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health & healing 

h e a l t h   &   h e a l i n g


Many factors interact to create health. Diet, access to medicine, our mental and emotional health, the feelings and realities of belonging, self-efficacy, our work-life balance, adequate shelter, a living wage, social policies...and more(!) interact to create our experience of well-being. Health is complex.

A few things that affect health are under-researched to date... As such, I have gathered a few items for your scrutiny, below.

Remember to consult your doctor, Community Care Access Centre (CCAC), or medical clinic for specific medical advice tailored to you.

Energy Psychology, Consciousness

Interesting material includes: The Promise of Energy Psychology: Revolutionary Tools for Dramatic Personal Change. (2005), by David Feinstein, Donna Eden and Gary Craig. Also: energypsych.com, matrixenergetics.

Wallace, R. K. "The physiology of higher states of consciousness." Paper presented at the Conference on Higher States of Consciousness: Theoretical and experimental perspectives, Chicago, August, 1991. Recent Research 484.

Outlines empirically measurable physiological correlates of higher states of consciousness.

Health Inequity

Kawachi I; Subramanian, N. and N Almeida-Filho. 2002. "A glossary for health inequalities." J Epidemiol Community Health 56 (9): 647-652.

The authors examine eight questions that are related to health inequalities. Some of these questions are: what is the difference between health inequity and health inequality? Should we measure the distribution of health across individuals, or, the distribution of health across social groups (like social class)? Are health inequalities generated by a socioeconomic gradient, or, do health inequalities primarily reflect the effects of poverty? What mediates health inequalities: psychosocial mechanisms, or, material deprivation?

Hofrichter, R. 2003. "The politics of health inequalities: contested terrain," in R. Hofrichter (ed), Health and Social Justice: Politics, Ideology and Inequity in the Distribution of Disease -- A Public Health Reader, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 1-56. 

This work argues that differences in aggregate health statues are inequitable when these differences are systematic and unjust. Hofrichter notes that while equitable access to health care is necessary, such access is merely a small piece of the puzzle; a small part of what is required to eliminated health inequities. Put a little differently: equity of access is necessary but insufficient to create conditions for health. Hofrichter reveals that "major advances in health status resulted from broad social reforms," (2) and that the "most egalitarian countries in the world, not the richest, have the best health status" (4).

Holistic Education

Miller, John P. 2007. The Holistic Curriculum. 2nd Ed. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Miller defines holistic education as concerned with various connections in the human experience, namely: connections between the mind and body, connections between the community and the individual, connections between academic disciplines, connections between intuitive ways of knowing and linear knowledge, and connections between the transpersonal Self of spiritual traditions, and the personal self or ego. Miller describes how holistic thought integrates scientific and spiritual perspectives, describes 3 educational models: (i.e. transaction, transmission, and transformation), examines its psychological, philosophical, and social roots while outlining its history and discussing classroom application. The first edition of this book was published in 1988 by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) press.

Shelton-Colangelo, Sharon, (ed); Mancuso, Carolina, (ed); and Mimi Duvall, (ed). 2006. Teaching with Joy: Educational Practices for the Twenty-First Century. Maryland: Altamira Press.

This collection "addresses the growing need for ideas and methods conducive to holistic educational practices and aims to encourage more personal growth in students too often distracted by the background noise of war, violence, racism, and environmental deterioration." The authors are working professors and teachers "who have integrated a degree of spirituality into a wide range of classes in both urban and rural settings across the United States of America." The authors seek to provide practical advice about implementing a spiritual and ethical spiritual curriculum while "avoiding religious dogmatism" (Scholar's Portal).

Prayer, Religious Beliefs & Health

Miller, W. R. and Thoresen, C. E. 2003. "Spirituality, religion, and health. An emerging research field." American Psychologist 58 (1): 24-35.

Researchers assert that an investigation into spiritual/religious factors in health is both warranted and clinically relevant. They explore the "persistent predictive relationship between religious variables and health, and its implications for future research and practice." Various sections of the paper review epidemiological evidence that links religiousness to mortality and morbidity, plausible biological pathways that link spirituality/religiousness to health, and "advances in the assessment of spiritual/religious variables in research and practice" (quotations from abstract).

Stone, George C. 1994. "Religious Beliefs and Health" in Jean-Pierre Dauwalder (ed). Swiss Monographs in Psychology. Vol. (2). 41-56.

