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Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: Religiosity, Emotion Regulation and Well-Being in a Jewish and Christian Sample

Abstract

People who are more religious tend to experience more positive affect and higher levels of life satisfaction. Current explanations for this relation include social support, meaning in life, and more positive emotional experiences. Adding cognitive reappraisal as a new mechanism, we propose that religion consistently trains people to reappraise emotional events, making the devout more effective in applying this emotion regulation practice, which cultivates more positive affect and greater life satisfaction. In two studies, involving Israeli Jewish (N = 288) and American Christian (N = 277) participants, we found that more frequent use of cognitive reappraisal mediated the relationship between religiosity and affective experiences, which in turn, were associated with greater life satisfaction. Religiosity was associated with more frequent cognitive reappraisal (in both samples) and less frequent expressive suppression (in the Christian sample). Cognitive reappraisal mediated the link between religiosity and positive affect (in both samples) as well as negative affect (in the Christian sample). We discuss implications for understanding the link between religion and emotional well-being.

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Notes

  1. The sample is identical to the Jewish sample which appears in Vishkin et al. (2016, Study 1). The original sample size was 313, but 4% were excluded from the analyses because they were not Jewish, and 4% were excluded for providing the same response 90% of the time or more (see Schwartz and Rubel-Lifschitz 2009). The measures were collected as part of a larger survey that addressed additional unrelated questions. The sample size was determined based on the other research questions that were tested.

  2. The item assessing social identity was not included in Vishkin et al. (2016), but was included here because belonging to a religious community has been linked to well-being (e.g., Lim and Putnam 2010). When the analyses reported in Vishkin et al. (2016) were conducted with this additional item included in the religiosity measure, results remained unchanged. We now report all the items used to measure religiosity.

  3. We analyzed the models both by averaging across all religiosity items (α = .88) and by averaging across each scale. Results were equivalent.

  4. Some of the data collected in this study are also reported in Vishkin et al. (2016), Study 1.

  5. An insignificant Chi square test indicates that the model is acceptable; that is, the observed covariance matrix is similar to the predicted covariance matrix.

  6. Factor loadings and the complete correlation matrix for all items are available from the authors.

  7. The sample is identical to the Christian sample which appears in Vishkin et al. (2016, Study 1). The original sample size was 368, 22% were excluded from the analyses for identifying with a religion other than Christianity and 3% were excluded based on the exclusion criteria used in Study 1. The sample size was set to be similar to that of Study 1.

  8. We analyzed the models both by averaging across all religiosity items (α = .89) and by averaging across each scale. Results were equivalent.

  9. Some of the data collected in this study are also reported in Vishkin et al. (2016), Study 1.

  10. All data relevant to religiosity and well-being has been reported.

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Vishkin, A., Ben-Nun Bloom, P. & Tamir, M. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: Religiosity, Emotion Regulation and Well-Being in a Jewish and Christian Sample. J Happiness Stud 20, 427–447 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-017-9956-9

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Keywords

  • Religion
  • Emotion
  • Emotion regulation
  • Life satisfaction
  • Well-being