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Spirituality and Mental Health: Benefits of Spirituality

Spirituality Can Benefit Your Mental and Physical Health

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Updated November 02, 2007

Spirituality and Mental Health: Benefits of Spirituality

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While people use many different religions and paths to find God, research has shown that those who are more religious or spiritual, and use their spirituality to cope with life, experience many benefits to their health and well-being. For many, this news would come as no surprise; spirituality and religious activity have been a source of comfort and relief from stress for multitudes of people. In fact, according to a study from the University of Florida in Gainesville and Wayne State University in Detroit, older adults use prayer more than any other alternative therapy for health; 96% of study participants use prayer specifically to cope with stress. Here are just a few more of the many positive findings about spirituality and its influence on physical and mental health:
  • Canadian college students who are involved with campus ministries visited the doctor less, scored higher on tests of psychological well-being, and coped with stress more effectively.
  • Older women are more grateful to God than older men, and they receive greater stress-buffering health effects due to this gratitude.
  • Those with an intrinsic religious orientation, regardless of gender, exhibited less physiological reactivity toward stress than those with an extrinsic religious orientation. They were also less afraid of death and had greater feelings of well-being. (Those who were intrinsically oriented dedicated their lives to God or a ‘higher power,’ while the extrinsically oriented ones used religion for external ends like making friends or increasing community social standing.)
  • Prayer works for young and old alike. Prayer and spirituality have been linked to:
    • Better health
    • Less hypertension
    • Less stress, even during difficult times
    • More positive feelings
    • Less depression
    • Greater psychological well-being
    • Superior ability to handle stress

    Whether this information inspires you to rediscover a forgotten spiritual path, reinforces your commitment to an already well-established one, or simply provides interesting food for thought, this is just a sample of all the encouraging research that’s been done on the topic.

    Spirituality is personal, and everyone’s spiritual path may be unique. However, some spiritual stress relief strategies have been helpful to many, regardless of faith. Check them out, and see which may work for you. (Scroll down for additional resources.)

    Sources:

    Research on Aging, Vol. 27, No. 2, 197-220, 2005.

    Research on Aging, Vol. 27, No. 2, 221-240, 2005.

    Research on Aging, Vol. 28, No. 2, 163-183, 2006.

    Science Daily, University of Florida News (April 18, 2006).

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