For the past 20 years, western medicine in the United
States has been exploring uncharted territory: the healing power of
spirituality. Now, many medical schools
include classes on the subject. And
multiple studies point to spirituality as a key element in boosting immune
functions and enhancing and accelerating the healing process beyond
conventional medical treatment.
Producer Zulima Palacio has the story.
Carol Pearson narrates.
being part of nature, meditating or practicing yoga - practitioners say they
all have a common element: a strong part of a person's spiritual life and,
potentially, a great importance in health and well-being., has been studying
the subject for more than 20 years.
you say that your spirituality is important to you in they way you think about
your health?” Dr. Puchalski asked her patient.
important because, its like a bad feeling; if you get up in the morning with
gloom and doom in your mind, you are bound to have gloom and doom all day,"
decades, 82 year old Vera Thompson has been a Buddhist with strong spiritual
practices. Her case, as with many other
patients, has provided Dr. Puchalski with great insight about the healing power
Dr. Puchalski says. "People who have spiritual
practice tend to recover from depression a little sooner than those that do
not. There are studies that look at
blood pressure, incredible studies looking at meditation actually that affect
blood pressure and resilience to stress."
Puchalski is the founder and Director of the George
Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health. She also teaches spirituality and health at
The George Washington University Medical School. She says the most significant role of spirituality in health
includes the ability to cope with serious illness, with suffering and
ago her patient Gwenda Martin had a total mastectomy to treat breast
cancer. Martin attributes her quick
recovery to the power of positive thinking and the attention of her church
community. "I think it had a lot to do with it because when I went into
surgery I knew I was going to be fine," Martin said.
meeting her patients, Dr. Puchalski asks them many non-conventional questions
involving their physical, emotional, social and spiritual life. In many ways, she says, she is talking
about the power of the mind, "If someone says that spirituality is like a
placebo, I think it may be truth because what we are doing is engaging the
power of our minds," Dr. Puchalski said.
ago, Robert Balkam had clinical depression when he visited Dr. Puchalski for
the first time. Now at 87, he says he
is feeling better than ever. "You knew that faith meant enough to me that
you knew that that is as important in my recovery as my eating," Balkam
Puchalski says she tries to keep the alliance between mind, body and
spirit. She says studies done on
Tibetan monks and brain imaging while meditating have established the positive
effects of spirituality. However she
recognizes that western society is dominated by technology and scientific
methods that make wellbeing very hard to measure.