Friday, August 31, 2012

Spirituality often enhances health regardless of a person's faith

Spirituality often enhances health regardless of a person's faith
Published on August 21, 2012 at 2:48 AM

Despite differences in rituals and beliefs among the world's major
religions, spirituality often enhances health regardless of a person's
faith, according to University of Missouri researchers. The MU
researchers believe that health care providers could take advantage of
this correlation between health - particularly mental health - and
spirituality by tailoring treatments and rehabilitation programs to
accommodate an individual's spiritual inclinations.

"In many ways, the results of our study support the idea that
spirituality functions as a personality trait," said Dan Cohen,
assistant teaching professor of religious studies at MU and one of the
co-authors of the study. "With increased spirituality people reduce
their sense of self and feel a greater sense of oneness and
connectedness with the rest of the universe. What was interesting was
that frequency of participation in religious activities or the
perceived degree of congregational support was not found to be
significant in the relationships between personality, spirituality,
religion and health."

The MU study used the results of three surveys to determine if
correlations existed among participants' self-reported mental and
physical health, personality factors, and spirituality in Buddhists,
Muslims, Jews, Catholics and Protestants. Across all five faiths, a
greater degree of spirituality was related to better mental health,
specifically lower levels of neuroticism and greater extraversion.
Forgiveness was the only spiritual trait predictive of mental health
after personality variables were considered.

"Our prior research shows that the mental health of people recovering
from different medical conditions, such as cancer, stroke, spinal cord
injury and traumatic brain injury, appears to be related significantly
to positive spiritual beliefs and especially congregational support
and spiritual interventions," said Cohen. "Spiritual beliefs may be a
coping device to help individuals deal emotionally with stress."

Cohen believes spirituality may help people's mental health by
reducing their self-centeredness and developing their sense of
belonging to a larger whole. Many different faith traditions encourage
spirituality though they use different names for the process. A
Christian monk wouldn't say he had attained Nirvana, nor would a
Buddhist monk say he had communed with Jesus Christ, but they may well
be referring to similar phenomena.

"Health workers may also benefit from learning how to minimize the
negative side of a patient's spirituality, which may manifest itself
in the tendency to view misfortune as a divine curse." As the authors
note, spiritual interventions such as religious-based counseling,
meditation, and forgiveness protocols may enhance spiritually-based
beliefs, practices, and coping strategies in positive ways.

The benefits of a more spiritual personality may go beyond an
individual's mental health. Cohen believes that the selflessness that
comes with spirituality enhances characteristics that are important
for fostering a global society based on the virtues of peace and

Source: University of Missouri-Columbia


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