Spirituality and Health: State of the Science and Applications for the Improvement of Human Functioning
The speakers will present for 30 to 45 minutes each, followed by a discussion. During the science portion of the session, participants will be presented with information on (a) the current state of scientific knowledge with respect to the relation spirituality has to health and well-being (inclusive of both positive and negative associations), (b) the known mechanisms through which spirituality is thought to influence health and well-being (e.g., character development, coping skills, lifestyle choices, self-regulation, meaning and purpose in life), (c) recognized pathways through which spirituality may be cultivated and developed (e.g., religious involvement, engagement in meditation and contemplative practices, engagement with nature), and (d) effects of spirituality on the brain, what triggers spiritual experiences and their varieties, and how these experiences influence health. For the second portion of the session, the focus will be on how spirituality may be integrated into public health and professional practices in fields such as medicine, counselling, psychology, education, economics, and sociology. Throughout the session, attention will be given to the importance of culture as a potent moderating factor that needs to be considered when interpreting empirical research and when implementing health promotion programs and interventions in different social milieus.
Topics for the presentation content:
(1) What does science say about the relationship between spirituality and health? This first presentation can focus on summarising the current state of scientific knowledge regarding the relationship and influence spirituality has on health.
(2) Status of spirituality as a scientific construct. This second presentation can focus on the known problems and challenges of defining and measuring spirituality and on existing theories that attempt to explain the empirical association of spirituality with health. This presentation will also touch upon how spirituality will likely differ in important ways across cultures.
(3) The dark side of spirituality: Its involvement in negative health and well-being outcomes. This third presentation can provide a brief overview of what is known about the relation of spirituality to problems in functioning. This includes such things as spiritual bypass, spiritual emergency, spiritual struggles, and negative religious coping, among other things.
(4) Spiritual technologies: Meditation. The fourth presentation can focus on the research on meditation and discuss its positive and negative effects on health. It can also touch upon how meditative techniques are being incorporated into counselling and psychotherapy practices and implemented in school systems in different areas of the world.
(5) Spiritual experiences and their effects on the brain, including what triggers spiritual experiences, their varieties, and upcoming technologies in this field, will be discussed in the fifth presentation.
(6) Accommodating spirituality in a diverse world. The sixth presentation can cover the promise and challenges of trying to recognize and incorporate spirituality across nations and how it can be used to facilitate (a) greater tolerance and compassion within and between nations (thereby addressing such things as war/conflict and humanitarian needs), and (b) how it may be able to improve the relation humans have to nature to help facilitate greater responsibility in how we treat the environment.