Spirituality and Purpose in Life

Updated August 31, 2021

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Spirituality and Purpose in Life essay

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Spirituality is understood as the acknowledgment of our meaning and purpose in life. This awareness about our existence helps in enhancing our understanding of self and improving our psychological wellbeing. The current study, therefore, attempted to find the relationship between ‘spirituality and psychological well-being’ among male college students in the age range of 18-21 years. The sample comprised of 75 males from different colleges of Chandigarh. For this purpose, Daily Spiritual Experience Scale, DSES, Lynn Go Wood (2006) and Psychological Well-being Scale, Ryff (1995) were administered.

Data was analysed using descriptive statistical techniques and Pearson Correlation Coefficient. Results depicted significant positive associations between ‘Environmental Linkages’, ‘Positive Relations’ and ‘Self-Acceptance’ subscales of Psychological Wellbeing and Spirituality (r=0.5). From the above mentioned results it becomes evident that positive environmental influences and acceptance of self are essential to bring a sense of ‘meaning’ in life. The relationship between spirituality and psychological well-being, thus, is of paramount importance to enhance goal directness of individuals. The study, therefore, invites interventional researches in order to enhance the spiritual understanding of individuals so to improve their psychological wellbeing.

The word spirituality consists of the English word ‘spirit’ which comes from the Latin word ‘spiritus’, literally meaning to breath. The concept has not been very easy to define and hence, there is no single concrete and holistic definition. According to Dr Maya Spencer (2012), “Spirituality means knowing that our lives have significance in a context beyond a mundane everyday existence at the level of biological needs that drive selfishness and aggression. It means knowing that we are a significant part of a purposeful unfolding of Life in our universe.” According to Association of Professional Chaplains (2001), “Spirituality is an awareness of relationship with all creation, an appreciation of presence and purpose that includes a sense of meaning.” A review of various definitions suggests that spirituality is a dynamic and internal process which is motivated chiefly by the need to find meaning and purpose in life.

Five characteristics of spirituality include: meaning, value, transcendence, connecting (with oneself, others, God/supreme power and the environment), and becoming (the growth and progress in life). It should be noted that, although perceived as to be similar by a layman, the term ‘Religion’, comes from the Latin word “Religio”, which signifies a bond between humanity and some greater than human power. Horsburgh maintains that religion focuses on ideology and rules whereas spirituality focuses on experience and relationship which go beyond religion.

Health can be explained as the state of being free from any threats to the well-being of an individual as a whole. According to WHO, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” So, the various dimensions that comprise human well-being can be suggested as being physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual. Since this paper studies the relationship spirituality and psychological well-being of college students, the various domains of Spiritual well-being are considered as follows.

In the framework definition of spiritual well-being (SWB) proposed by the National Interfaith Coalition on Aging (NICA), in Washington DC, four main themes appeared as SWB was seen as “the affirmation of life in a relationship with God, self, community and environment that nurtures and celebrates wholeness”. Psychological well-being consists of positive relationships with others, personal mastery, autonomy, a feeling of purpose and meaning in life, and personal growth and development. Psychological well-being is attained by achieving a state of balance affected by both challenging and rewarding life events.

It is affected by a person’s previous life experiences, well as underlying personality. However extremely traumatic events can help to build resilience and actually protect psychological well-being. the types of psychological well-being includes hedonic and eudemonic well-being, focusing on the idea that to really feel good we need to experience purpose and meaning, in addition to positive emotions. So, the two important ingredients in PWB are the subjective happy feelings brought on by something we enjoy AND the feeling that what we are doing with our lives has some meaning and purpose

This was a quantitative study in which the questionnaires used were Daily Spiritual Experience Scale, DSES, Lynn Go Wood (2006) and Psychological Well-being Scale, Ryff (1995) were administered. The sample consisted of 75 male college students in the age group 18-21. The sample was selected randomly. The respondents were instructed to choose the option most appropriate to them. There was no time limit.

Daily Spiritual Experience Scale, by Lynn G. Underwood is a 16 item questionnaire divided into two main sections or subsets i.e. theistic and non-theistic items. It is a scale used to get an insight into an individual’s spirituality i.e. his or her belief in the supernatural or divine power. Spirituality and religiousness are subjective topics and are often confused for each other due to their interrelated nature. Spirituality transcends the boundaries of religions and focuses on the belief system of the subject and his/her perceived relation with unearthly or godly factors. The scale has shown good reliability across cultures of approximately .90. It has been witnessed that the subjects who scored more in this scale showed comparatively less alcohol intake, better physical and mental health and a more positive outlook than those who scored comparatively less. The scale covers the arenas of comfort and strength, perceived divine love and inspiration or discernment.

