Whether or not you call yourself spiritual, there are certain ‘spiritual’ practices that, if practiced daily, may help you cope better with the challenges Parkinson's disease (PD) throws at you each day. A barrage of new research studies demonstrate that common spiritual practices, such as frequent prayer and frequent attendance at religious services, appear to have beneficial effects on physical and mental health. These positive effects range from improved subjective reports of enhanced well-being to objective reductions in physical complaints and rates of hypertension, pain, cancer and mortality.
Many people with PD find that if they engage in a ‘spiritual’ practice for about 10 to 20 minutes each day, they feel better, cope better and even function better than if they had not engaged in that practice, according to research.
What Are ‘Spiritual Practices’?
These are behaviors or practices that seem to take you out of yourself for a few minutes and hook you up to a source of strength or inspiration that is life-affirming and that enhances love of self and others. For some people, the daily spiritual practice is listening to beautiful music. For others, it is a walk through a beautiful park, meditation, or prayer. It needn't be rooted in religion. You will know you found your practice when you do it and you feel stronger and better about yourself and others.
The typical way people engage in a spiritual practice is to set aside some time each day to do it. You should also set aside a special place; it should be comfortable, quiet and safe from interruptions. There should be objects or tokens that remind you that this is your sacred space. For religious people, these objects can be religious objects. For others, the sacred objects can simply be a beautiful rug, cushion or scene that is laid out before you.
Once you are in your quiet sacred place, you can then relax your body by breathing deeply and slowly. Next, relax your mind by taking each of your concerns and setting them aside for now. Tell yourself you will worry about them later. Once your mind is a little quieter than it usually is, begin your meditation or prayer. If music is your practice, put the music on and let your spirit be nourished by it. If prayer is your preference, speak directly to your higher power (be it a god, the universe, etc.)
Spiritual practices are first and foremost about you getting nourished so that no matter what PD throws at you, you can continue to grow and live life with zest and joy.
Koenig HG. 2009. Research on religion, spirituality, and mental health: a review. Can J Psychiatry. 54(5):283-91. Review.
Wright LM. 2008. Softening suffering through spiritual care practices: one possibility for healing families. J Fam Nurs.14(4):394-411. Review.