expert survivors of the human race, those who live to 90 years of
age or more, mention spirituality as one of the things that has
contributed to their long lives. Spirituality has different meanings
for different people. However, a definition that is widely held
among those who have researched the topic is that spirituality has
to do with the non-physical and un-material aspects of our being.
For some spirituality is directly connected to organized religion,
yet for others it is not.
is widely believed that the human health should be approached from
a holistic perspective. This means that humans are a combination
of mind, body and spirit and health encompasses all three. Around
the world, medical and university researchers have been taking a
close look at how health status and spirituality are connected.
Some of most recognized centers of this kind of research are The
George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, The International
Center for the Integration of Health and Spirituality, and The Center
for Integrative Medicine.
of the benefits of a strong spiritual foundation that contribute
to improved health and longevity are:
beliefs often influence life style choices that promote health.
with others who hold similar spiritual beliefs can create strong,
compassionate social networks
can provide optimism when adverse circumstances are encountered.
image of a power greater than us reduces anxiety and provides
solace in times of suffering.
often includes some form of meditation or prayer.
often offers opportunities for forgiveness of others and us.
Weil, M.D, of The Center for Integrative Medicine is a strong proponent
of the spiritual aspect of healthful life style choices. Some of
the suggestions he makes for
strengthening the spiritual aspect of our health include:
a list of the all the injuries, illnesses, or problems you have
successfully overcome. Think about what you did to speed the healing
with nature. Have plants and flowers in your house and yard year
time with people that make you feel more alive, happier, and more
to or play music that makes you feel happier and more alive.
a few objects that you find beautiful and keep them where you
can see them everyday.
others because it makes you feel good, not because it is expected
M. Puchalski, M.D. founder and director of the George Washington
Institute for Spirituality and Health has written extensively about
the important role that forgiveness can play in our health. She
contends that forgiveness of self and others leads to reduced anxiety
and depression, improved coping skills, reduced risk of heart disease,
and increased resistance to physical illness. This is strong evidence
that depression can lead to poor self-care, stress can increase
blood pressure, and poor coping skills create a vicious circle of
depression and stress.
recent polls suggest that many people agree with Drs. Weil and Puchalski.
A recent study conducted at Bellevue Hospital in New York City found
that patients rated spirituality as more important to their recovery
than the quality of food and rooms. A 1998 CBS News Poll and a 1996
TIME/CNN poll asked if people felt that doctors should pray with
their patients. Six out of every ten people who responded said that
doctors should join their patients in prayer if patient requested
it. In a USA Weekend Faith and Health Poll six of every ten respondents
said that it is good for doctors to talk with their patients about
a person to have the health benefits that a spiritual foundation
brings, it is not necessary for them to belong to an organized religion.
Each person can find the things that strengthen their connection
with a power greater than themselves. No matter how it is accomplished,
there seems to be little doubt that the extreme survivors are right
when they say that spirituality is one of the things contributes
to longevity and good health.