…pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.
Proverbs 4:20-22

When it comes to taking care of your health, you’re likely doing all the things. You’re getting those wellness visits in. You’re taking a walk after dinner. You’re cutting back on sugar. You’re drinking your water.

But what about prayer? What about being part of a faith community? What about your practice of reading scripture? What about your relationship with God?

In a previous article, we looked at some of the ways your health and your faith are connected. As more research is published on this growing topic, that link and the important way your belief in God and your physical wellness intersect goes even deeper.

Research is showing more clearly than ever that the link between spiritual life and health can’t be ignored. Take, for example, a study conducted by Harvard about those who regularly attend religious services. Those who participate in consistent church services tend to live longer than those who don’t.1 Another study by Duke University showed that those who are actively involved in their Christian faith show lower levels of stress and anxiety.2

The connection between faith and overall health continues to show up, in studies small and large. Those who live their lives by a set of religious beliefs tend to live longer, have lower rates of depression, have stronger immune systems, and lower levels of stress.3 So compelling is the evidence that healthcare professionals and therapists now recommend exploring a faith journey for their patients who are grappling with crippling depression.4 People who attend church, regularly pray, and make their faith an active part of their lives report that they feel a higher level of wellness than their non-faith counterparts. The question is, why?

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
I Corinthians 6:19-20

Healthy Lifestyle Standards: Within the Judeo-Christian faith, several lifestyle precepts in scripture can positively impact health outcomes. Instructions for monogamous marriage reduce exposure to STDs. The practice of fasting for faith purposes can also benefit the physical body. Limited use of alcohol and instructions to avoid drunkenness and gluttony also enhance physical health.5 There are also lower rates of cancer associated with certain Christian denominations, and researchers believe this may be connected to healthy living practices.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Romans 12:4-8

Community “Vitamins”: Being part of a caring and healthy community has a big impact on our overall health.6 It’s one of the markers of those people who live well into their 90s and even into their 100s.7 Because a large component of a faith practice for many people is being part of an active church community, people get both the spiritual experience of being part of a church while also experiencing being part of a caring, supportive faith family. Think of being part of a faith community as a unique kind of ‘multi-vitamin,’ one that nourishes your body, mind and spirit.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21

Tools for Navigating Life: When you regularly participate in your spiritual development, you’re actively discovering ways to manage the challenging and uncertain experiences of life. When difficulties arise, you’re equipped to deal with them with a deeper sense of connection to God, an eye to the bigger picture, and an assurance that your faith family and God are there for you. You’ll also likely find a variety of resources like books, sermons, music, and biblical counseling through your church that can help support you through various challenges and seasons.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
I John 4:16

The Presence of God in Your Life: While this might not be something researchers have a way of measuring, beyond the sociological and physiological impacts your faith life brings to your health, the sacred experience of feeling connected to your Creator shapes the way you look at life, your place in the world, and your contribution to it. For those who believe, God supernaturally interacts and provides for you, is a safe shelter in times of trouble, and cares about your physical health and emotional well-being.

As you take care of your physical health, consider too what you’re doing for your spiritual health. Because of the connection and impact your faith has on your wellness, it’s an area in which to be intentional in your day-to-day life.

Whether you are currently a Member of Altrua HealthShare or are considering becoming a Member, you can submit prayer requests or connect with Altrua Ministries for support. Altrua HealthShare knows that your faith life is an important part of your overall wellness and wants to help inspire, encourage, and support you as you continue your walk with God.

1 https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/regularly-attending-religious-services-associated-with-lower-risk-of-deaths-of-despair/#:~:text=Boston%2C%20MA%20%E2%80%93%20People%20who%20attended,Chan%20School%20of%20Public%20Health.
2 https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2002-01964-000
3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10418714/#:~:text=The%20preliminary%20evidence%20
4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10418714/#:~:text=Studies%20examining%20the,%2C21%5D.
5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4809079/
6 https://www.cdc.gov/emotional-wellbeing/social-connectedness/affect-health.htm#:~:text=Our%20relationships%20with%20family%2C%20friends,mental%20and%20physical%20health%20outcomes.
7 https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/active-social-life-longevity/#:~:text=Berkman%20said%20that%20the%20stress,foods%20and%20being%20physically%20active.