Heart Patients Benefit From Spiritual Retreats

Nothing is more testing to mental health than a serious medical condition. This is even more the case when the condition in question is severe heart trouble. The fear of mortality combined with a delicate physical balance can prove seriously destabilising for many sufferers. In such cases, complementary techniques provide a vital support to standard cardiac care.


Patients with severe heart trouble must be more careful than anyone not to allow disturbances to their wellbeing. Stress or sadness can lead to high blood pressure or irregular heart rhythms if not managed properly. It’s fair to say that they have more need to take care of their emotional wellness than almost anybody, due to the nature of their physical condition. Well aware of this pressure, Dr. Sara Warber MD, associate professor at the University of Michigan’s Medical School undertook research into the effect of retreats in improving the situation of patients with coronary conditions.


The research examined the effects of wellbeing retreats upon two groups of patients with acute coronary syndrome. The first group attended a lifestyle retreat focusing on wellbeing practices such as exercise, nutrition and stress management. The second group attended a retreat with a more spiritual dimension, including meditation, visualisations, drumming and art therapy. Unsurprisingly, both groups saw a significant improvement in their levels of stress and depression, improvements that remained present at three and six month follow-up evaluations.


Results of the study contain a further element of interest. A comparison of results on the Beck Depression Inventory saw that patient who attended the spiritual retreat went from a baseline ‘mood score’ of 12 to a score of 6. Those who attended the wellbeing retreat showed nearly identical results, and both groups showed a significant improvement compared to the control group, which went from 8 to 6. However, a much more interesting result was achieved with the use of the State Hope Scale, from which all groups started at a baseline score of 34-36. The group who attended the spiritual retreat was seen to score 40 points, while both the wellbeing retreat and control groups scored significantly lower.


The findings are very useful for the field of complementary medicine and sufferers of heart conditions alike. They seem to suggest that patients benefit significantly more from a spiritual retreat than a simple lifestyle one. It stands to reason that contemplating the universe and one’s place in it will lead one to a greater sensation of hope than otherwise. The non-denominational retreat of the study in question emphasised notions of love, harmony and peace; practices that greatly contribute to one’s sense of hope. It can be hoped that spiritual practice will gain increasing popularity as a supportive mechanism for those suffering chronic conditions.

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