A study published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society provides a rare glimpse into the benefits of ritual behavior in reducing chronic stress levels.
Increased anxiety is known to induce religiosity, ritualized, and repetitive behavior; the initiation of cultural rituals has found to be beneficial for many seeking to cope with anxiety.
According to researchers at the University of Connecticut, their findings were the result of an investigation on Marathi religious practices and how ritual behavior could induce anxiolytic-like effects.
In their study, 75 women were enrolled in experimentation and offered monetary value in return. The monetary exchange was 150 Mauritian rupees. During the study, one participant withdrew from the experiments, leaving only 74 participants.
“The decision to recruit only women was driven by the observation that women in that community were much more likely to perform individual rituals in the temple,” the co-authors explained in their findings.
“While men frequently take place in the collective rituals of the community, on an everyday basis it is typically women who visit the temple to make offerings to the various deities of the Hindu pantheon.”
Their experimentation of the Mauritian women uncovered that ritual behavior led to greater anxiety reduction on a self-reported and physiological level compared to the control condition, the study found.
Researchers determined that temple ritual creates a peace of mind, inner peace, and induces mental wellness among the participants.
“Accordingly, in the present study, participants who reported that ritual performance helped to calm them down also experienced lower anxiety after ritual performance,” the co-authors concluded.
“By bringing the laboratory into the field and corroborating such phenomenological accounts with quantitative data at both the self-reported and physiological level, our study contributes to a rapprochement between laboratory and field methods and increases the ecological validity of our findings.”