Although still a relatively novel area of study, research indicates that religious variables and especially religious beliefs, "can be substantially related to health measures" (41). For example, some members of religious organizations are healthier than the general population of country in which they live. Most thoroughly studied in this regard are the Latter Day Saints or Mormons, and the Seventh Day Adventists, whose members are reported to have "life expectancies several years greater than those of the general population in a number of studies" (41). Respiratory diseases, cancers at various sites, violent deaths, and cardiovascular disease are less frequent among these groups. Similarly, there are also studies of special health concerns that arise from religious prescriptions.

     Why Might Religious Beliefs Affect Health?

Stone (1994) asserts that some of the effects of religious beliefs upon health seem to be explained via the prescription or prohibition of various behaviors as a part of religious practice. For example, "vegetarian dietary practices of some Seventh Day Adventists can be protective" (41) in regards to cardiovascular disease. In a study comparing non-vegetarian with vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists in California , non-vegetarians of a middle aged group displayed 3 times greater the risk of coronary heart disease as compared with vegetarians of a similar age. The lower incidence of smoking in certain groups is also a compelling explanation for the effects of religious beliefs upon health. However, Stone also notes that more than one study demonstrates that,  the life expectancy of active Mormon males is greater as compared with a comparable group of Americans who never smoked (41).

     How? Difficulties with Cause

It is hard to attribute cause to various potentially health-affecting activities that are subsumed under the umbrella of religion. A person's experience of health affects will be mediated by: (i) the degree to which he or she actually participates in religious practice, and (ii) the degree to which he or she is internally or privately committed to the beliefs of a particular religion. Apart from this, tracing a causal pathway to health from religion can be complex, due to the multiplicity of religious variables that exist. To help illustrate a few of the pathways upon which religion might affect health, Stone (1994) presents a table in his article. A simplified version of the table is presented below.

Table 1: Hypothetical Pathways for the Impact of Religious Variables on Health

1. specific health behaviors prescribed or prohibited

2. hereditary isolation of groups

3. psychosocial cohesion/social support

4. psychodynamics of belief systems (inner harmony, guilt, ego, etc.)

5. psychodynamics of rites

6. psychodynamics of faith

7. super-empirical influences (immanent power, yoga, crystals, etc.)

8. supernatural influences (transcendent active power that may be supplicated by prayer)

While the pathway classifications noted above may be inadequately labeled, incomplete, or inadequately conceptualized, they provide us with a summary of pathways that religious practices may employ to potentially affect health. Stone notes that, in the table above, #2 may be observed where strict taboos against marriage perpetuate various genetic abnormalities via inbreeding - provided that, of course, there is compliance on the part of the individual. In regards to #5 above, Stone notes that various religious rites can "ease dread and anxiety, reduce personal and group tension," and the like. Additionally, negative health can result from resistance to medical treatment, argues Stone, and neurotic behavior may result from sexual and other taboos. Stone also makes a distinction between spiritual healing and faith healing, since, "if the two were the same," he suggests, "we wouldn't see babies or third parties healed by the invocation of spiritual forces" (48). It seems then, that the pathways noted above are complex, and there is potentially a lot of useful information in  this under-researched domain (43).

     Out of Reach?

Stone asserts that scientific study of what is commonly called the super-natural may not be out of reach. Here, he cites two studies that examine the efficacy of prayer. These studies are summarized below.

Study One:

Collipp (1969)

10 leukaemic children were assigned to a to be prayed for group , and 8 other leukaemic children were assigned to a regular treatment group . The children, their parents, and the doctors all (i) did not know that research on prayer was being conducted, and (i) did not know that 2 groups had been formed. Doctors and parents reported, on a monthly basis, whether (a) the illness, (b) familial adjustment, and (c) the child's adjustment were wither worse, no different, or better. 10 families from the families' Protestant Church were asked to pray for the children, and were "reminded every week about their agreement to pray" however, "they did not know that they were involved in a study about the efficacy of prayer" (Stone, 49). After 15 months, only 2 of the 8 children in the regular treatment group survived, however 7 children in the to be prayed for group survived.

Please note that for ethical reasons involving adequate informed consent, this study, or a similar study, would not usually be permissible today.

