Aids to Healing

The Spiritual Connection to Healing

Spirituality and a feeling of connection to a divine presence can cultivate a hopeful attitude and a sense of meaning in one's life, which can help promote healing and recovery even with an illness as serious as cancer. The particular way this is expressed, through a specific religious practice or time spent in nature, for instance, is not the important issue. Prayer (of any kind or denomination) has been proven to be a health-giving practice in over 250 studies and can be used as an effective means of aiding with physical wellness and healing.

A recent study at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, found that people who regularly attended religious services (at least once per month) lived significantly longer than those who didn't. The national survey followed 3,617 Americans over a seven-year period. The non-churchgoers were about one-third more likely to die over the study period. Churchgoers tended to be more physically active, at a healthy weight, and nonsmokers. Even eliminating these healthier lifestyle factors, the non-churchgoers still had a 25% greater likelihood of dying. Researchers speculated that the community involvement and religious rituals might promote feelings of hope, serenity, and optimism, all helpful In prolonging life. Attending religious services "extends the life span about as much as moderate exercise or not smoking," the researchers concluded.

Coping Style and Cancer Survival

Research suggests that coping style can help prevent the recurrence of cancer. A study of women with recurrent breast cancer found that joy, levity, and happiness are associated with longer periods of being free of symptoms; a study of over 2,000 men, followed for 17 years, revealed that those who score highest on depression tests have twice the incidence of cancer-related deaths. The high cancer rate among the more depressed men in this study cannot be explained on the basis of their drinking and smoking habits.

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