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Concept: Spirituality


Stories of g-tummo meditators mysteriously able to dry wet sheets wrapped around their naked bodies during a frigid Himalayan ceremony have intrigued scholars and laypersons alike for a century. Study 1 was conducted in remote monasteries of eastern Tibet with expert meditators performing g-tummo practices while their axillary temperature and electroencephalographic (EEG) activity were measured. Study 2 was conducted with Western participants (a non-meditator control group) instructed to use the somatic component of the g-tummo practice (vase breathing) without utilization of meditative visualization. Reliable increases in axillary temperature from normal to slight or moderate fever zone (up to 38.3°C) were observed among meditators only during the Forceful Breath type of g-tummo meditation accompanied by increases in alpha, beta, and gamma power. The magnitude of the temperature increases significantly correlated with the increases in alpha power during Forceful Breath meditation. The findings indicate that there are two factors affecting temperature increase. The first is the somatic component which causes thermogenesis, while the second is the neurocognitive component (meditative visualization) that aids in sustaining temperature increases for longer periods. Without meditative visualization, both meditators and non-meditators were capable of using the Forceful Breath vase breathing only for a limited time, resulting in limited temperature increases in the range of normal body temperature. Overall, the results suggest that specific aspects of the g-tummo technique might help non-meditators learn how to regulate their body temperature, which has implications for improving health and regulating cognitive performance.

Concepts: Temperature, Electroencephalography, Human body, Meditation, Spirituality, Binaural beats, Anapanasati


Prior work has established that analytic thinking is associated with disbelief in God, whereas religious and spiritual beliefs have been positively linked to social and emotional cognition. However, social and emotional cognition can be subdivided into a number of distinct dimensions, and some work suggests that analytic thinking is in tension with some aspects of social-emotional cognition. This leaves open two questions. First, is belief linked to social and emotional cognition in general, or a specific dimension in particular? Second, does the negative relationship between belief and analytic thinking still hold after relationships with social and emotional cognition are taken into account? We report eight hypothesis-driven studies which examine these questions. These studies are guided by a theoretical model which focuses on the distinct social and emotional processing deficits associated with autism spectrum disorders (mentalizing) and psychopathy (moral concern). To our knowledge no other study has investigated both of these dimensions of social and emotion cognition alongside analytic thinking. We find that religious belief is robustly positively associated with moral concern (4 measures), and that at least part of the negative association between belief and analytic thinking (2 measures) can be explained by a negative correlation between moral concern and analytic thinking. Using nine different measures of mentalizing, we found no evidence of a relationship between mentalizing and religious or spiritual belief. These findings challenge the theoretical view that religious and spiritual beliefs are linked to the perception of agency, and suggest that gender differences in religious belief can be explained by differences in moral concern. These findings are consistent with the opposing domains hypothesis, according to which brain areas associated with moral concern and analytic thinking are in tension.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Belief, Faith, Autism, Mind, Religion, Spirituality


In four large, nationally representative surveys (N = 11.2 million), American adolescents and emerging adults in the 2010s (Millennials) were significantly less religious than previous generations (Boomers, Generation X) at the same age. The data are from the Monitoring the Future studies of 12th graders (1976-2013), 8th and 10th graders (1991-2013), and the American Freshman survey of entering college students (1966-2014). Although the majority of adolescents and emerging adults are still religiously involved, twice as many 12th graders and college students, and 20%-40% more 8th and 10th graders, never attend religious services. Twice as many 12th graders and entering college students in the 2010s (vs. the 1960s-70s) give their religious affiliation as “none,” as do 40%-50% more 8th and 10th graders. Recent birth cohorts report less approval of religious organizations, are less likely to say that religion is important in their lives, report being less spiritual, and spend less time praying or meditating. Thus, declines in religious orientation reach beyond affiliation to religious participation and religiosity, suggesting a movement toward secularism among a growing minority. The declines are larger among girls, Whites, lower-SES individuals, and in the Northeastern U.S., very small among Blacks, and non-existent among political conservatives. Religious affiliation is lower in years with more income inequality, higher median family income, higher materialism, more positive self-views, and lower social support. Overall, these results suggest that the lower religious orientation of Millennials is due to time period or generation, and not to age.

Concepts: Demographics, Religion, Meditation, Household income in the United States, Spirituality, Generation Y, Generation, Generation X


Using data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey (N = 1714), this study investigates the prevalence and religious predictors of healing prayer use among US adults. Indicators include prayed for self (lifetime prevalence = 78.8 %), prayed for others (87.4 %), asked for prayer (54.1 %), laying-on-of-hands (26.1 %), and participated in a prayer group (53.0 %). Each was regressed onto eight religious measures, and then again controlling for sociodemographic variables and health. While all religious measures had net effects on at least one healing prayer indicator, the one consistent predictor was a four-item scale assessing a loving relationship with God. Higher scores were associated with more frequent healing prayer use according to every measure, after controlling for all other religious variables and covariates.

