Research has consistently shown that endorsing a religion or spirituality is to some extent related to one’s well-being. Common studied explanations tap into the social and cognitive aspects of religion and spirituality. The present research aims at understanding how religiosity and spirituality exert their impact on well-being and investigates the role of a surprisingly neglected mechanism: positive emotions. Two cross-sectional studies using a quantitative approach are presented. In two different contexts (churchgoers in a European country and US university employees interested in meditation), results showed that the relation between religion (Study 1), spirituality (Study 2) and well-being is mediated by positive emotions. Distinguishing between more and less relevant positive emotions in a religious/spiritual context, it was found that the effect was mediated by self-transcendent positive emotions (awe, gratitude, love, and peace) but not by other positive emotions (amusement and pride).
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Peacefulness does not typically appear on lists of self-transcendent positive emotions. It is actually an infrequent target of research. However, definitions of peacefulness/serenity include elements of self-transcendence (“a mindful broadening of a person’s self-views and world views,” Fredrickson 1998, p. 306) and peacefulness is a very common emotion reported during self-transcendent experiences such as mystical experiences (Spilka et al. 1992).
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Part of Study 2 data is published in Kok, Coffey, Cohn, Catalino, Vacharkulksemsuk, Algoe, Brantley, and Fredrickson (2013). Study 1was supported by a Doctoral Fellowship from the National Fund for Scientific Research, Belgium to Patty Van Cappellen. Study 2 was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH59615 to Barbara L. Fredrickson. The new analyses for Study 2 were rendered possible by a travel grant awarded by the National Fund for Scientific Research, Belgium FNRS; Excellence travel grant awarded by WBI-world; FSR travel grant for postdoctoral research by Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium to Patty Van Cappellen.
Appendix: Perception of the Cognitive, Social, and Emotional Aspects of Religious Attendance (English translation and original French items)
Appendix: Perception of the Cognitive, Social, and Emotional Aspects of Religious Attendance (English translation and original French items)
The mass helps me to understand the truths about faith.
La messe m’aide à comprendre les vérités de la foi.
The mass helps me to understand the meaning of the Bible.
La messe m’aide à comprendre le sens de la Bible.
The mass helps in my personal reflection.
La messe m’aide dans ma réflexion personnelle.
I particularly appreciate the homily because the ideas developed allow me to think.
J’apprécie particulièrement l’homélie, car les idées qui y sont développées me permettent de réfléchir.
I particularly appreciate the biblical texts reading because it helps me in my personal reflection.
J’apprécie particulièrement la lecture des textes bibliques, car elle m’aide dans ma réflexion personnelle.
The mass allows me to be a part of the great family of believers.
La messe me permet de faire partie de la grande famille des croyants.
During the mass, I feel that I maintain strong bonds with the members of my parish.
Durant la messe, je sens que j’entretiens des liens forts avec les membres de ma paroisse.
During the mass, I feel closer to the other believers.
Durant la messe, je me sens plus proche des autres croyants.
I particularly appreciate the moment when we all say the Our Father because I feel that we all belong to one great family.
J’apprécie particulièrement le moment où nous disons tous le Notre Père car je sens que nous appartenons à une même grande famille.
I particularly appreciate collective gestures and speeches because they allow me to feel closer to others.
J’apprécie particulièrement les gestes et les paroles collectifs, car ils me permettent de me sentir proche des autres.
During the mass, I feel gratitude.
Durant la messe, je ressens de la gratitude.
During the mass, I feel love.
Durant la messe, je ressens de l’amour.
During the mass, I feel peace.
Durant la messe, je ressens de l’apaisement.
During the mass, I feel awe.
Durant la messe, je ressens de l’émerveillement.
During the mass, I feel pride.
Durant la messe, je ressens de la fierté.
During the mass, I feel amusement.
Durant la messe, je ressens de l’amusement.
I particularly appreciate the beauty of the church and the emotions I feel when I contemplate it.
J’apprécie particulièrement la beauté de l’Église et les émotions que je ressens en la contemplant.
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Van Cappellen, P., Toth-Gauthier, M., Saroglou, V. et al. Religion and Well-Being: The Mediating Role of Positive Emotions. J Happiness Stud 17, 485–505 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-014-9605-5
- Positive emotions