PEOPLE who believe in oneness -- the idea that everything in the world is connected and interdependent -- appear to have greater life satisfaction than those who don't, regardless of whether they belong to a religion or don't, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
Study participants were asked to respond to a series of statements designed to measure their belief in oneness (e.g., "I believe that everything in the world is based on a common principle" or "Everything in the world is interdependent and influenced by each other"). They were also asked to respond to items measuring other concepts associated with oneness, such as social connectedness, connectedness to nature and empathy as well as life satisfaction.
Study author Edinger-Schons, PhD, of the University of Mannheim, found a significant correlation between scores on her oneness scale and the concepts associated with oneness, suggesting that it was a valid measure of the concept. More important, she also found that people with higher oneness scores reported significantly greater life satisfaction.
"Obviously, oneness beliefs are more than a situation-specific feeling or mood. They rather seem to represent a general attitude toward life," she said.
She also found a significant correlation between oneness beliefs and life satisfaction. While being satisfied with life as a whole should be rewarding in itself, research does suggest that people with higher life satisfaction experience some additional benefits, such as increased academic performance in younger people and better health in old age.
In her second survey, Edinger-Schons looked at whether oneness beliefs could explain individuals' life satisfaction over and above the effect of religion. Much research has been done on the association between religion and life satisfaction, but she wondered if there might not be something else at work. Specifically, her hypothesis was that oneness beliefs might explain peoples' satisfaction with life even better than religion.
Participants came from a variety of religious backgrounds, including Protestant denominations, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.
“When oneness beliefs were taken into account, many of the positive effects of religious affiliation on life satisfaction disappeared," she added
Many people today practice yoga, meditation, action sports and other activities that aim at achieving a state of oneness or flow. Strengthening the more general belief in the oneness of everything has the potential to enhance peoples' lives and might even be more effective than traditional religious beliefs and practices at improving life satisfaction, Edinger-Schons said. (American Psychological Association)