Spirituality and Healing
by Dr. Jacki Hart
The use of prayer to improve health dates back thousands of years. At some times it was the only options for many. Medical care has since become more sophisticated. There are procedures, medicines, and knowledge that can cure illnesses that were once fatal. This drive for medical science had pushed the role of spirituality to the side. However, many have looked to bring it back into patient care.
Mind-body medicine is how thoughts and energy may influence health and healing. Some practices that may help a person develop a spiritual connection and a balance of energy are:
The goal of these practices is to help find emotional balance in each session. A single session can have some benefit. Regular practice will have a larger more long lasting effect.
They may be done alone or with a group or in a community. Community event may help lessen feelings of being alone. It can also strengthen feelings of connection and belonging. These are basic needs everyone has for being well.
Prayer, Religion, and Spirituality
Spirituality and religion are not always the same thing. Religion is belief in a God or other higher being. Prayer can be an act of awe, respect, even love for this higher being. It may be confession, praise, or thanksgiving.
Spirituality is not something that can be seen or measured. It is not based on material things. The spirit represents the essential nature of a person. Spirituality is linked to the meaning and purpose of life. Thoughts on these matters tend to increase when a person is ill or facing death.
Prayer is often a part of connecting one's spiritual being to God or another supernatural being. But prayer can also be practiced outside of a religious space. Others find that this type of connection can also happen through meditation, yoga, tai chi, and journal writing.
How Spirituality and Prayer Might Help
There are differing thoughts on how spirituality can improve health. First, spiritual practices, may give a person a sense of empowerment or control. A person in need of healing may feel more active in his or her own care. Prayer may bring a sense of comfort. Overall wholeness and well-being, is important.
For example, women having treatment for infertility may use prayer on the day of a procedure. This does not guarantee a pregnancy. However, it allows the women to feel better as they go through the process. Lowering stress is important to physical and mental health. Prayer and other spiritual practices can create a relaxation response. The body that lower the level of stress hormones it releases. This will slow heart rate and lower blood pressure. It may also improve the immune system.
Secondly, spiritual practice may give comfort when facing death or other difficult illnesses. Spirituality is an important aspect of end-of-life care. Prayer or other practice may help them accept whatever might happen. Many palliative care programs now offer spiritual help.
How Might Spirituality and Prayer Hurt?
Spirituality can be harmful. Some people may feel that serious illnesses are a punishment for something wrong. They may also feel hurt and disappointed if they did not have the outcome they hoped for. They may feel that their prayers were not heard or they were not found worthy. This can cause extra stress which is harmful for physical and mental health.
People may also have a negative link to religion. It can bring up feelings of self-doubt, self-judgment, fear, or concern. You should only use spiritual practices that help you gain comfort or insight. It may be different than those around you. It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to do any of these practices. Look for methods that fits and works best for you. Build it into your regular life. That way it will be there when a crisis arises. Talk to your medical care team if you need extended care. Let them know about spiritual preferences. Steps can be taken to help you.
American Cancer Society
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Public Health Agency of Canada
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Social support: Tap this tool to beat stress. Mayo clinic website. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/social-support/art-20044445. Created June 27, 2018. Accessed June 11, 2020.
Spirituality and Healing. Harvard Medical School website. Available at: https://hms.harvard.edu/news/spirituality-healing. Created January 14, 2015. Accessed June 11, 2020.
Last reviewed June 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 6/11/2020
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