Faith and Health

Health is not just a physical condition. A positive mental attitude has a powerful effect on the body, strengthening the immune system, boosting confidence, and providing motivation for healthy behaviors.

Polls have found that a majority of doctors believe that religious and spiritual beliefs have a positive effect on their patients' health. Not only does faith help a patient cope better with illness; it has beneficial physical influence on the body.  More than half of the doctors surveyed believe that a supernatural entity sometimes intervenes in their patients' care. Most medical training programs now include training on the link between spirituality and healing.

Faith gives you a higher purpose in life, and a conviction that your life has meaning, no matter what your physical circumstances are. The belief that you are part of something greater than yourself, and that you are loved and cared for, helps you put your own situation into perspective and find strength and confidence outside yourself.

A core principle of the Alcoholics Anonymous addiction recovery program is acknowledging that your life is in the hands of a higher power. When you believe that you have help, and that you cannot accomplish everything by yourself, you allow positive influences to flow into your life. Navaho healing ceremonies are not necessarily intended to cure a patient's physical illness, but to restore the patient to a state of peace and harmony with the universe.

Stress, anxiety, grief, and negative emotions such as resentment, anger, fear, and frustration weaken our immune systems and cause or contribute to  many health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and digestive ailments. Scientific studies have demonstrated that chronic stress causes cells to age ten years faster.  A life of faith provides resources to resolve or overcome negative emotions, and allows us to make conscious choices about how we allow them to affect our lives. Spiritual practices like prayer, study, and meditation alleviate stress and help to put life events into perspective.

Whether or not you have strong religious beliefs, regularly attending religious services has a positive effect on your health. Numerous studies have found that active participation in a faith community is associated with a drop in suicide risk, and alcohol and drug abuse. People who frequently attend church are more motivated to make healthy lifestyle changes, quit smoking, and start exercising. Going to church expands your social network, and brings you into contact with people who have positive mental attitudes. A faith community acts as a support network during difficult times. Participating in service projects increases life satisfaction, which promotes good health.

Just as health damaged by years of poor health habits cannot be restored in a day, faith and spirituality deepen gradually. Whether you follow a traditional religion, or find your spirituality in nature or a personal belief system, it is important to make some kind of daily spiritual practice part of your life. As you continue to explore your existing beliefs, or develop new understanding, you will experience improvement in your physical circumstances.  

Further Reading:

Spirituality Influences Health, Most U.S. Doctors Say. ABC News. Steven Reinberg. HealthDay. (https://abcnews.go.com/Health/Healthday/story?id=4506510&page=1)

Why Spirituality Is Important. University of Minnesota. (https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/purpose/spirituality/why-spirituality-important)

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