5 Spiritual concepts Western Medicine must embrace

Posted by Karen M. Wyatt on September 20, 2011 at 4:55 PM


In recognition of National Wellness Week, which takes place September 19-25, the Center for Integrated Health Solutions has published a list of 10 recommended domains for promoting “whole health, wellness and resiliency.” This list includes the expected support for healthy eating, exercise and stress management, but somewhat surprisingly, also cites “spiritual beliefs and practices” as an important aspect of health.

During the last century, as the science and technology of medicine advanced exponentially, spirituality became less and less a consideration for the medical practitioner working with an ill patient. In fact, addressing spiritual issues has even been looked upon as inappropriate in some medical settings.

But there is now substantial scientific evidence supporting the important role of spirituality in health and illness and that medical providers might be causing harm to their patients by overlooking these factors. Here are 5 spiritual concepts that should be introduced as part of routine medical care for the optimum health of all patients:
1. Prayer
Numerous studies have been conducted over the past few decades showing the power of prayer to improve outcome from serious illnesses. These studies conducted by research organizations such as Duke University and Spindrift Research have even shown the effectiveness of prayer performed at a distance by individuals who do not know the patient.

2. Unconditional love
Researchers at Yale University have found that love can help protect our hearts. Other studies have demonstrated that the experience of genuine love can speed healing and improve the functioning of the immune system.

3. Forgiveness
Following along with the practice of genuine love, forgiveness has been shown to contribute to emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. Those who make a practice of regularly forgiving others enjoy better health outcomes than those who have a tendency to hold resentment and anger toward others.

4. Meaning
When all of life, including illness and loss, is viewed as having meaning and purpose, the seemingly negative events can be better tolerated. In fact, the outcome of an illness or adverse health event is likely to be worse if the patient is unable to perceive meaning in the experience.

5. Spiritual practice
Studies have shown that individuals who attend church regularly live as many as 7 years longer than those who do not attend church. Other spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, prayer and contemplation have all been associated with a decrease in negative health events and an increase in wellbeing.

Medical training is necessarily steeped in science and rational thought. Many medical providers may have distanced themselves from spirituality because it seemed in conflict with the scientific method that has informed their professional training. 

But the evidence is mounting that spirituality can no longer be ignored in the medical office. Even those physicians who do not value spiritual concepts in their own lives cannot justify omitting them entirely from their assessment and treatment of patients. It is time for the medical profession to wake up and recognize that the new frontier of medicine in this century lies in spirituality and spiritual energy.

Categories: Healthcare, Illness & Healing, Spirituality

Copyright ©2010 Karen Wyatt, MD

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