Study Two:

Miller (1982)

96 hypertensive patients and 8 healers were involved in this study. Both the doctors and the patients did not know who would receive a spiritual healing treatment. Regular medical treatment continued for all patients, some patients received additional spiritual healing treatment.

Spiritual Healing involved: (a) attunement with an Infinite Being/Higher Power, (b) relaxation, (c) expression of thanks to "God or the Source of all power and energy," and (d) a an affirmation or visualization of the patient "being in a state of perfect health" (Stone, 49).

Results were that "significant improvement was observed in the healer-treated group" as compared with the regular treatment group. Between the two groups, there were "no significant differences" in "diastolic blood pressure, pulse, and weight", however, 4 healers had a "92.3% improvement ratio in their total group of patients," as compared with a "73.7% improvement for the control" (i.e. regular treatment) group (Stone, 49).


Religious Settings & Health Promotion

Campbell, Marci Kramish; Hudson, Marlyn Allicock Hudson; Resnicow, Ken; Blakeney, Natasha; Paxton, Amy and Monica Baskin. 2007. "Church-Based Health Promotion Interventions: Evidence and Lessons Learned." Annual Review of Public Health. Vol. 28: 213-234. 

Health promotion initiatives that are Church-based can reach a broad populations, and have much potential for reducing health disparities. The authors assert that, "from a socioecological perspective, churches and other religious organizations can influence members' behaviors at multiple levels of change." While research is required to determine appropriate messages and strategies  messages for diverse groups, partnership using community-based participatory research strategies is essential. The evidence indicates that such programs have "produced significant impacts" "on a variety of health behaviors."

Yoga & Meditation

Janakiramaiah, N.; Gangadhar, B. N.; Murthy, P. J. Naga Venkatesha; Harish, M. G.; Shetty, K. Taranath; Subbakrishna, D. K.; Meti, B. L.; Raju, T. R.; and A. Vedamurthachar. 1998. “Therapeutic efficacy of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) in dysthymic disorder.” NIMHANS Journal. Vol. 16 (1). 21-28.

This study examined the efficacy of Sudarshan Kriya yoga (SKY) in treating 46 males between 18 and 46 years of age who were hospital outpatients with dysthymia. These people practiced SKY for 30 minutes every day for 3 months and avoided the use of any medication. Assessment of the effects of SKY treatment were taken initially, at at 1 and 3 months' time. Assessment tools included interviews, self-report scales, and the utilization of video ratings. Also, for 12 people, cortisol and plasma prolactin levels were recorded both before and after their first complete SKY session. Significant elevation of plasma prolactin, but not cortisol was recorded after the first SKY session. It is concluded that SKY has therapeutic efficacy in dysthymic disorder and demonstrable biological effects.

Sharma, Himani; Sen, Sudip; Singh, Archna; Bhardwaj, Narendra Kumar; Kochupillai, Vinod and Neeta Singh. 2003. "Sudarshan Kriya practitioners exhibit better antioxidant status and lower blood lactate levels.” Biological Psychology . Vol. 63 (3). 281-291.

These researchers assert that "oxidative stress may contribute to the pathophysiology of many chronic diseases." Further, since "psychosocial stress increases oxidative stress," the researchers conducted an exploratory study to investigate the effects of stress reduction with the Sudarshan Kriya (SK) program, on superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, glutathione and blood lactate levels in practitioners and non-practitioners of SK." The procedure used was that blood samples of 10 "practitioners of SK and 14 non-practitioners of any formal stress management technique were analyzed for SOD, catalase, glutathione and lactate levels. Differences between groups and subgroups were analyzed by t-test and correlations between variables compared using Pearson's correlation coefficient. Significantly lower levels of blood lactate (P=3.118e-10) and higher levels of SOD (P=0.0001415), glutathione (P=2.038e-06) and catalase (P=0.001565) were found in practitioners as compared to non-practitioners of SK." These results suggest that "lower levels of blood lactate and better antioxidant status in practitioners are associated with regular practice of SK technique" (quotations from Reader's Guide/Scholar's Portal abstract). Notwithstanding this, this study needs to be conducted with a greater number of participants to confirm this effect.  

Kriyayoga Meditation (as taught by Kriyayoga Master Yogi Satyam): health improvement reports from the practice of Kriyayoga Science.

Explore testimonials here.

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