Some good news.
JAMA the journal of the American Medical Association has just published new evidence for the physical and mental health benefits of spirituality.*
“This study represents the most rigorous and comprehensive systematic analysis of the modern-day literature regarding health and spirituality to date,” says Tracy Balboni, lead author and professor of oncology at Harvard Medical School. “Our findings indicate that attention to spirituality in serious illness and in health should be a vital part of the future of whole person-centred care.”
In summary the conclusions of the paper are clear: People who describe themselves as spiritual tend to live longer, smoke and drink less, and have better mental health.
This research mirrors exactly what was found in Harold Koenig’s 2012 paper** which reviewed over 3,300 studies of health and religion/spirituality; and also in the 2009 paper by McCullough and Willoughby***, which analysed eight decades of rigorous research and concluded:
‘Believers performed better, had better health and greater happiness, and lived longer than non-believers. . . . were, on average, 29 % more likely to be alive at any given follow-up point . . . 25% reduction in mortality….’
How are these benefits achieved?
Here is one way of understanding it.
Your body is an interdependent and holistic system.
Connection with Spirit (by whatever name)
— Helps develop harmony, calm and flow
— Brings a sense of Oneness and community with nature and cosmos
— Creates meaning and purpose in a confusing and complex world
— Supports and encourages love, service and compassion
All of this can cascade through your mind, emotions and body, improving wellbeing.
To support people in exploring spirituality and how to put it into practice, we in the Spiritual Companions Trust have developed this free resource Secrets of Spiritual Health and we also deliver a 10-hour practical programme. For more information: https://spiritualcompanions.org/secrets-of-spiritual-health
** Harold D Koenig : “Religion, Spirituality, and Health: The Research and Clinical Implications”, International Scholarly Research Network Psychiatry Volume 2012, Article ID 278730
*** Michael E. McCullough and Brian L. B. Willoughby, ‘Religion, Self-Regulation, and Self-Control: Associations, Explanations and Implications’, Psychological Bulletin, January 2009