Health and Spirituality

Spirituality and Health
by John D. McPhail, MA, CRC, LPC
American Board of Medical Psychotherapy

What is spirituality?
Spirituality is the way you find meaning, hope, comfort and inner peace in your life. Many people find spirituality through religion. Some find it through music, art or a connection with nature. Others find it in their values and principles.

How is spirituality related to health?
No one really knows for sure. However, it seems the body, mind and spirit are connected. The health of any one of these elements seems to affect the health of the others. Some research shows that things such as positive beliefs, comfort and strength gained from religion, meditation and prayer can contribute to healing and a sense of well-being. Improving your spiritual health may not cure an illness, but it may help you feel better, prevent some health problems, and help you cope with illness or death.

How can I talk over my spiritual concerns while I am in the hospital?
Because of recently-enacted patient privacy regulations, it is the patient or family's responsibility to advise their pastor, priest, rabbi or iman that they will be in the hospital, and would appreciate their religious leader to visit. Catholic chaplains take communion daily to patients identifying themselves as "Catholic" at patient registration.

How can I improve my spiritual health overall?
If you want to improve your spiritual health, you may want to try the following ideas. Remember, though, that everyone is different, so what works for others may not work for you. Do what is comfortable for you.

  • Identify the things in your life that give you a sense of inner peace, comfort, strength, love and connection.
  • Set aside time every day to do the things that help you spiritually. These may include doing community service or volunteer work, praying, meditating, singing devotional songs, reading inspirational books, taking nature walks, having quiet time for thinking, doing yoga, playing a sport, or attending religious services.

Why does my doctor need to know about my spiritual beliefs?
If you are being treated for an illness, it's important for your doctor to know how your spirituality might affect your feelings and thoughts about your medical situation. If you think your spiritual beliefs are affecting your health care decisions or your ability to follow your doctor's recommendations, tell your doctor.

If you have spiritual beliefs, worries or concerns that are causing you stress, talk with your doctor. Your doctor would like to help. If your doctor can't help you with these issues, he or she may be able to suggest someone who can.