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Praying Senior

Is it folk lore or scientific fact? There are many who believe that having faith in a spiritual power can have a beneficial effect on one’s health. By being involved in worship, rituals, praying or just listening to calming spiritual music, people can improve the quality of their health. Prayer has often been credited for causing a patient’s health to improve, to take away pain, and to cause healing. But is there any truth to the belief, or is it just wishful thinking?

The research. A group of doctors recently reviewed over 1,200 studies and 400 articles from scientific journals that focused on the relationship between faith and health. Overall, these doctors found that there is indeed a correlation between the two. Some of the health benefits included being protected from illness, having an improved ability to cope with illness, and a having a quick recover from illness. In their report, Health Benefits of Christian Faith, the doctors noted that those who had regular church attendance often had a life expectancy of up to 14 years longer than people who did not regularly attend church.

Which faith is the best faith? Another group of researchers noted that which religion an individual practiced had very little to do with one’s health. What mattered most was that an individual had some spiritual faith in something and that they participated in some aspect of that faith.

The spiritual and mental health of people who were recovering from a variety of medical conditions, including spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury (TBI), cancer and stroke, seem to have a significant relationship with the person’s spiritual beliefs.

Praying Young Woman

Efforts by congregations to provide support and to offer spiritual interventions were also of significance in the patient’s ability to heal and recover from injury or disease. Of interest was that this positive mental state and attitude was found equally among Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists. An individual’s particular religious preference seems to make little difference in the ability of faith to impact general health and well being.

Are women helped more than men? Although more women have reported a positive relationship between their faith and their health, the number of men giving similar reports has been on the increase. A brief examination of recent studies show that the percentages of men who claim to participate regularly in religious services or rituals had positive results similar to those of women. So while men are often less religious than women, the ability of their faith to have a positive impact on their general health is essentially equal to that of religious women. The benefits of a healthy faith-based life are helpful equally regardless of gender.

What is the connection? Mostly it is about attitude. The spiritual person usually finds some solace in their faith, something that provides a positive outlook on life. From a more clinical view, one might say that every one of our thoughts, whether positive or negative, has a direct impact on our physical being – particularly on our immune system.

Those people who routinely focus on the negative aspects of life and their level of satisfaction with the world around them tend to be drained of their life’s vitality much faster than those who focus on the positive.

Man Visiting Patient

Furthermore, those who are always looking for the negative elements of life are also more prone to fatal diseases and illnesses. This condition often occurs as a result of a subdued mental state; in return, that state of mind cause the production of various poisonous chemicals that result in stress and tension. The diminishing of life-giving energy actually has a negative influence on the molecular regeneration of the body . . . leading to potentially fatal long-term illnesses. So while it can’t be said that not having faith will lead to poor health, there does seem to be a relationship between the two.

The positive approach. Research shows that when people laugh, their bodies decrease the amount of the stress hormones being created and replaces them with powerful hormones that result in internal healing.

Praying Man

The positive approach. Research shows that when people laugh, their bodies decrease the amount of the stress hormones being created and replaces them with powerful hormones that result in internal healing. The positive effects of happiness and laughter on the body and its ability to heal itself have also been noted in studies related to recovery from cancer. It has been widely accepted that those patients who have the potential to develop a terminal illness should develop a routine daily dosage of laughter in order to elevate their internal healing processes. People who practice and participate in religious activities and rituals often seem to be happier people . . . people who laugh more and enjoy quality of life.

Faith and forgiveness. These two particular traits of most of today’s living religions are of significant importance to a positive and healthy lifestyle. Something in the practice of forgiveness changes one’s outlook on life and elevates those positive, healing hormones and processes that the body produces in response to an individual’s mental state. Forgiving others seems to help reduce the production of those harmful poisonous chemicals noted above. The act of forgiving also helps to improve one’s general outlook on life, making one happier and more content.

Healthful behavior. One correlation that appears in most of the studies is that people of faith generally take better care of themselves. The avoidance of harmful activities, such as smoking and excessive use of alcohol, usually results in better health and longer life. As most religions discourage harmful behaviors, it stands to reason that people of faith will have higher quality of health.

It is apparent that faith has a positive impact on the health of those who are authentic in their religious beliefs and practices. By allowing one’s faith to provide a positive outlook on life and to maintain a good relationship with those around them, people of faith generally have improved quality of life. Whether one believes that it is a higher power that provides healing or that it is just the body’s response to a positive mental state, having faith does seem to result in good health and improved healing from illness and injury.