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Church really is good for you - NZ survey

Posted on: July 27, 2015 1:19 PM
The temporary “cardboard cathedral” of Christchurch, New Zealand, built to replace the one destroyed during the earthquake
Photo Credit: Christchurch Daily
Related Categories: New Zealand, survey

[AnglicanTaongaEarthquakes destroyed many of Christchurch’s beautiful church buildings, but the latest All Right? survey shows churches and other faith networks are integral to the wellbeing of many Cantabrians.

The All Right? wellbeing campaign is a Healthy Christchurch project led by the Mental Health Foundation and the Canterbury District Health Board, to help Cantabrians recover from the 2010/2011 earthquakes and their aftermath.

All Right? commissions annual surveys of Canterbury’s population to inform their campaign, and monitor the psychosocial recovery of the region.

The latest All Right? survey results show nearly half of Cantabrians (41%) say their religion or faith has helped them to deal with the last four years – all of the aftershocks, ongoing road works, and damaged houses. The general struggles that those living in Christchurch face day-to-day living in a city undergoing major construction.

Public Health Specialist for the Canterbury District Health Board and All Right? Dr Lucy D’Aeth says religion and faith can be a major driver of a person’s wellbeing.

“One fact from the latest All Right? survey that’s really stood out for me was how the number of people who say they feel connected to church, worship, prayer or karakia has risen slightly over the four years since the earthquakes,” says Dr D’Aeth.

“The All Right? research shows many Cantabrians, particularly men, have a relatively limited number of people who they feel really close to. Communities like churches can provide vital connections for people who feel isolated. We know that many people find church communities have been pillars of support and wellbeing for them, by being safe places with people available to listen and share,” says Dr Lucy D’Aeth.

Religious faith promotes a sense of meaning and purpose, which is an important factor for good wellbeing. Being associated with formal religion, whether Christian or another faith, gives people a great opportunity to practise the five ways to wellbeing – connect, give, take notice, learn and be active. There is plenty of evidence that practising these simple things can provide a major boost to wellbeing.

“Churches and other faith communities can be wonderful social hubs, as they often offer multiple opportunities to connect with friends and family during the week. Churches may hold study or home groups, or provide social services like exercise classes, health clinics, and arts & crafts groups.”

Many of these church-associated activities incorporate one or more of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing. For example, one of the 5 Ways is Giving. Churches across Canterbury provide places for people to volunteer their time, or donate money which can be very rewarding.

“Everyone has something they can offer,” says Dr D’Aeth. “It could be as simple as giving your time to listen to a friend, or giving your neighbour a lift to the arts & crafts group. Giving can help you feel linked to your community and create connections with those around you.”

Other examples of the Ways to Wellbeing are Take Notice - admire beauty in the little things all around us. Being Active - as much as you can. Singing together, which is often a feature of religious worship, is very good for physical and mental wellbeing.  Also, Keep Learning - one new thing every day. International research shows incorporating the 5 Ways into your everyday routine can give you a much needed boost.

“If you go to an arts & crafts group and chat while you’re working, you could be learning something new and connecting. You’re getting the benefits of two of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing in one activity.”

In a city where lots of people are struggling to understand and talk about their feelings, The All Right?campaign recognises how  churches and other faith communities are helping people connect, give, take notice, be active, and learn, to keep up their amazing work.

“Church is the community, not the building – we learnt this in Canterbury when we lost so many church buildings but communities of faith continued to meet in school halls, workplaces, wherever they could find,” says Dr Lucy D’Aeth.

 “The All Right? campaign is about promoting conversations about wellbeing across the whole of Canterbury.  We encourage people to practice the 5 Ways because there’s so much evidence that it will help people – we share much in common with what religious communities have been supporting their communities to do for centuries.”

 For more information on All Right? and the 5 Ways to Wellbeing, visit the website allright.org.nz