Can spirituality promote a healthier physical life for your family? Recent medical studies indicate that spiritual people exhibit fewer self-destructive behaviors (suicide, smoking, and drug and alcohol abuse, for example), less stress, and a greater total life satisfaction.
Doctors and scientists once avoided the study of spirituality in connection to medicine, but findings within the past 10 years have made some take a second look. Studies show that religion and faith can help to promote good health and fight disease by:
- Offering additional social supports, such as religious outreach groups
- Improving coping skills through prayer and a philosophy that all things have a purpose
Religious and spiritual beliefs are an important part of how many people deal with life's joys and hardships. Faith can provide people with a sense of purpose and guidelines for living. When families face tough situations, including health problems, their religious beliefs and practices can help them fight feelings of helplessness, restore meaning and order to life situations, and promote regaining a sense of control. For some families, spirituality can be a powerful and important source of strength.
To foster spirituality within your own family, you may want to examine your own values. Ask yourself questions: What is important to me? How well do my daily activities mirror my values? Do I neglect issues that matter to me because I'm busy spending time on things that matter less?
Here are other suggestions to start your family's spiritual journey:
- Explore your roots. In examining your shared past, you and your children may connect with values of earlier times and places, as well as gain a sense of your extended family's history and values.
- Examine your spiritual involvement in the community. If you're already involved in a spiritual group, maybe you will want to take on a larger role - first for you, then as a model for your children. If you haven't joined a community, you may want to investigate those in your area.
- Recall the feelings you had at the birth or adoption of your child. Try to get back to that moment in your mind, remembering the hopes and dreams you had. It can be the start of a search for similar or related feelings in your everyday life.
- Share some silence with your children. Take a few minutes for silent meditation alone or with your children. Think about your parenthood, your life as an individual, and your place in the larger scheme of the world. Spend time discussing these thoughts with your children and listen to their ideas on what spirituality means to them.
- Take a nature walk. Nature has long been an inspiration and spiritual guide. A walk will relax you and allow you to contemplate the wonders of the world around you.
- Read books that express spiritual ideas with your children and share your thoughts about what you're reading.
Updated and reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: May 2005
Originally reviewed by: Steve Dowshen, MD, and Sandra Hassink, MD
Other website to check out: www.integrativespirituality.org