In introducing a series on Spirituality and Wellness, it’s helpful if a few things are defined and clarified. Some people “are spiritual but not religious,” so clearly the two words have different meanings.
For this series of three articles, religion will be the word used to refer to the practice or form in which one’s spirituality may find expression. Religion includes buildings, doctrine, ritual, sacred writings, named deities, formally trained leadership, etc. Religions have names.
Spirit is something inside each person, something that has no name. It is difficult to describe. In fact, many definitions of spirituality do everything but define the word! For most, spirituality is that which gives meaning to one’s life and draws one to transcend oneself. Therefore spirituality is not a thing, person, or place, but a dimension inside each individual.
Similarly, health is a dimension of wellness. To be healthy, is to lack disease. But someone who is sick might still be satisfied with life and content even to live with disease. This person is more well than one who is free from disease but dissatisfied with life, unhappy in relationships, and struggling with spiritual issues.
So how are religion and health linked? Let’s look at some data. A fascinating, but highly technical article (Shang, Charles, Emerging Paradigms in Mind-Body Medicine, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 7, Num. 1, 2001, p. 83.) lists the detrimental impacts on health of even small amounts of stress and negative emotion. From this research, we can see that frustration, tension, sadness, hostility, and anxiety have been linked to illness and even death.
Most religious traditions teach followers to rise above these kinds of emotions, or to trust God to resolve negative situations. Perhaps this is the link. Religious education often includes learning to live beyond these emotions. Like-minded religious followers encourage each other to avoid activities and habits that are known to lead to disease or death (tobacco, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, to name three).
With this understanding in place, our next article will explore practices and behaviors that are shown to increase health. These also increase our wellness—our satisfaction with life regardless of the state of our health.
Yours in spirit,
The well4life Team
A holistic and comprehensive approach to weight loss and healthy living, the well4life program at Saint Agnes Hospital provides medical oversight, your own personal health coach, educational and fitness classes, support groups, a web companion and more. Start now to create your own success story! Find out more at www.well4lifeprogram.com or register for our free monthly information sessions by calling 1-866-690-9355.