Spirituality in North America

Spirituality is an emerging field of study. As the number of people who consider themselves “spiritual” continues to climb, more research is needed on how it shapes North American life in important and enduring ways.

Spirituality refers to a quest for meaning, purpose and truth that goes beyond material concerns. It includes a belief in a higher form of inteligence or Consciousness running the universe and a desire to find answers about life after death. This quest is often a response to life’s most difficult challenges, including emotional stress and illness, loss and death.

It also includes a commitment to values like compassion, tolerance and honesty. Spirituality may involve rituals, which are acts done to bring a feeling of reverence or seriousness to an experience. This can include meditation, prayer, chanting and dance. It can also be community service activities, such as volunteering and helping the poor or the environment.

In addition to its cognitive and experiential aspects, spirituality has a behavioral component that is manifested in coping behaviors such as meditating, exercising and spending time with family. These behaviors are associated with improved health, authentic happiness and a greater sense of connection to others. Moreover, self-transcendent emotions, such as feelings of love and empathy, are positively associated with spirituality. Research suggests that these positive emotions are a result of the many practices that spiritual people engage in to foster and strengthen their connections. This article was originally published on The Conversation CA and is republished here with permission. This work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.