According to the research from Duke University in North Carolina (USA), oxytocin stimulates elevated feelings of religiousness among its other functions.
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The team, led by Patty Van Capallen, a social psychologist, boosted levels of oxytocin in middle-aged men for the study.
They found that the participants self-reported increased spirituality on two separate measures, and the effect lasted a week after the study. They also reported increased positive emotions while meditating.
The group that received placebo (unreal) did not report similar experience of spirituality.
“Spirituality and meditation have each been linked to health and well-being in previous research. We were interested in understanding biological factors that may enhance those spiritual experiences,” Van Capallen told Duke Today.
“Oxytocin appears to be part of the way our bodies support spiritual beliefs.”
The research results were published in the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience journal.
Previous research has indicated that oxytocin plays an important role in promoting trust, empathy, social bonding and altruism.
This was reflected in the group that received oxytocin, regardless of religious affiliations or not, who reported that life has meaning and purpose and that spirituality is important in their lives.
Positive statements such as “all life is interconnected” and “there is a higher plane of consciousness or spirituality that binds all people” were common in this group.
However, Van Cappellen cautioned that the findings should not be over-generalised.
“Spirituality is complex and affected by many factors. However, oxytocin does seem to affect how we perceive the world and what we believe.”
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