Changes in spirituality and well-being in a retreat program for cardiac patients. Kennedy JE, Abbott RA, Rosenberg BS.

Altern Ther Health Med 2002 Jul-Aug;8(4):64-6, 68-70, 72-3

University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, USA.

CONTEXT: Many epidemiological studies indicate that spirituality or religion are positively correlated with health measures, but research is needed on interventions that change spirituality to verify that it actually affects health and to justify suggestions that changes in spiritual practices or beliefs may have health benefits. However, it is not clear that health interventions can influence spirituality or which techniques are effective. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate whether participation in a retreat program for cardiac patients and their partners resulted in changes in spirituality and whether changes in spirituality were related to changes in well-being meaning in life, anger, and confidence in handling problems. DESIGN: Participants filled out questionnaires before and after participating in the retreat.

SETTING: Retreats were sponsored by the Health Promotion and Wellness Program, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and were held in a remote training center.

PARTICIPANTS: Notices were sent to cardiac rehabilitation programs and directly to heart patients, resulting in the enrollment of 72 first-time participants.

INTERVENTION: The 2.5-day educational retreats included discussion and opportunities to experience healthy lifestyle options. Exercise, nutrition, stress management techniques, communication skills that enhance social support, and spiritual principles of healing were incorporated. Experiential practices included yoga, meditation, visualization, and prayer.

RESULTS: Of the participants, 78% reported increased spirituality after the retreat. Changes in spirituality were positively associated with increased well-being meaning in life, confidence in handling problems, and decreased tendency to become angry.

CONCLUSIONS: Programs that explore spirituality in a health context can result in increased spirituality that is associated with increased well-being and related measures. Many patients and their families want to integrate the spiritual and health dimensions of their lives. Further work is needed to develop healthcare settings that can support this integration.

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