We often think of spirituality as something that the sages of yore indulged in, for which we have no time. But you may be surprised to know that spirituality is a dimension within reach for everyone. Even you. In this article, we tell you how a spiritual bent of mind can affect your well-being in more aspects than one.
The role of spirituality in healthcare has been a topic of interest for years now. Doctors often wonder how the spiritual and religious practices of a patient affect his health in the physical, emotional and social domains. Recently, a study was conducted which analysed data from over 44,000 cancer patients that looked at gaining new insight into how spirituality and religion plays a key role in overall well being.
1. Effect on physical health
Patients who have deep emotional connections with religion or spirituality were observed to have been more adept at performing daily tasks with more ease. They also reported significantly less acute physical symptoms and also side effects from treatment, which can be rather debilitating. Wherever the patient experiences a sense of meaning and purpose in life and a connection to a source larger than self, he or she is able to integrate their physical suffering into their spiritual worldview.
2. Effect on mental health
The emotional aspect of religion and spirituality – the actual emotions that we go through when we pray or create art, two of the most spiritual experiences available to man – is strongly linked with positive mental health. Spiritual well-being is associated with less anxiety, depression or distress. On the other hand, spiritual emptiness or a disconnectedness with the idea of God or religion have been found to associate with higher amounts of psychological distress or and other mental health issues, like depression.
3. Effect on social health
Human beings are social animals. Social health is a measure of a person’s ability to form and retain healthy social relationships and derive enjoyment from being part of a community. Here, too, being more spiritual or religious will give you the necessary tools to connect with other humans with empathy. Religion and art are the most common areas around which communities are formed, so the deeper a patient’s spirituality, it was found that the better his or her chances of being socially healthy.
- Such an in-depth study of cancer patients has not been done before. This study is likely to help us gain a better understanding of the value of spirituality not just with terminal illness but also with health in general.
- Spirituality does not have to be connected to religion, though it often is. It is perfectly possible to be spiritual without being religious, where art and meditation take the place of an external, benevolent God. However people derive meaning and hope from life, that can be defined as their spirituality.
- Studies such as this suggest that a spiritual person is often a happier person, especially when it comes to patients going through illness. Better understanding and support for people who do not have this spiritual crutch to lean on can lead to better alleviation of suffering for all.