Research on Contemplation
The benefits of living a more contemplative way of life are often difficult to quantify. However, research is beginning to acknowledge the benefits of meditation, prayer, and other forms of living a more spiritually centered or contemplative way of life that many share anecdotally.
Below are some links to research we’ve found. We welcome any additions you might have.
May the data revealed give your mind the information it needs and reaffirm what your heart already knows.
Primary Research Sources
Social Isolation and Loneliness
Social isolation and loneliness are increasingly being recognized as a priority public health problem and policy issue for older people. During the course of the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-2030), the Demographic Change and Healthy Ageing Unit will be addressing social isolation and loneliness as one of the themes that cuts across the four main action areas of the Decade.
Standford’s Contemplative Resources
Stanford University collection of resources on Contemplative Practices and Cultivating Contemplative Lifestyle Habits
Why Is Spirituality Important?
There is a growing body of evidence indicating that spiritual practices are associated with better health and wellbeing for many reasons.
Harvard: Spirituality linked with better health outcomes, patient care
This study represents the most rigorous and comprehensive systematic analysis of the modern day literature regarding health and spirituality to date.
Religious Involvement, Spirituality, and Medicine: Implications for Clinical Practice
Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation
The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community
Secondary Sources for Further Exploration
Do Contemplative Moments Matter? Effects of Informal Meditation on Emotions and Perceived Social Integration
An original paper from Mindfulness (2019) that found informal meditation practice is linked to both positive emotions and social integration.
Molecules of Silence: Effects of Meditation on Gene Expression and Epigenetics
A 2020 Frontiers in Psychology paper that seeks to “understand whether meditation can elicit epigenetic events able to prevent disease and promote health” and cause a “positive impact on psychology.”
The neuroscientific study of spiritual practices
A 2014 Frontiers in Psychology paper outlining neuroscientific paradigms that can be employed to the study spiritual experience.
Faith and spirituality as psychological coping mechanism among female aid workers: a qualitative study
A 2021 Journal of International Humanitarian Action finding that “A faith-based and spiritual practice can be an effective coping mechanism through processes that are linked to humanity’s primary needs of identity, space for self-care, community, belonging, and connection.”
How Does Spirituality Change the Brain?
“An article originally published on the Addiction Policy Forum Blog, explores research about what regions of the brain are changed during a person’s spiritual practice” and how spiritual practice can be used as a tool to improve mental health.
The Mental Health Benefits of Religion and Spirituality
A 2016 post on the National Alliance on Mental Illness website outlining various mental health benefits of both religion and spirituality, along with a link to a dedicated site focused on this topic, www.nami.org/faithnet
The Psychological and Physical Benefits of Spiritual/Religious Practices
A 2008 Spirituality in Higher Education article outlining mental and physical health benefits of spiritual and religious practices, along with a reminder of the intrinsic value of these practices.