actively work at getting to know the people around you better? Developing empathy for others and allowing them in so they can reciprocate can help, I think. If you want to feel cared for, caring for other people is a fine place to start.

If you're very religious, you may have this already sewn up, but if you're like me, it won't hurt to try and get a little closer to the people with whom you come into contact today.

Not necessarily physically, of course. I wouldn't want to get you arrested.