Spiritual Health and Decision Making
As individuals there are many layers to what the medical field considers our “health” – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. In fact, body, mind and spirit are intricately linked; these make up who we are as human beings. Medical studies have been regularly conducted in recent decades and there is growing evidence revealing that spiritual health plays an important part in all other areas of our health.
For example, when you are feeling down (emotional health) it can affect you by feeling physically fatigued or losing appetite (physical health). Emotional discouragement can also affect your thought patterns (mental health) by allowing your thoughts to get stuck on a situation and causing a downward spiral of thinking about all the other things that are “wrong” with your life causing greater depressive thoughts of hopelessness.
Spiritual health can refer to a faith background, but generally speaking it centers around your sense of support in life, hope and comfort during hard times, and feeling at peace with your life. When other areas of our health (emotional, mental, physical) are suffering it also triggers negative effects on our spiritual health with feelings of hopelessness, uncertainty, anxiety about the future and desperation.
Upon intake to hospitals or medical clinics, they often will ask for you spiritual affiliation or denomination. Most hospitals have chaplains available for patients and staff. They recognize the need for spiritual support when facing a crisis, trauma or sickness. The medical field also recognizes that spiritual support and counseling positively affect the body’s ability to heal.
Many medical studies have been consistently showing the benefits of faith and spirituality on health, wellness and coping. One reason is because when we are stressed our nervous system becomes hyper-activated. This hyperactive state causes us to go into survival mode commonly known as “fight or flight.” High levels of stress affect us by shutting down the executive functioning portions of our brain resulting in poor decision making or self destructive behaviors. Executive functioning is the area of the brain that controls clear, rational, logical thought. Medical researchers state that when we engage in spiritual activities like prayer or meditation, it calms the fight or flight response of our nerves so that executive functioning is restored, giving us the ability to make educated, intelligent decisions.
When making major life change decisions, it is important to take all areas of your health into consideration. What may make sense right now based on your emotional health (i.e. I will feel better if I just do this) may not be beneficial to your physical, mental or spiritual health. It is vital for you to take time to calm your emotional state, through prayer, meditation and talking with someone trustworthy. You will be able to sort through the facts of your situation rather than just your feelings. Read and educate yourself as much as possible on the decision options at hand to make a choice that is not just convenient for this moment, but will be a choice you can live with a year, five years, or ten years down the road. This will produce long term spiritual health full of hope, optimism, assurance and peace with your life path.