Health Spirituality FAQs
Why Spirituality and health? Isn’t health primarily physical?
American healthcare is primarily focused on physical health but there has always been some acknowledgement of the importance of the mind and spirit in total health. In fact, the national accrediting body for hospitals requires hospitals to assess and address each patient’s spiritual needs. I would argue however that physical health has been central and spirituality has been compartmentalized. Spirituality was something you referred to the Chaplin department. It has not been integrated into typical healthcare situations.
Why don’t we talk about more about spirituality in healthcare?
Spirituality is often thought to mean “organized religion”. A person’s denomination is very personal and no healthcare worker wants to offend anyone which creates a type of avoidance of the subject. In this context however, Health Spirituality does belong to or promote any religious affiliation or denomination rather we are concerned about the health benefits of integrating spirituality into healthcare. We have seen benefits from spirituality in Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslim, Hindu and nature worshipers. As a healthcare provider who is obligated to see a wide variety of patients with different backgrounds, tolerance is the key.
We define Health Spirituality as any activity or practice that enables someone to make and carry out healthy decisions which emphasizes tolerance.
This definition seems general, isn’t Health Spirituality just some sort of “mumbo-jumbo”?
No. Health Spirituality is not a shallow feel good idea. We are dealing with people’s lives and happiness which is something we take very seriously and treat as sacred. The fact is that when we see a human being with an illness we are seeing a spiritual human being who also has a mind and body. If only we treated someone physically we would leave out 2/3 of the person. Why do that?
The fact is that spiritual practices can help people make tough decisions and continue to follow these decisions on a daily basis.
I make healthy decisions every day. Why do I need Health Spirituality?
Good for you for making healthy decisions. Do you follow these decisions every day consistently? Are you one of these people who make a decision to go on a diet on Monday but fail to follow your decision on Tuesday? Do you know someone who has made a decision to quit smoking again?
Healthy decision are long term, unhealthy decisions are impulsive.
Unhealthy decisions are usually unconscious supported with conscious rationalizations. If you are going to lose weight, you have to avoid each and every temptation throughout the day. It only takes one bowl of M &Ms to gain weight.
Healthy decisions are conscious that influence the unconscious impulses by decreasing their frequency and intensity. Spiritual practice increase the ability to make these healthy decisions.
What are some of these spiritual practices you are talking about?
Silence. These is the best one but there is also
Prayer and Meditation
Writing a story from another point of view
Group sharing and listening
Daily and Nightly review
There are others more centrally connected to a denomination such as attending services and attending retreats but the ones above are teachable in a healthcare setting. For an example, see our article on weight loss and spirituality.