TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — According to the latest Gallup-Healthways research, if you're a woman between the age of 45 and 55, you're most likely to be happy if you're from California, live in a household that brings in at least $120,000 a year, eat plenty of fruits and veggies and exercise six times a week.
It's also likely religion and/or spirituality play an important role in your daily life.
Beyond the happiness factor, however, there's a growing body of evidence that would suggest religion and spirituality could also have a positive impact on your health.
Research conducted by the folks just down road from me at the Veterans Affairs' Family Research Center in Palo Alto, Calif. concluded, “Indirect effects of church attendance on health were clearly observed, with alcohol use/dependence, smoking, and mood being possible mediators of the church attendance-health relationship.” In another study, the majority of doctors surveyed (56 percent) agreed, “religion and spirituality … influence patients' health.”
This kind of news should make anyone engaged in this sort of activity even happier.
Exactly how and why religion and spirituality can keep us healthy is still very much up for discussion. There's much less debate, however, over the connection between thought — obviously influenced by our religious and spiritual habits — and body.
A good friend of mine — a woman who just happens to be between the age of 45 and 55 — had a remarkable experience that bears this out.
A few years ago she was involved in a serious car accident. X-rays confirmed she had broken her neck in two places and was told by her doctors she would have to be completely immobilized for an extended period of time. Instead of consenting to their recommended treatment plan, she chose to be transferred to another, nonmedical facility. Over the next couple of weeks she received basic physical care as well as treatment from a spiritual practitioner. Together they considered, as she describes it, her “unbreakable connection to God” and “God's great love for His creation.”
Apparently this had quite an effect. After two weeks, she went home. Within a month she was jogging.
While I have no idea how often this woman jogs, how much money she makes, or if she's eating her fruits and veggies, I do know she takes her religion and her spirituality very seriously. She also appears to be quite happy.
Something tells me if this worked for her, it's likely to be working for a lot of other women — and men — even if they don't all live in California.
— Eric D. Nelson is the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. This post originally appeared on Blogcritics, PaloAltoPatch and BayCitizen.