Rosemary Aird conducted surveys of 3,705 21-year-olds in Brisbane as part of her Ph.D. studies at the University of Queensland's School of Population Health.
"I had a look at two different beliefs – one was a belief in God, associated with traditional religions, and the other was the newer belief in a spiritual or higher power other than God," Aird told the Brisbane Times.
Her research found the newer non-traditional beliefs linked to higher rates of "anxiety, depression, disturbed and suspicious ways of thinking and anti-social behavior" – results, she suggested, arising from New Age beliefs focused on self-transformation, self-fulfillment and self-enlightenment to the exclusion of community.
"Traditional religion tends to promote the idea of social responsibility and thinking of others' interests, whereas the New Age movement pushes the idea that we can transform the world by changing ourselves.
"My generation was about social responsibility and collective interests compared to the Me Generation," Aird said. "'New Spirituality' promotes the idea that self-transformation will lead to a positive and constructive change in self and society.
"But there is a contradiction – how can one change society if one is focused on oneself?"
These results kind of remind me of my mother-in-law. She is the most selfless person I think I've ever met, and she's about the happiest person I know as well. The woman in helping people out 24/7, never asking for a thing in return and always has a smile on her face. You can tell how happy it makes her to help others rather than focus on herself.
It seems like all these nifty self help methods would tend to make a person focus even more on themselves and the millions of little flaws we all have. I think my Mother-in-law has it all figured out. She's a Christian, but I rarely hear her say anything about religion at all. Her beliefs are reflected in everything she does rather than what she says. She's a great role model for myself and the kids. I'm very fortunate to have the opportunity to live next door to her, and the kids have loved growing up next to their Grandmother. My Father-in-law passed away a few months after my youngest son was born, so I think she has enjoyed having us nearby as well.
The woman is also fearless! She's 70 years old, and a few months ago, I looked out my window and caught her up on her roof cleaning the leaves out of her gutters and down spouts. By the time I got a pair of old clothes and shoes on to go over and help her, she was done! I suppose all that outdoor work will keep her young, but I sometimes worry that she's going to take a fall and get herself killed!
We all love her lots.