Dr. Patty Van Cappellen received the Margaret Gorman Early Career award from the American Psychological Association Div. 36 and gave an address entitled:
“Religion/spirituality: From the mind to the body.”
I will present a summary of my own research that showcases the importance of studying religion as a practice in addition to a system of beliefs. First, I’ll discuss the fact that religious and spiritual practices (e.g., attending a place of worship, praying, meditating) are associated with the experience of meaningful positive emotions. To explain this association, I’ll specifically focus on embodied processes showing that the very body postures adopted in worship and prayer are associated with distinct religious experiences. I’ll then turn my attention to the implications of experiencing positive emotions in religious practice describing research on well-being and spirituality. Finally, I’ll briefly describe an ongoing investigation on the psychological and biological factors that amplify the positive emotions experienced in spiritual practices with attendant consequences for sustained adherence to these practices. Together, I aim to argue for the importance of moving the study of religion beyond the mind and for taking seriously the role that positive emotions play when experienced during religious and spiritual practices.