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Spiritual Fitness 2017-07-28T05:55:59+00:00

SPIRITUALITY AND BREAST CANCER

Maintaining a healthy mind and body is the goal of most individuals; however, a breast cancer diagnosis can shake one’s ability to maintain that balance. The research examining spirituality and chronic illnesses have shown significant benefits in a person’s quality of life, in addition to, the person’s psychological health. The known benefits between chronic illnesses and spirituality are below:

Spirituality on psychological health:

  • Higher levels of a spiritual commitment have been positively associated with person having a greater purpose in life and higher levels of well-being.
  • Intrinsically orientated (i.e., living the faith) individuals were found to be more psychologically healthy than individuals who are extrinsically orientated (participating in the rituals, like going to church), including those with chronic illnesses like breast cancer.
    [i]
  • Intrinsically spiritual people reported more positive coping methods and more benevolent interpretations of the crises.[ii]
  • Research has also supported a positive outcome for individuals with a spiritual affiliation, including higher rates of longevity, better quality of life, long term well-being, greater life satisfaction, increased psychological well-being[iii], and fewer mood disorders which can lead to less anxiety, depression, and suicides.[iv]
  • In contrast, ambivalence (struggles) with spirituality has been associated with longer hospital stays and higher mortality rates. [v]
  • Individuals who are grounded in their faith report a greater sense of hope; and through prayer and trusting in God or a Higher Power, they build a more solid foundation for coping with the disease.[vi]
  • Religion encourages the use of prayer as a means of privately communicating with God or a Higher Power.[vii]
  • As believers engage in prayer, a sense of comfort or calm may come over them,[viii] because prayer or other rituals allow individuals to believe their petitions are being heard and expect that their hearts and bodies will be healed soon.

Spirituality on physical health:

  • Spirituality provides comfort for individuals suffering from psychological or physical pain.[ix]
  • Current research does not show evidence that spirituality slows the progression of cancer, however, it has shown favorable outcomes in the psychological well-being of individuals, which in turn affects disease outcome.[x]
  • Research studying spirituality and chronic illnesses has shown a reduction in cardiovascular deaths [xi]and a renewed sense of hope and a positive outlook for patients living with AIDS.[xii]
  • Spirituality has played a crucial role in the lives of patients with terminal cancer as they seek new meaning for their lives[xiii], including mitigating the demands of colorectal cancer.[xiv]
  • Spirituality often involves the elimination of inappropriate or damaging behaviors and encourages believers to live a healthier lifestyle.
  • Spirituality promotes less risky lifestyle behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse,[xv] in additiion to, greater health-promoting behaviors, such as, eating a proper diet, seeking preventive services, and being compliant with treatment.

Prayer and mantras can create a sense of calm, trigger parasympathetic relaxation, and decrease stress.[xvi]

[i] Mickley, J. R., Soeken, K., & Belcher, A. (1992). Spiritual well-being, religiousness and hope among women with breast cancer. Image: Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 24, 267- 272.
[ii]Hill, P. C., & Pargament, K. I. (2003). Advances in conceptualization and measurement of religion and spirituality: Implications for physical and mental health research. American Psychologist, 58, 64 – 74.
[iii] Musgrave, C. F., Allen, C. E., & Allen, G. J. (2002). Spirituality and health for women of color. American Journal of Public Health, 92, 557-561.
[iv] Mueller, P. S., Plevak, D. J., & Rummans, T. A. (2001). Religious involvement, spirituality, and medicine: Implications for Clinical Practice. Medical Education and Research, 76. Retrieved October 9, 2004 from http://www2.lib.purdue.edu:2137/en/arch.
[v] Powell, L. H., Shahabi, L., & Thoresen, C. E. (2003). Religion and spirituality: Linkages to physical health. American Psychologist, 58, 36-52.
[vi] Narayanasamy, A. (2002). Spiritual coping mechanisms in chronically ill patients. British Journal of Nursing, 11, 1461-1470.
[vii] Narayanasamy, A. (2002). Spiritual coping mechanisms in chronically ill patients. British Journal of Nursing, 11, 1461-1470.
[viii] Kirkpatrick, L. A. (1999). Attachment and religious representation and behavior. In J. Cassidy and P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research and clinical applications (pp. 803 – 822). New York: Guilford Publications.
[ix] Musgrave, C. F., Allen, C. E., & Allen, G. J. (2002). Spirituality and health for women of color. American Journal of Public Health, 92, 557-561.
[x] Powell, L. H., Shahabi, L., & Thoresen, C. E. (2003). Religion and spirituality: Linkages to physical health. American Psychologist, 58, 36-52.
[xi] Powell, L. H., Shahabi, L., & Thoresen, C. E. (2003). Religion and spirituality: Linkages to physical health. American Psychologist, 58, 36-52.
[xii] Albaugh, J. A. (2003). Spirituality and life threatening illness: A phenomenologic study. Oncology Nursing Forum, 30, 593- 598.
[xiii]Albaugh, J. A. (2003). Spirituality and life threatening illness: A phenomenologic study. Oncology Nursing Forum, 30, 593- 598.
[xiv] Narayanasamy, A. (2002). Spiritual coping mechanisms in chronically ill patients. British Journal of Nursing, 11, 1461-1470.
[xv]Musgrave, C. F., Allen, C. E., & Allen, G. J. (2002). Spirituality and health for women of color. American Journal of Public Health, 92, 557-561. and
Rifkin, A., Doddi, S., Karagji, B., & Pollack, S. (1999) . Religious and other predictors of psychosocial adjustment in cancer patients. Psychosomatics, 40, 251-256.
[xvi] Powell, L. H., Shahabi, L., & Thoresen, C. E. (2003). Religion and spirituality: Linkages to physical health. American Psychologist, 58, 36-52.