Concepts: Religion, Meditation, Spirituality, God, Prayer, Faith healing, Mantra, Mysticism


BACKGROUND: Religious participation or belief may predict better mental health but most research is American and measures of spirituality are often conflated with well-being. AIMS: To examine associations between a spiritual or religious understanding of life and psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses. METHOD: We analysed data collected from interviews with 7403 people who participated in the third National Psychiatric Morbidity Study in England. RESULTS: Of the participants 35% had a religious understanding of life, 19% were spiritual but not religious and 46% were neither religious nor spiritual. Religious people were similar to those who were neither religious nor spiritual with regard to the prevalence of mental disorders, except that the former were less likely to have ever used drugs (odds ratio (OR) = 0.73, 95% CI 0.60-0.88) or be a hazardous drinker (OR = 0.81, 95% CI 0.69-0.96). Spiritual people were more likely than those who were neither religious nor spiritual to have ever used (OR = 1.24, 95% CI 1.02-1.49) or be dependent on drugs (OR = 1.77, 95% CI 1.20-2.61), and to have abnormal eating attitudes (OR = 1.46, 95% CI 1.10-1.94), generalised anxiety disorder (OR = 1.50, 95% CI 1.09-2.06), any phobia (OR = 1.72, 95% CI 1.07-2.77) or any neurotic disorder (OR = 1.37, 95% CI 1.12-1.68). They were also more likely to be taking psychotropic medication (OR = 1.40, 95% CI 1.05-1.86). CONCLUSIONS: People who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework are vulnerable to mental disorder.

Concepts: Mental health, Mental disorder, Abnormal psychology, Psychiatry, Generalized anxiety disorder, Psychiatric medication, Insomnia, Spirituality


Since self-efficacy is a positive predictor of substance use treatment outcome, we investigated whether it is associated with spirituality within a religious 12-step program. This was a cross-sectional survey (N = 91) of 10 different Celebrate Recovery sites held at community churches. The mean spirituality score for those with high confidence was significantly greater than those with low confidence. Spirituality associated with greater confidence to resist substance use (OR = 1.09, 95% CI 1.02-1.17, P < 0.05). So every unit increase of measured spirituality increased the odds of being above the median in self-efficacy by 9%. We conclude that spirituality may be an important explanatory variable in outcomes of a faith-based 12-step recovery program.

Concepts: Arithmetic mean, Recovery model, Drug rehabilitation, Spirituality, Recovery, Higher Power, Twelve-step program, Twelve-step programs


Objective: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a secular meditation training program that reduces depressive symptoms. Little is known, however, about the degree to which a participant’s spiritual and religious background, or other demographic characteristics associated with risk for depression, may affect the effectiveness of MBSR. Therefore, this study tested whether individual differences in religiosity, spirituality, motivation for spiritual growth, trait mindfulness, sex, and age affect MBSR effectiveness. Methods: As part of an open trial, multiple regression was used to analyze variation in depressive symptom outcomes among 322 adults who enrolled in an 8-week, community-based MBSR program. Results: As hypothesized, depressive symptom severity decreased significantly in the full study sample (d=0.57; p<0.01). After adjustment for baseline symptom severity, moderation analyses revealed no significant differences in the change in depressive symptoms following MBSR as a function of spirituality, religiosity, trait mindfulness, or demographic variables. Paired t tests found consistent, statistically significant (p<0.01) reductions in depressive symptoms across all subgroups by religious affiliation, intention for spiritual growth, sex, and baseline symptom severity. After adjustment for baseline symptom scores, age, sex, and religious affiliation, a significant proportion of variance in post-MBSR depressive symptoms was uniquely explained by changes in both spirituality (β=-0.15; p=0.006) and mindfulness (β=-0.17; p<0.001). Conclusions: These findings suggest that MBSR, a secular meditation training program, is associated with improved depressive symptoms regardless of affiliation with a religion, sense of spirituality, trait level of mindfulness before MBSR training, sex, or age. Increases in both mindfulness and daily spiritual experiences uniquely explained improvement in depressive symptoms.

Concepts: Statistical significance, Demographics, Major depressive disorder, Religion, Meditation, Spirituality, God, Religious experience


Biofield therapies are approaches that harness energy fields to influence the human body. These therapies encompass Reiki, Qigong, Therapeutic Touch, Johrei and Spiritist “passe”, among others. The aim of this study was to evaluate bacterial growth in two groups of cultures subjected to biofield therapy (Spiritist “passe” and laying on of hands (LOH)) in four situations (no intention, intention to inhibit bacterial growth, intention to promote growth, and influence of a negative factor) and compare them with a “no LOH/no treatment” group.

Concepts: Therapy, Human body, Qi, Spirituality, Pseudoscience, New Age, Chakra, Energy therapies


Although many patients and their families view religion or spirituality as an important consideration near the end of life, little is known about the extent to which religious or spiritual considerations arise during goals-of-care conversations in the intensive care unit.

Concepts: Health care, Health care provider, Life, Religion, Meditation, Spirituality, God, Prayer


Purpose of the Study: Research has linked several aspects of religion-including service attendance, prayer, meditation, religious coping strategies, congregational support systems, and relations with God, among others-with positive mental health outcomes among older U.S. adults. This study examines a neglected dimension of religious life: listening to religious music.

Concepts: Religion, Personal life, Meditation, Christianity, Spirituality, Prayer, Mantra, Mysticism