Saturday, April 7, 2007

Spiritual Health and Physical Health

I have addressed physical health quite a bit in this blog. So I thought it was time to maybe focus on another type of health, which, by the way, is not completely unrelated to physical health. This blog is about spiritual health, and the possibility that it may affect our physical health in ways you’ve maybe never considered before.

Given the nature of the upcoming Easter for Christians, and Passover having been this week as well, I thought that it was an appropriate time of year to address this topic. Furthermore, I think we can all agree that our hyper lifestyle has caused many people to abandon their faith in the name of being too busy. This is a regrettable thing, especially since spirituality can, as studies suggest, enhance our physical and mental well-being greatly.

When I refer to “spirituality,” I don’t necessarily mean one religion or faith. I simply mean the existence of some sort of faith.

Here are a few results studies have shown:
1. Elderly people who attend regular religious services have lower blood pressure and healthier immune systems.
2. People with a religious community and ties were 3 times as likely to survive open heart surgery as people who had no faith whatsoever.
3. A 7-year study shows that elderly people who are involved in some sort of religion are have lower rates of depression and even physical disability. Even more surprising, this study also yielded that death rates were lower before a major religious holiday, suggesting that people of faith had a stronger will to live for the holiday.
4. Suicide rates, drugs, smoking, heavy drinking, and other self-destructive behaviors are much lower among people of faith.
5. Stress rates are lower as well, and a contentedness with life is more prevalent among these people.

While this research is fairly new (being taken seriously only within the last ten years or so), there are many theories of why spirituality impacts physical health.

Maybe it has something to do with having a close-knit community of fellow members who support us through hardships. I remember when I was 16; my mom broke her back and was laid up for almost a year in a hospital bed. People from our church came with food, flowers, helped clean the house, sang Christmas carols, sat with my mom while my brother and I were at school, and even did little things like paint her nails for her. Our community’s support helped pull us through those tough times.

Maybe it also has something to do with the fact that most people of faith believe that no matter how out-of-control life can seem, there is always a bigger plan. Eastern religions believe that everything will balance out in the continuous cycle of death and rebirth. Karma comes into play, leading to a sense of eventual well-being, even if it is not available in this life. Muslims, Jews, and Christians all have faith in God, and that He is in control and always will be, in spite of the evil we see all around us in this world. Christians take it a step further in believing that Jesus sacrificed himself so Christians can become holy, no matter how bad their past was. Furthermore, the belief in life after death in heaven, leads to comfort for many who are dying and in pain. My grandmother believed she would go to heaven, and at the end of her life, she was calm, peaceful, and ready to go. She was in a terrible amount of pain, but she smiled as took her last breath, and that expression remained on her face after she had passed on.

Maybe the connection between spiritual health and physical health also has something to do with the idea that self-destruction is NOT the way to handle life’s problems. This is especially true since most religions believe that the body is a temple, a vessel, or whatnot that is supposed to be honored and not destroyed. There are spiritual leaders available when a problem arises; they can help work through addictions and other self-destructive behavior. Better yet, most of them, if not all, are required to keep such information in strict confidence. They can offer leadership and advice to get through life’s tough problems, without the embarrassment of publicity. Not having to worry about everyone knowing one’s problems can encourage them to confront, rather than deny, such problems.

I am in no way pushing for anyone reading this to go out and find a religion. I am merely just putting it out there. As a person of faith myself, I can say that it has helped me immensely through all of life’s challenges. I can also say that I am not surprised that the calmness I experience from my faith helps keep me healthier both physically and mentally. I encourage anyone reading this that may not have any belief, to explore the possibilities. After all, a belief in nothing is still a faith in that nothing being the only thing to believe in.

Statistical Info. taken from:

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