Can spirituality promote a healthier physical life for your family? Recent medical studies indicate that spiritual people are less prone to self-destructive behaviors (suicide, smoking, and drug and alcohol abuse, for example), and have less stress and a greater total life satisfaction.
Much of the research linking spiritual and physical health has involved elderly patients; however, the data offer a glimpse into a possible tie between a spiritual life and good health for people of all ages.
Although spirituality has been shown to reduce depression, improve blood pressure, and boost the immune system, religious beliefs should not interfere with the medical care kids receive.
So what exactly is spirituality and how can it enhance your family's health?
Doctors and scientists once avoided the study of spirituality in connection to medicine, but more recent findings have made some take a second look. Studies show that religion and faith can help to promote good health and fight disease by:
Although research on kids hasn't been done, many studies focusing on adults point to the positive effects of spirituality on medical outcome:
Religious and spiritual beliefs are an important part of how many people deal with life's joys and hardships. Faith can give people a sense of purpose and guidelines for living.
When families face tough situations, including health problems, their religious beliefs and practices can help them fight feelings of helplessness, restore meaning and order to life situations, and help them regain a sense of control. For some families, spirituality can be a powerful and important source of strength.
Medical studies have confirmed that spirituality can have a profound effect on mental states. In a study of men who were hospitalized, nearly half rated religion as helpful in coping with their illness. A second study showed that the more religious patients were, the more quickly they recovered from some disorders. A third study revealed that high levels of hope and optimism, key factors in fighting depression, were found among those who strictly practiced their religion.
Attending organized religious services may help some families connect with their spiritual values, but it's not the only way. Less traditional paths also can help kids and parents find spiritual meaning.
To foster spirituality within your own family, you may want to examine your own values. Ask yourself: What is important to me? How well do my daily activities mirror my values? Do I neglect issues that matter to me because I'm busy spending time on things that matter less?
Here are other suggestions to start your family's spiritual journey:
This search can be conducted on your own or as part of a larger group — a religious community, friends, or your own family. Making a spiritual journey might help you and your family live a healthier life, both emotionally and physically.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2014
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