spirituality, health, and hospital stays

Spiritual but Not Religious? You Can Still Get Miraculous Benefits

Praying has many health benefits, but it appears having a deep respect for life does, too.

Spiritual but Not Religious? You Can Still Get Miraculous Benefits

Secular or religious spirituality can help your health.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Previous studies have found that people with deep religious beliefs often enjoy more positive outcomes after surgery. But a new study found that people who have a deep reverence for life also enjoy the benefit, according to research presented at the American Psychological Association's 117th Annual Convention in Toronto earlier this month.

THE DETAILS: The study examined the effect of various faith factors, including traditional religious beliefs and practices and newer forms of spiritual seeking, such as a sense of reverence (a feeling of deep respect and connectedness to nature, art, or music).

Researchers looked at 177 patients set to undergo coronary artery bypass graft surgery, conducting face-to-face interviews with them two weeks before their surgery dates to learn about their religious and secular spiritual beliefs. They followed up with the patients after their surgeries. People who were spiritual in a secular way faced fewer post-surgery complications and didn't have to stay in the hospital as long after the surgery than patients who weren't spiritual or religious. Reverence for life was the most potent type of spirituality that aided patients. Researchers found that frequency of prayer was also associated with fewer complications during recovery; attendance at church was not.

WHAT IT MEANS: In 1970, Herbert Benson, MD, of the Mind/Body Medical Institute in Boston, found that faith and prayer offer a healing mechanism through a stress-busting relaxation response. Through rest, word or phrase repetition, and deep breathing, he found, people can change the way they respond to stress. Unchecked stress can cause high blood pressure, heart problems, and insomnia. Other studies have found that exercise and meditation can have similar relaxing results. This study adds evidence that whether you're a religious person or not, a reverent frame of mind can help your health.

Whether you pray more than a preacher, or you find inner peace through some secular practice, here are some suggestions to help during tough times.

• Throw your feelings "out there." advisor Jeffrey Rossman, PhD, suggests sharing your feelings with a higher power—even if that means “the universe” or a wise, caring part of yourself. "Prayer and meditation are wonderful ways to allow yourself to open to something greater than yourself, which helps you feel less like you need to carry the whole burden on your own, he says.

• Tap into the other type of prayer. Often, you may find yourself asking for good health while you pray. But showing gratitude can also pay dividends to your well being, too. So instead of focusing on asking for things while you pray, take time to say thanks for all the things that made you happy that day. And thank the people involved, too. Psychologist Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD, former president of the American Psychological Association found that paying a gratitude visit to someone who has made a difference in your life—and thanking them for that—can make you feel better for up to a year.


Published on: August 19, 2009

More from our Authors

This breakthrough information links the little-known connection between diabetes, fatigue, heart disease, weight gain, high blood pressure, and more! Click here to learn more.

Technology has led to

Technology has led to phenomenal advances in medicine and has given us the ability to prolong life. However, in the past few decades physicians have attempted to balance their care by reclaiming medicine's more spiritual roots, recognizing that until modern times spirituality was often linked with health care. -Dean Spasser

Personally I think it really

Personally I think it really depends on what kind of person you are but maybe it’s true that some people with deep religious beliefs often enjoy more positive outcomes after surgery. This was very interesting to read. Thank you for posting.


religious but spiritual/spiritual but religious?

I found it very timely that the public radio program, To the Best of Our Knowledge, aired an interview on this very topic on Sunday. It featured a writer who agrees with your perspective, Clark Strand, author of How to Believe in God: (Whether You Believe in Religion or Not). I was telling the radio, and now you too, that indeed certain religious leaders and their churches have squashed the spiritual zing in many people. They deserve your abandonment. I hope that you were not dogma'd to death and don't give up on "organized religion" (as opposed to disorganized). We in the United Church of Christ certainly embrace both - a holistic and spiritual approach in encountering God in a covenantal community -- God is Still Speaking.

Paul -


I disagree with rev.koch.I think that if you are religious that you subscribe to a particular religious dogma and that you let your ministers etc. and your written scripture determine how your life is run.Whereas spirituality is an inner peace and a reverance,if you will,for all of life,a respect for other living beings.

spirituality and health

check out two articles

Ironson G, Solomon GF, Balbin, et al. The Ironson-Woods Spirituality/Religiousness Index is associated with long survival, health behaviors, less distress, and low cortisol in people with HIV/AIDS. AnnBehav Med. 2002;24(1):34-48.

Ironson, Balbin - "View of God predict disease progression in HIV/AIDS

Being religious vs. being spiritual?

I agree with the tenor of the findings presented in Ms. Zerbe's article. A holistic approach to life will certainly aid in one's healing. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, healing means wholeness or shalom. I caution however not to make a quick distinction between being religious or being spiritual. What has been described as "newer forms of spiritual seeking, such as a sense of reverence (a feeling of deep respect and connectedness to nature, art, or music)" are every much a part of being religious - a term which shares its origin with "ligament," that which connects the body. Being religious does not mean one's primary identity is with dogma, tradition or even church attendance. Those who self-identify as being spiritual but not spiritual often are not fully aware how implicitly religious they are - even if God is not named as that spiritual source. Paul Koch/

Spiritual/Religious Benefits Article

Now try a study between traditional religious practices (ie belief in the bible and praying to God vs. a more New Age, higher consciousness spirituality? I think it all comes down to a feeling of inner peace and a positive mindset no matter how you attain it.

Start Your Wellness Journey!
Sign up for updates on Rodale Wellness and get your FREE wellness journal to help you find your path to vibrant health. Click here to start your unique journey!

Free Newsletter
Sign up for our FREE newsletters to stay up to date on all of our wellness news.

  The Daily Fix
Useful news and practical tips to help you live a healthy life on a healthier planet.

  Wellness in Action
Find your path to vibrant health, and get your free wellness journal as our thanks!

You may unsubscribe at any time.

Your Privacy Rights. About Us.