Does Spirituality Influence Health?
Is a stronger spiritual life directly related to a stronger physical health as well? For years, researchers have been trying to co-relate spirituality and its influence to physical health.
As it is, spirituality can improve a person’s ability to cope more with the environment that he is living in. Being able to nurture a strong and flourishing spiritual life despite today’s culture is a strong characteristic that may help a person in improving his mental, emotional and physical health. So how can spirituality affect these aspects of health?
• Spirituality helps in reducing stress and depression. One of the main teachings of spirituality is directed towards living with a positive outlook in life. An optimistic person dwells more on the bright side of things rather than on the negative. These actions help him reduce or eliminate anxiety, tension and probable signs of depression. In turn, being able to live a spiritual life with reduced negativity can affect a person’s nervous, cardiovascular and immune system. A medical research which was focused on senior citizens indicated that those who have a healthy practice of their spiritual and religious beliefs have stronger immunity system and lower blood pressure than the elderly subjects who already gave up on their beliefs.
• Spirituality can lead to a healthy lifestyle. One specific example of this would be those who are members of certain religions or sects whose beliefs prevent them from indulging in alcohol consumption, smoking and eating pork. Patients who are under rehabilitation for substance and alcohol abuse often undergo spiritual training which teaches them that the proper way to handle emotional turmoil would be to meditate and pray rather than turn to alcohol and drugs.
• Spirituality improves the body’s resistance to stress. A 1988 clinical study showed that spiritual women who underwent breast biopsies have lower stress levels in their hormones compared to those who lack spiritual beliefs. These women turned to their spiritual beliefs and prayers in order to cope with the stress that they felt during biopsy.
• Spirituality helps in increasing a person’s lifespan. Spirituality teaches a person to be more forgiving, improve their faith, and become more compassionate to others. In separate studies conducted among Harvard and Stanford students, results indicated that the graduates who exhibited strong spiritual beliefs were more likely to live longer and developed fewer illnesses.
Teachings which revolve around spirituality have distinct characteristics such as faith, hope, love, forgiveness and how the power of prayer and support can help a person during the most challenging times. A person who has strong spiritual beliefs opens up himself to the better side of life and prevents him from entertaining negative thoughts. Aside from that, a spiritual person has a better ability to cope and recuperate even when he encounters challenges and pitfalls because he receives a strong support system from the people who surrounds him. More importantly, it is easier for him to accept, forgive and move on with his life because he is aware that all things happen for a greater purpose.