New York, Oct 4 : Smartphones not only reveal your screen time, chat history or gaming preferences but are a useful tool to find a link between individuals' daily spiritual experiences and overall well-being, say researchers.
While other studies have found such a connection between spirituality and positive emotions, the new study is significant because frequent texting over smartphones made it easier to capture respondents' moment-to-moment spiritual experiences over 14 days rather than only one or two points in time.
Using smartphone check-ins twice a day for two weeks, researchers from Baylor University and Harvard University examined whether spirituality's link with satisfaction is stable or momentary,
"This study is unique because it examines daily spiritual experiences -- such as feeling God's presence, finding strength in religion or spirituality, and feeling inner peace and harmony -- as both stable traits and as states that fluctuate," said study co-author Matt Bradshaw, research professor of sociology at Baylor University.
The findings suggest that stable, consistent spiritual experiences as well as short-term periodic ones both serve as resources to promote human flourishing and help individuals cope with stressful conditions.
Additionally, "the prevalence of smartphones makes this sort of 'experience sampling' study doable on a much larger scale than in the past, when pagers or palm pilots were used to trigger data collection," said lead author Blake Victor Kent, Research Fellow of Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital.
The study, published in The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, used data from SoulPulse, a project funded by the John Templeton Foundation, to study religion, spirituality and mental and physical well-being.
Participants were 2,795 individuals who signed up for the study.
"The findings indicate, as you would expect, that the wear and tear of daily stressors are associated with increased depressive symptoms and lower levels of flourishing," Kent said.
Essentially, if you take two people who have equal levels of stress, "the one with more spiritual experiences will be less likely to report depressive symptoms and more likely to indicate feelings of flourishing.
That's a comparison between two people".
The unique thing about this study was that the sociologists were able to show that when someone's spiritual experiences vary day to day, the 'above average' days of spiritual experience are associated with better mental well-being than the 'below average' days.