Based on the findings, it appears those who feel accountable to a higher power also experience greater mental well-being. Of the four variables of psychological well-being (ie, mattering to others, dignity, feeling meaning in one’s life, and happiness), participants with theistic accountability had higher levels of the first three, with no association to overall happiness.
The research also found that when theistic accountability was paired with prayer, associations to mental health were even higher.
“[Those with theistic accountability] welcome responsibilities that are associated with their faith and view accountability to God as a gift that helps them lead happy and successful lives, “study co-author Blake Victor Kent, Ph.D.explains in a news releaseadding, “Accountability has been examined philosophically as a virtue relevant to the spiritual life, but so far no one had quantified it.”
And as Lisa Miller, Ph.D., an award-winning researcher in spirituality and psychology and the author of The Awakened Brain, recently explained on the mindbodygreen podcastspirituality is important for not only mental health but physical brain health as well, with stark differences observed in the brains of spiritual people versus nonspiritual people.
When Miller studied MRI scans of people who had struggled with feelings of sadness, she says, “People who [had] a spiritual response to suffering showed entirely different brains. They showed not thinning but thickening across the regions of perception and reflection, the parietal, precuneus, and occipital [regions]. ”
She adds that prayer “opens up our direct relationship with God, the loving guidance spirit in and through life,” so it makes sense that praying, along with theistic accountability, would further bolster the potential mental benefits of spirituality.
As lead author of the study Matt Bradshaw, Ph.D.says, “Humans are social creatures, and our psychological health is bound up in positive and constructive relationships — not only with other people, but also with God. “