Does acute or chronic anxiousness need to be an ongoing part of our life? Or is there a way to reduce our general anxiety level?
A paper published in the July edition of the Journal of Clinical Psychology (onlinelibrary.wiley) has concluded that people who believe in a benevolent God tend to worry less and are more tolerant than those who believe in an indifferent or punishing God. The findings were based on one study of Christians and Jews and another of Jews alone.
You don’t have to be Jewish (to borrow the title of my Aunty’s favourite LP!) – or Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, etc. – to reap the benefits of believing God is benign and generous rather than judgmental and punitive. You just have to trade in some of those convictions that might have been instilled from a young age for a spiritual narrative that is more compelling to the heart.
As one whose life has been graced by just such a spiritual view for almost 30 years, I can vouch for its impact on anxiety levels. In my early twenties I went from being virtually paranoid whenever I walked down a city street late at night to one night being spotted across a two lane highway in the darkness under a railway bridge, because a friend driving past recognised my untroubled gait.
The only difference was the spirituality that had begun to get my attention.
Since then I have found that stress-level reduction is a daily benefit of what I would call viewing the world through a spiritual lens and that some might want to describe as viewing life through a rose-tinted lens.
I can understand some level of skepticism. The researchers whose paper gives the thumbs-up to an improved sense of Deity make no attempt to prove that there is such a God, only that believing that there is helps.
As a satisfied meditator on these spiritual ideas, it is the consistency with which such a conviction brings freedom from anxiety, and experiences that validate it, that I have valued most. This suggests to me that beyond belief there must be some underlying principle at work to make the equation “better view of God = less stress” so effective.
Time will tell on the Deity-validation front. In the meantime, I would recommend taking the psychologists’ advice and treat yourself to a dose of conviction that God is good.”