Spirituality involves the recognition of a feeling, sense or belief that there is something greater than ourselves. It relies on being aware that there is more to being human than sensory experience and that the greater whole, which we are a part of, is cosmic or divine.
Spirituality means knowing that our lives have significance in a context beyond everyday existence at the level of biological needs which drive selfishness and aggression. It also means understanding that we are a significant part of a purposeful unfolding of life in our universe.
Spirituality involves exploring specific universal themes – love, compassion, altruism, life after death, wisdom and truth, in the knowledge that some people, such as saints or enlightened individuals, have achieved and manifested to higher levels of development than the ordinary person.
Research in the field of mind-body medicine focuses on the complex interaction of psycho-emotional, social, spiritual, experiential, and behavioural elements and their impact on health and the handling of diseases. Certain approaches attempt to investigate and promote patients’ abilities and resources to manage their own stressors. These include coping strategies, relaxation techniques, mindfulness meditation, yoga, rituals, prayer, spiritual rituals and practices. An increasing number of published studies have examined the connection between spirituality, health, and quality of life. In 1998, the World Health Organization (WHO) even endorsed spirituality as an integral component of overall health.
Patients and physicians are now starting to realise the value of elements such as faith, hope and compassion in the healing process and this has led to a more holistic view of health, by highlighting the seamless connections between mind and body.
Having a strong spiritual outlook may help you find meaning difficult circumstances. The spiritual practice of recognising the interconnectedness of all living things can also help to buffer the pain that comes with traumatic experiences.
Forgiveness is a good medicine. Letting go of blame and negative feelings after a hurtful incident is a practice that is reflected by many spiritual traditions. Modern science shows the health benefits of forgiveness are numerous: better immune system, longer lifespan, lowered blood pressure, improved cardiovascular health, and fewer feelings of anger or hurt.
In general, cultivating a healthy spirituality and having a sense of meaning and connectedness is important to health and well-being.
Although some researchers have suggested that the extent of spirituality’s benefit to health is exaggerated, most researchers agree that there is a positive relationship between religious and spiritual practices and better health outcomes such as:
- A connection with inner resources of resilience: strength & stability for coping with adversity
- An increased sense of gratitude and hopefulness
- Helping come to terms with suffering and death.
- Improving quality of life and giving meaning, purpose and capacity for growth, even during stages of advanced disease.
- Longer life expectancy. Those with regular spiritual practices tend to live longer lives.
- Coping and resilience leading to a stronger will to live and less anxiety surrounding death. It can also aid the ability to cope with illness and manage pain and life stresses
- Better health outcomes and recovery from illness and surgery. A key component in mental health recovery
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