We know that spirituality can help us feel connected with ourselves, others, and even a higher power, but what are the specific aspects that are associated with improved healing?
Researchers from the University of Missouri recruited men and women suffering from chronic health conditions to find out.
Participants suffered from a range of conditions including spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke, and cancer.
Researchers found that both men and women received religious and spiritual support from a number of sources, including their congregations and spiritual interventions (such as religious counseling or practicing forgiveness), as well as assistance from religious leaders (i.e. pastors, priests, rabbis, etc.).
There was a significant difference between men and women, however. While men experienced better mental and physical health outcomes from their religious support, women only saw improvements in mental health measurements.
Researchers also studied what specific aspects seemed to provide relief.
For women, daily spiritual experiences, forgiveness, and using their religion or spirituality to cope with their conditions all helped to increase their mental well-being.
For men, the support from their spiritual community was correlated with higher self-rated health and improved mental well-being.
The study wasn’t randomized or controlled, so the correlations are only suggestive.
You can find the entire study in the Journal of Religion, Disability, and Health.
No matter what your religious affiliation or spiritual beliefs, this study suggests it might be possible to derive higher levels of well-being by connecting to your spiritual community and beliefs.
Spirituality can sometimes be the missing link in completing a patient’s healing journey.
What aspects of spirituality do you think affect your patients the most? Please leave a comment below.