Is Religion Good for Your Health?

Is Religion Good for Your Health?
Mar 25, 2013 6:00am
Faith and medicine frequently intersect. My patients and I often talk about spirituality when we discuss medical issues. For many people, life-and-death decisions are grounded in a belief that a higher being will guide the outcome as much, or more than, the physicians and treatments involved. In addition, a support system based on shared faith can be extremely helpful in the healing process. Ministries frequently offer assistance programs and have relationships with social workers to counsel and provide services for those in need.
Not long ago, while reading the newspaper, I began thinking about the relationship of health and religion in an entirely new way, one that involves using religious tenets to promote a healthful lifestyle every day, not just in times of crisis. I saw an obituary for Lester Breslow, a true pioneer in public health. It was fitting that a man who dedicated his life to understanding what drives longevity lived to the ripe old age of ninety-seven. There are many important lessons to be learned from his extensive body of research. Breslow, a public health leader for over seventy years, was instrumental in first connecting smoking to lung diseases, particularly cancer. But that's not all. He demonstrated an association between longevity and health quality through a set of seven behaviors (known as the Alameda 7, for the California county in which they were identified): Not smoking; sleeping seven to eight hours per night; eating regular meals; maintaining a moderate weight; eating breakfast; drinking in moderation; and exercising at least moderately.
What really caught my eye was that Dr. Breslow was still at work well into his nineties. In 2010, Breslow, then ninety-five, was a coauthor of a twenty-five-year study of a group of California Mormons. This study, written with Professor James E. Enstrom of the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that the life expectancy of Mormon men was almost ten years longer than that of the general population of white American males. Female Mormons lived between five and six years longer than their general population counterparts. The longevity effect was most pronounced for those who never smoked, went to church weekly, had at least twelve years of education, and were married. Additional benefits were seen in those who were not overweight, got plenty of sleep, and exercised. The authors attributed the added years to the Mormons' healthy doctrines: Eating a well-balanced diet and eschewing tobacco, alcohol, coffee, tea, and illegal drugs. They found similar benefits among Americans of any religion who practiced the same healthy behaviors.
There has long been a correlation between being a churchgoer and longevity, but it has been difficult to tease out the basis of that relationship. The link to better health was partially attributed to self-selection. Religious people were the type of people who would practice behaviors favorable to more healthful living and thus live longer. Studies found that churchgoers were less likely to engage in high-risk health behaviors such as smoking and excessive drinking. After all, getting up bright and early for church Sunday mornings does hamper Saturday night binging. Being able to travel to church might also be a marker for mobility and healthfulness, rather than its cause.
There are also many beneficial spiritual aspects to consider. The meditative nature of religious services can lower stress levels. Many services preach love, forgiveness, hope, and optimism, which foster a positive outlook on life that can translate into good emotional health. Many sermons address the importance of giving thanks, and we know that gratitude can be very important for mental health. In addition to religious leaders providing counseling, some religions incorporate confession, which can help unburden congregants from emotional distress. These are all things that might be good for your health.
Now, I'm not a religious person and I've yet to see any convincing studies that compare the belief systems of various religions and their impact on health. However, I know from experience that for some people the belief in a higher power is incredibly important in helping them cope with a serious illness. It is what gets them through tough times. For others, it is the sense of community, the group aspect of organized religion that has a big impact on their health. Alternatively, I see atheists who get great support through other means, including their understanding of the natural workings of the world. And clearly you don't need to be religious to practice the healthful principles laid out by many of the world's religions. Those should apply to everyone.
Dr. B's Bottom Line:
Practicing the health tenets espoused by many religions are associated with a longer life. And you know what? You don't need to be religious or believe in God to follow them!
Keeping the Faith
Even if you aren't religious, it's worth embracing some philosophies espoused by many faith-based organizations that are good for your health and the health of others:
  • Find a loving relationship and stick with it.
  • Support those around you in their times of need.
  • Give thanks for what you have. There are many benefits of being grateful. It has been shown to strengthen social bonds and makes people more likely to want to help us again. There is also promising evidence linking practicing gratitude to better sleep, fewer symptoms of illness, and less stress.
  • Stay in school. Education is good for your health.
  • Treat your body like a temple. Eat right, get regular exercise, get a good night's sleep, don't smoke, and if you drink, do so in moderation.
Excerpted from Dr. Besser's new book, "Tell Me the Truth, Doctor," which hits stores April 23. Pre-order the book at Barnes & NobleAmazon or your local independent bookseller.


Seven Steps to Achieving Your Dream!

From: psychotherapy_india

Seven Steps to Achieving Your Dream!

Can achievement be broken down into steps? Well, it isn't always that clean
and easy, but I do know that those who achieve great things usually go
through much of the same process, with many of the items listed below as
part of that process. So if you have been struggling with achievement, look
through the following and internalize the thoughts presented. Then begin to
apply them. You will be on the road to achieving your dream!

