Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Good CHARACTERistics to enhance wellbeing

Welcome back! Thanks for visiting my blog today!

We are exploring together what the Bible says about wellbeing. Otherwise, how can you live a more satisfied, fulfilling life? Recently we have been discussing the 5 Scriptural tools to maturity (Acts 2:42, 47) as a means to build robust Biblically based wellbeing into our lives! Today, with these tools in hand we discuss the results of the process!

The fruits of maturing in Christ are multiple and are mentioned throughout the New Testament. Let's begin by focusing on four Bible-based characteristics shown beneficial for wellbeing in the medical literature that we recently reviewed (forgiveness, gratitude, hope and empathy).1 This article was recently published in the Journal of Religion and Health. To accomplish our goal we reviewed clinical studies covering these four characteristics in patients from 1966 to present. We included 63 articles in the review.

All four measures evaluated in our study were shown to improve wellbeing, from pre-adolescents to older adults. Further, these measures were associated more specifically with improved social relationships and physical health as well as reduced delinquent behavior.

Although our review focused on the effect of four specific measures on individuals themselves, and not on the recipient, we might speculate that any increase in wellbeing among the evaluated individuals could transmit a greater sense of wellbeing to others.

The source of the four evaluated parameters also was evaluated and only two primary sources were found!  First, forgiveness, gratitude and empathy could be taught, at least to some degree, through classes or a training module. Hope has not been evaluated in a training module to our knowledge.

Second, a person’s religious faith, or their involvement in a community of believers, appeared positively associated with all four evaluated measures. How the measure was developed through religion was not completely clear. We might speculate that forgiveness, gratitude, hope and empathy were produced through knowledge from the religion’s scriptures, through self-learning or sermons, or through interaction with the faith community.2 Importantly, almost all articles evaluated in our review were from traditionally Christian countries.

Our review suggests that forgiveness, gratitude, hope and empathy may improve general wellbeing, pro-social and positive relational behavior and demonstrate positive health effects. These four measures may be derived from religious instruction and through a faith community.

What other Biblical characteristics are beneficial to wellbeing? Join me next week as we continue our exciting discussion of the Biblical characteristics that can change your life.

To ponder, could improved wellbeing be gained from any religion to the same extent as Christianity?

WC Stewart

1.    Stewart WC, Reynolds KE, Jones LJ, Stewart JA, Nelson LA. The source and impact of specific parameters that enhance well-being in daily life. J Rel Health 2015; in press.
2.    Hong IW, Ow R. Hope among terminally ill patients in Singapore: An exploratory study. Soc Work Health Care 2007;45:85–106.

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