Psychological Well Being Scale developed by Carol d. Ryff has been shortened time and again and is available in the form of a 42 item questionnaire and 18 item questionnaire out of which the 42 item questionnaire stands out to be more reliable. It has been noted that the ones who enjoyed a high status in their social life scored high in this well-being scale. Well-being is an aspect which comprises of not just our physical fitness but the healthy functioning of our mind as well which can be acquired by mastering emotional intelligence. Its scoring is done on a likert scale of 1-7, 1 being strongly agree and 7 being strongly disagree. This scale has six sub strata comprising of environmental mastery, personal growth, and positive purpose in life, self-acceptance and autonomy.

Psychological Well-Being: The variable of psychological well-being was found to be significant at 0.01 level, showing high correlation with environmental linkages, personal growth, positive relations, purpose in life, while the mean and standard deviation came out to be 127.95 and 17.69 respectively.

Spirituality: In this study spirituality is significantly correlated with environmental linkages, positive relations and self-acceptance at 0.05 level. The mean and SD of the variable came out to be 3.22 and 1.01.

The correlation between PWB and Spirituality was not found to be significant in this study. So, the hypothesis that spirituality and psychological well-being is not accepted.

1. Autonomy : Autonomy is a personality trait characterized by independence, personal achievement, setting of one’s own goals and ability to achieve them by making use of one’s own reservoir of resources. It is a central trait signifying a person’s maturity and his/her development over the years also emphasized by Erikson’s theory of development, whereas often it is confused with separateness, free will and isolation. People high on autonomy focus on personal achievement, independence in decision making and regulating one’s emotions and acts while those who are low on autonomy try to conform and depend on others for their life decisions. The results showed that autonomy to be significant at 0.01 level showing high correlation with personal growth, purpose in life , environmental linkages, self-acceptance .the mean and standard deviation was found to be 23.75 and 4.27 respectively.

2. Environmental Mastery: By environmental mastery, it is meant the extent to which an individual takes in charge of his\her actions. An ideal trait would that one takes responsibility of his\her action, instead of being a ‘victim’ of circumstances. Environmental Mastery is said to exist when an individual does not fall a prey to the maladaptive situations and it active in choosing his reactions to various situations. A person scoring high on environmental mastery would mean that the person is competent to manage the situations and that he\she makes effective use of the surroundings. A low score on environmental mastery indicates the subject lacks control over the situations around him. The results indicated that environmental linkages were significant at .05 level for personal growth and spirituality. However, the correlation value was low. For variables such as Psychological Wellbeing, Autonomy, Personal growth, Positive Relation, Purpose in life, Self-Acceptance and spirituality

3. Personal Growth: Personal Growth implies the experiences that challenge how on thinks about oneself and the world. It means that ability to extract the best out of various difficulties and learn novel information about oneself. A person who is high on person growth is open to changes in ways make him\her more knowledgeable. The correlation was found to be significant with variables such as Autonomy, Environment Linkages, Positive Relation & Purpose in Life.

4. Positive relations: Here the focus is on whether or not the individual shares a healthy relationship with people in his/her psychological field. Positive relations exist where the individual receives and gives unconditional positive regard to those around. In order for a relationship to be balanced it must be beneficial to both the parties, if it is only beneficial to one or none of the parties then it is an unhealthy relation which hinders the psychological well-being of the individual. It is significantly correlated to psychological well-being, environmental linkage, personal growth purpose in life and self-acceptance at 0.01 level and significantly correlated to spirituality at 0.05 level. The mean and SD came out to be 19.83 and 3.78 respectively.

5. Purpose in life: purpose in life is usually perceived as career wise goal orientation. While it can be true for some, it has other meanings too. Purpose in life may be derived through personal goals, inner peace, it can be anything, factor or entity which motivates a person to go through life. Therefore purpose in life is anything which gives hope to the individual. Ryff included this sub theme in his questionnaire because in order to have a psychologically healthy mind one must have hope. It is in the absence of hope that individuals start to succumb to self-defeating thoughts. Purpose is unique to everyone and it is the force which guides the actions and thoughts of the individual. Purpose in life showed a high correlation with the variables psychological wellbeing, autonomy, environmental linkages, persona growth, positive relation and self-acceptance, which were significant at .01 level. The mean and SD of the variable came out to be 18.8 and 3.51 respectively.

6. Self-acceptance: Self-acceptance can be defined as a person’s approval or acceptance of himself. This comes with knowing one’s own abilities and imitations, knowing what one can do and what he/she cannot. It is impossible to grow without knowing oneself inside out and harnessing one’s abilities. If a person is bad in science and good in geography but does not accept this fact and tries to focus only on science without paying heed to the subject he is strong at then that person cannot grow. Self-acceptance was to be significantly correlated to all the other variables at 0.01 level. The mean and SD came out to be 19.89 and 4.24 respectively.

In conclusion, it can be noted that even though spirituality and psychological well-being did not have a significant correlation with each other in this particular sample, the variables such as Autonomy, Environmental Linkages, Personal Growth, Positive relations, Purpose in life and Self-Acceptance are correlated to each other.

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