1. Dream it - Everything begins in the heart and mind. Every great
achievement began in the mind of one person. They dared to dream, to believe
that it was possible. Take some time to allow yourself to ask "What if?"
Think big. Don't let negative thinking discourage you. You want to be a
"dreamer." Dream of the possibilities for yourself, your family, and for
others. If you had a dream that you let grow cold, re-ignite the dream! Fan
the flames. Life is to short to let it go.

2. Believe it - Yes, your dream needs to be big. It needs to be something
that is seemingly beyond your capabilities. But it also must be believable.
You must be able to say that if certain things take place, if others help,
if you work hard enough, though it is a big dream, it can still be done.
Good example: A person with no college education can dream that he will
build a 50 million-dollar a year company. That is big, but believable. Bad
example: That a 90 year-old woman with arthritis will someday run a marathon
in under 3 hours. It is big alright, but also impossible. She should instead
focus on building a 50 million-dollar a year business! And she better get a
move on!

3. See it - The great achievers have a habit. They "see" things. They
picture themselves walking around their CEO office in their new 25
million-dollar corporate headquarters, even while they are sitting on a
folding chair in their garage "headquarters." Great free-throw shooters in
the NBA picture the ball going through the basket. PGA golfers picture the
ball going straight down the fairway. World-class speakers picture
themselves speaking with energy and emotion. All of this grooms the mind to
control the body to carry out the dream.

4. Tell it - One reason many dreams never go anywhere is because the dreamer
keeps it all to himself. It is a quiet dream that only lives inside of his
mind. The one who wants to achieve their dream must tell that dream to many
people. One reason: As we continually say it, we begin to believe it more
and more. If we are talking about it then it must be possible. Another
reason: It holds us accountable. When we have told others, it spurs us on to
actually do it so we don't look foolish.

5. Plan it - Every dream must take the form of a plan. The old saying that
you "get what you plan for" is so true. Your dream won't just happen. You
need to sit down, on a regular basis, and plan out your strategy for
achieving the dream. Think through all of the details. Break the whole plan
down into small, workable parts. Then set a time frame for accomplishing
each task on your "dream plan."

6. Work it - wouldn't life be grand if we could quit before this one!
Unfortunately the successful are usually the hardest workers. While the rest
of the world is sitting on their couch watching re-runs of Gilligan's
Island, achievers are working on their goal - achieving their dream. I have
an equation that I work with: Your short-term tasks, multiplied by time,
equal your long-term accomplishments. If you work on it each day, eventually
you will achieve your dream. War and Peace was written, in longhand, page by

7. Enjoy it - When you have reached your goal and you are living your dream,
be sure to enjoy it. In fact, enjoy the trip too. Give yourself some rewards
along the way. Give yourself a huge reward when you get there. Help others
enjoy it. Be gracious and generous. Use your dream to better others. Then go
back to number 1. And dream a little bigger this time!

Why be Spiritual? Top Five Benefits of Spirituality

Why be Spiritual? Top Five Benefits of Spirituality

San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) February 26, 2013

Spiritual people experience a large amount of gratitude, focus on
compassionate emotions, lead an overall flourishing life, are
self-actualizing, and savor experiences.

Researchers at BeyondthePurchase.org wanted to determine the personal and
societal benefits of spirituality - a search for something sacred. They
determined the positive personality traits of spiritual individuals by
having participants complete over 30 surveys. Here are the top five positive
characteristics of spiritual people:

>1. Spiritual people are gracious. Psychology has demonstrated that
expressing gratitude is associated with many positive emotions such as
optimism, being generous with time and resources, and overall vitality.
Spirituality encourages people to be positive, which may be expressed in
many of these life practices.

>2. Spiritual people are compassionate. Experiencing compassion toward
others is one the strongest correlates with living a spiritual life. A
variety of positive or pro-social emotions have strong links with
spiritualism, including allowing one to feel good about the little things in
life and look at the world through empathetic eyes.

>3. Spiritual people flourish. Spirituality is linked to many important
aspects of human functioning--spiritual people have positive relationships,
high self-esteem, are optimistic, and experience meaning and purpose in

>4. Spiritual people self-actualize. Spiritual individuals strive toward a
better life and consider personal growth and fulfillment as a central goal.
Spirituality can be considered to be a path toward self-actualization,
because it requires people to focus on their internal values and work on
becoming a better individual.

>5. Spiritual people take time to savor life experiences. Individuals who
value spirituality take the time to reflect on their daily activities and
ultimately build lasting memories of their experiences. Because spiritual
people are more conscious of small, daily activities, they experience
positive emotions associated with the smaller pleasures in life.

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