For some of us, spiritual nourishment means adhering to religious practices and their tenets. For others, it’s a feeling of a larger meaning, a sense of the sublime, a higher state of human consciousness.
In a surveys among physicians, more than half of them (56%) believed that spiritual nourishment, of any kind, has much or even very much effect on the physical health of patients.
The exact mechanism that connects body and soul is very difficult to find, and scientists have been pouring many research hours in an attempt to discover it. But research after research shows that people with deep spiritual beliefs fair better than those without a spiritual guideline. The theory behind the effect of spirituality on the body says that if a person feels stability and calm in their psychological approach to their lives, they fair better in the physical sense as well. This might be due to believing that one is part of a larger plan, or because of the community support that comes with belonging to a group, or the simple human contact that is part of the spiritual experience. Be it as it may, spiritual health is directly connected to physical health.
How can spiritual nourishment improve health?
- Meditation and prayer induce the relaxation response that helps counter stress. Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist at Harvard School of Medicine, researched the impact of meditation on human health. He found that engaging in meditation for 10-20 minutes, twice a day led to decreased heart rate, respiratory rate and metabolism. Dr. Benson concluded: “To the extent that any disease is caused or made worse by stress, to that extent evoking the relaxation response is effective therapy”.
- High blood pressure and headaches have also shown to benefit from spiritual nourishment and meditation. They are related to increased stress levels as well.
- Lower risk of depression. People who are actively engaged in spiritual nourishment have a lower percentage of falling into depression.
- Slower progress of dementia and Alzheimer’s. This is a claim that is very hard to prove, but a look at two groups of seniors, one with religious beliefs and the other without, shows that those with some spiritual nourishment who were surrounded by other people in their spiritual group, fared much better than the group that didn’t engage in some form of spiritual nourishment.
- Spirituality can reshape our perception of disease diagnosis and living with a chronic condition. It helps achieve peace in the midst of pain.
- Spirituality helps to deal with mortality. Research has shown that patients at the end of their life who found comfort in religion and spiritual beliefs were more satisfied with their lives, were happier and all together with less pain.
- Enhance recovery from illness or surgery. With spiritual nourishment comes a higher understanding and tolerance of pain, facts that help speed up recovery.
Sources: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1305900/#B22 http://www.marksdailyapple.com/spirituality-and-health/#axzz21fgV8fHG