Spirituality and Health
Can spirituality promote a healthier physical life for your family? Recent medical studies indicate that spiritual people are less prone to self-destructive behaviors (suicide, smoking, and drug and alcohol abuse, for example), and have less stress and a greater total life satisfaction. Although spirituality has been shown to reduce depression, improve blood pressure, and boost the immune system, religious beliefs should not interfere with the medical care PEOPLE receive.
So what exactly is spirituality and how can it enhance your family’s health?
Spirituality and Physical Health
Doctors and scientists once avoided the study of spirituality in connection to medicine, but more recent findings have made some take a second look. Studies show that religion and faith can help to promote good health and fight disease by:
- offering additional social supports, such as religious outreach groups
- improving coping skills through prayer and a philosophy that all things have a purpose
Although research on kids hasn’t been done, many studies focusing on adults point to the positive effects of spirituality on medical outcome:
- In a 7-year study of senior citizens, religious involvement was associated with less physical disability and less depression. Death rates were lower than expected before an important religious holiday, which suggested to researchers that faith might have postponed death in these cases.
- Elderly people who regularly attended religious services had healthier immune systems than those who didn’t. They were also more likely to have consistently lower blood pressure.
- Patients undergoing open-heart surgery who received strength and comfort from their religion were three times more likely to survive than those who had no religious ties.
Spirituality and Mental Health
Religious and spiritual beliefs are an important part of how many people deal with life’s joys and hardships. Faith can give people a sense of purpose and guidelines for living. When families face tough situations, including health problems, their religious beliefs and practices can help them fight feelings of helplessness, restore meaning and order to life situations, and help them regain a sense of control. For some families, spirituality can be a powerful and important source of strength. Medical studies have confirmed that spirituality can have a profound effect on mental states. In a study of men who were hospitalized, nearly half rated religion as helpful in coping with their illness. A second study showed that the more religious patients were, the more quickly they recovered from some disorders. A third study revealed that high levels of hope and optimism, key factors in fighting depression, were found among those who strictly practiced their religion.