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Science Supports Spirituality for Healthy Living

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On National Day of Prayer, 2015 President Obama wrote that "our Nation is stronger because we welcome and respect people of all faiths, and because we protect the fundamental right of all peoples to practice their faith how they choose, to change their faith, or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free from persecution and discrimination."

Psychologists of the past believed religion and spirituality to be irrational and the cause of a person's mental issue, not the solution. Many psychologists today would agree that religion and spirituality is highly valuable in people's lives. However, the reality is that mental health professionals have little if any training on how to incorporate spirituality into prevention or treatment. Finally, the American Psychology Association have acknowledged the relationship between religion and psychology.

Due to the diversity of people and their needs, health care practitioners should offer complementary and alternative therapies to anyone who desires them. Coping with mental disorders has been conducted in a variety of natural ways including religious exposure and involvement, aromatherapy and medicinal plants, energy-balanced diets, and mindfulness-based stress reduction treatments. Another study found "the more time spent on meditation, the greater the decrease in scores on their measure of binge-eating, depression, and anxiety."

For decades science has supported that there are health benefits of religion and spirituality. For example, those who are religious/spiritual tend to have "fewer sexual patterns and practice safe sex, exercise more, eat better, not smoke cigarettes, drink less alcohol, and avoid illegal drugs; and they are at lower risk of both murder and suicide." Moreover, research suggests that religion and spirituality are positively correlated with better mental and physical health functioning.

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If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.