“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” (Psalm 28:7)
There’s no question that faith has brought comfort, purpose and happiness to millions of people. Research indicates that sharing a religion, spirituality or faith can also have a positive impact on our physical as well as mental health.
While being religious is by no means guaranteed protection against illness and disease, studies show that having faith in a higher power can promote a healthier lifestyle while better equipping us to cope with health challenges. Here are the many ways in which your religious beliefs and practices may help you live healthier.
Stress and anxiety can put us into fight-or-flight mode, resulting in the release of hormones that can weaken our immune system, elevate blood pressure, and cause a host of unpleasant physical and emotional side effects. Over time, prolonged stress can contribute to or worsen chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes1.
By guiding us to find peace, purpose, gratitude and forgiveness, religion can help us better tolerate and even reduce stress levels2. Spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation have been shown to mitigate stress and lower blood pressure3. At the very least, prayer can help us better handle stressful times, and reminds us that we are not alone in facing our challenges.
Christian faith emphasizes the need to care for one’s physical body. That may include abstaining from alcohol and drug consumption, avoiding harmful behaviors, exercising, following a nutritious diet, and generally embracing healthy lifestyle choices. Indeed, numerous studies indicate that people who are religiously involved tend to live longer4.
Life with Meaning
People who are religious can often have a clearer sense of meaning and purpose in life, which can be linked to better health3. Religion provides people with a belief system and structure, as well as a supportive community of others who share their values — all of which can improve mental health. In fact, research suggests that religious beliefs and practices can reduce rates of suicide, alcohol use disorder, and substance use disorder2.
Belonging and Community
According to Harold Koenig, the Director of the Center for Spirituality at Duke University, studies show that individuals who belong to churches and faith-based communities experience a greater satisfaction with life and more happiness3. Being part of a religious community can lead to increased social involvement, connectivity, and a sense of belonging that can in turn lead to healthier, happier living.
What’s more, members of faith-based communities are often more willing to lend a helping hand during difficult times, including times of illness. With this support and assistance, individuals can better manage their challenges and find hope as well as healing.
In Times of Sickness
Religious people experience illness and health challenges as well. But studies show that having faith can help those who do struggle with health conditions have better outcomes, including longer lives, more coping skills, a higher quality of life, and less anxiety and depression. Multiple studies go on to suggest that addressing the spiritual needs of patients may help them better recover from illness4.
Christian Health Sharing
Given that around 90% of Americans believe in a higher power, it’s no wonder more people are looking for ways to integrate their faith with their healthcare4. Christian health sharing programs allow you to do exactly that.
With faith-based health sharing, you are welcomed into a supportive community of Christians who share your religious beliefs and values. Members of Christian health share programs agree to share the costs of medical care, as well as embrace healthy lifestyles guided by Biblical principles. Faith-based health sharing communities are there to help each other in times of sickness as well as health. While saving potentially hundreds of dollars each month, with Christian health sharing you’ll be able to fully experience the benefits that come with freely practicing your faith.
If you’re interested in learning more about faith-based health sharing plans, start here.