Neglecting Spirituality Is Harmful to Your Health

How you can release, worry and improve your health by starting your own spirituality practice.

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The Difference Between Spirituality and Religion

There is a difference between spirituality and religion.  Religion is a set of rules and practices shared by a community or group of people.  Spirituality is more of a personal practice created to find peace and purpose in life.  Both are trusting in a Higher Power, and both are powerful, but we’ll be discussing spirituality in this article.

Spirituality and the Benefits to Your Health

Harold G. Koenig reviewed studies from 1872 to 2010.  He found that spirituality/religion had significant health benefits.  People that were more spiritual or religious had better physical health, lower risk of disease, and a better response to treatment.  

Take, for example, the recent illness that many people around the globe have been dealing with.  Some specialists believe that people who feared the illness became more stressed, and therefore suffered worse symptoms.  Those, who reported a lower level of spiritual well-being, reported a lower level of perceived mental health.

These things may cause you to abandon spirituality, but ironically, faith in a Higher Power, can help you feel better.  

  • Fear – from media exposure
  • Not taking responsibility for your own health, and instead relying on ‘experts’, doctors, and health gurus to decide the best option for you.
  • Not trusting/having faith in a Higher Power 

I’m Not Dismissing the Medical Community, by Any Means

Don’t misunderstand, I believe the medical community is extremely important in our health, but often, there are differing opinions about treatment.  I’ll share my own son’s health story as an example.  He was having terrible headaches.  One day, in his senior year, the school nurse called me to come get him because she didn’t feel like he should drive.  She commented on how little she had seen him throughout his four years at the school, so she knew it must be really painful.  I knew, too, because he never complained about anything.  

We went to the emergency room the next day, because he couldn’t take the pain anymore.  An MRI showed a mass on his brain.  We were referred to a local hospital and a neurosurgeon.  My gut said, go to The Medical Center in downtown Houston, Texas, where we live.  But, I let fear win out, and we went by ambulance to the local hospital in the suburbs.  The neurosurgeon recommended surgery for the very next morning.  He said my son was at risk of seizures, plus the pain was unbearable.  

Luckily, the tumor was benign.  The problem was, my son was in excruciating pain for the next five days.  So excruciating, that he wouldn’t let anyone touch his hospital bed.  (Remember, he doesn’t ever complain.)  I pressed and pressed for something to be done.  They finally agreed to do another MRI.  What they found made me so angry! 

A significant piece of the tumor remained.  The neurosurgeon wanted to take my son back into surgery the next morning.  This time, I listened to my gut!  His dad and I called friends and family to find another option.  My ex father-in-law had a very good friend at a hospital in The Medical Center.  He referred us to an amazing neurosurgeon, who requested we wait for two weeks to do the second surgery.  (I had been afraid a second surgery so soon would make my son susceptible to infection, and this neurosurgeon agreed.) 

The next surgery was completely different.  My son was ready to go home in two days.  I asked the doctor why that was, and he said that the first surgeon had not cauterized all the blood vessels.  The bleeding was what caused all the pain.  This surgeon also did 12 biopsies to make sure he removed every last bit of the tumor, which was more than half the original size!  I learned a huge lesson, the hard way, for sure.  My son has been tumor free for over five years now, thank God!  

Though I’m not dismissing the medical community, I do suggest you do these things any time you have health concerns:

  1. Do your own research (I should have taken a breath, and researched hospitals first.)
  2. Trust in yourself.  You know more about your body, (and your children) than any other person, including ‘experts’. 
  3. Listen to your intuition.  My gut told me not to go to that hospital with my son, but I let fear overrule my decision.  J.J. Virgin has a great testimonial about using her intuition with her own son’s brain surgery.  You can find it on YouTube.
  4. Have faith in your Higher Power.  We were guided to the right choice eventually.

How To Cultivate Your Spirituality

If you don’t have a spiritual practice yet, or just want to be more intentional about it, you can start at any time.  I had some religious trauma growing up, so even though I am a believer in God, I don’t care for some of the politics and practices of a church (at least not one I’ve found so far).  I still felt very strongly about creating a daily spirituality practice.

The first thing I did was create a morning routine, where I got up earlier than everyone else in the house.  At the time, I was teaching second grade, so during the day was not an option to practice spirituality, and at night, I was too tired.  It was hard to get up early in the beginning.  I had to go to bed earlier, and I still quit after a couple of months.  But, I realized that my days had gone better when I was focusing on things for me, first thing in the morning.  I got right back to my practice, then, and I’ve continued daily for almost ten years now.

Here’s how you can start your own spirituality practice:

  1.  Find time to practice daily.  That could be in the morning, like me, at lunch, or before bed, whatever time works best for you.
  2. Choose how you want to practice.  Will you read daily devotionals?  Will you spend time in prayer or meditation?  You could also sit or walk in nature, listen to a podcast, or practice yoga.
  3. Create rituals around your practice.  Rituals will help you make your new practice into a habit.  Rituals can be really simple.  Try lighting a candle, playing soft music, drinking a cup of tea, or sitting in a slightly darkened room.  Will you start by meditating?  Will you start with journaling, or reading?  Pick one thing to start with and do that at the beginning of every practice.  What will come next in your routine?  You can always change these up later, but try to wait until you have gotten into the routine of practicing daily.  

Practicing spirituality daily, especially first thing in the morning, will make your days feel more peaceful and calm.  Suddenly, you will have more empathy with that rude cashier, or the person that cut you off in traffic.  When your child is disrespectful, or your spouse seems to ignore your request for help, you’ll be able to handle it with patience.  I even found that my days were more focused, and I didn’t forget items I needed for work as often.  

Stress, and the rise in cortisol from the worry of world crises, (not to mention, personal crises), causes inflammation in your body and subsequently dis-ease.  When you are bombarded with worrisome news and social media posts, you’ll find that you have a greater sense of the good in humanity, than you did in the past.  (Yet, another reason to start your day with your spirituality practice!)  

I’ve also personally found that connecting to people with like-minded beliefs and practices helps you to grow your faith even more.  If you can’t find a group in person, online groups can be just as supportive.  

If you decide to start a spirituality practice, or improve the one you already had, share in the comments.  I would love to hear about it!  How has it helped you?

 

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