Health and Spirituality

In the last several decades, medical doctors have been studying the correlations between spiritual and physical health.

Larry Dossey, M. D., is a pioneer in the study of the role of prayer, healing intentions, and spirituality in healthcare. He has examined the evidence of prayer’s efficacy and states that spiritual concerns and healing intentions influence clinical outcomes. His scientific studies have led to expanded courses in U. S. medical schools about the role of religious practice and prayer in health.

Another M. D. who has been studying the connection between spirituality and health is Dr. Harold Koenig at Duke University. Dr. Koenig’s findings indicate that religious involvement with a strong spiritual component is associated with less depression and anxiety and greater well-being. He suggests that religious involvement alters the structure of the brain in people at high risk for depression, as measured by MRIs.

Studies show that religious people have less cardiac disease and hypertension, have better immune function, and handle stress better. Some studies indicate that religious and spiritual practices delay the onset of memory loss associated with aging.

These and other health benefits are a side effect of, or consequence of, being religiously committed. These findings are not just a matter of belief, though. The biggest benefits come when belief is carried out through commitment and action, such as practicing meditation, being involved in a faith community, or volunteering—in other words, putting faith into action.

The relationship between spirituality and health is complex, but physicians are finding an enormous healing potential in faith traditions and spiritual practices.

At this time of year when many consider resolutions for improving health and well-being, perhaps adding a practice of yoga, tai chi, meditation or other practice could reap rewards both physically and spiritually.



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