The Spirituality of Health
Spirituality as a
variable in the study of quality of life and health is not a new concept;
however, it has returned to the scene during recent years, and has gone
through an evolutionary process. Spirituality is examined through organizational
religious activities, non-organizational activities and/or as an expression
The concept is so
powerful that recently the most advanced hospital settings have begun
to incorporate the same within their training modules of clinicians and
nurses, and encourage patients in the faith factor while they get hospitalized.
Department of Rehabilitation
Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia,
sought to examine attitudes about spirituality in medicine among medical
students in psychiatric clerkships and determine whether instruction on
concepts of spirituality in medicine had an effect on students' clinical
performance in related tasks.
A total of 192 students
entering psychiatric clerkships were randomly assigned to one of two groups;
both groups received identical didactic instruction on spirituality in
medicine. One group worked on a problem-based learning case that featured
spirituality as a prominent theme, whereas the other group worked on problem-based
learning cases that made no mention of it. Students completed pre- and
post-test questionnaires, and their examination at the end of rotation
included a standardized patient encounter requiring them to elicit a spiritual
The results showed
that students who were exposed to material on spirituality in medicine
reported greater understanding of the issue, even though no difference
in clinical performance was observed. Greater understanding only is considered
of paramount importance since what stems from the wholesome understanding
of a problem is a trustworthy solution.
If we relate this
to Ayurveda then the clinicians wholesome, focused and concerted effort
at understanding a problem goes a long way in comforting a patient to
better health. The strength to heal, says Ayurveda, should come from within;
both in case of a patient and a caregiver.
The phenomenon of
inner strength - again directly related to some or the other form of spirituality
- has been studied in women with various illnesses. One such study was
conducted by C Dingley, and G Roux on a group of Hispanic women who were
60 years of age or older.
Findings from the
study suggested the experience of inner strength in older Hispanic women
involved the following interrelated dimensions:
from the past Focusing on possibilities Being supported by others Knowing
one's purpose, and Nurturing the spirit What is astonishing to note is
that most of the above attributes are strongly present in people who have
a spiritual bent of mind, or have hinged their lives on some or the other
forms of faith throughout? The type or context of faith may vary from
culture to culture, community to community and even person to person.
A team of five researchers
at McGill Programs for Integrated Whole Person Care, Montreal did a critique
of the 329 systematic analyses of peer-reviewed research papers on spirituality,
religion, and health and stressed the need for more research on spirituality
aspects of health focusing on age groups, cultures, religions, and clinical
settings. They even proposed the need to establish a common vocabulary
that bridges cultural and religious traditions, and facilitates clinical
care, research, and teaching relating to spirituality, religion, and health.
hope and optimism in the search for meaning through devastating illness,"
say T A Beery and his colleagues, who did a study on spirituality in persons
with heart failure at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing-Department
of Adult Health, Institute for Nursing Research, USA.
through structured religion or intensely private beliefs, spirituality
taps the best of us -- our core being," Beery and team revealed, and added
that spirituality was the basis of growth, stability, and feelings of
wholeness. When you have these, you have good health; and all of them
come from within.
Dennis Wholey sums
it up in When the Worst that Can Happen Already Has: Conquering Life's
Most Difficult Times, and says, "The real journey of life is not upward,
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