What Is Spiritual Medicine

Spiritual healing can be defined as a direct relationship between one person (the healer) and another person (the sick person) with the goal of improving the illness.

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Is medicine a spiritual practice?

It takes all of us to heal—patients, doctors, nurses, alternative health care practitioners, coaches, and psychologists, to name a few.

Consider your body to be the house of your spirit, and your health care providers to be the caretakers of that spirit's home.

Each time I see a patient, I practically pray for wisdom before entering the room. (I now have prolonged sessions, so I'm not rushed between rooms like I used to be—but I understand if you're a doctor and don't have time to do this.) But what if you could do that every day before you go to work?)

I actually ask the Divine to use me as a healing vessel, and whatever comes through me will be exactly what my patient requires. I pray that my ego stays out of the way so that the visit is focused on the patient, as it should be. I pray that my words and hands will be guided in such a way that they will touch what needs to be touched and heal what needs to be healed. I pray for the strength to hold whatever comes up without succumbing to the want to flee if it becomes too emotionally draining.

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I pray for a healing bubble of love to envelop me, not just so my patient feels safe, but also so I can safeguard my own energy—to go all in emotionally with my patient without suckling up their problems and ending up with a headache of my own.

Medicine has always been and always will be a spiritual practice. Those who have forgotten this are lost, and as a result, patients suffer and are traumatized.

It's understandable if you're a healer who considers medicine to be a spiritual discipline in today's health-care environment. We're giving of ourselves at a time when providing healing services is difficult. I've seen the pulsating, pounding heart of medicine collide with the cold hard steel of technical advancements and managed care constraints time and time again. I understand the difficulties that health-care practitioners have in trying to perform their profession—and sure, no matter how much research we conduct, medicine is still more art than science.

What are 4 examples of spiritual health?

The qualities that are most important to you are your own values. Consider what you admire about yourself and the individuals you admire.

List your top five values, along with why they are important to you and how you implement them into your life. Kindness, honesty, security, ambition, and community may be important to one person. It might be cheerfulness, empathy, loyalty, adventure, and learning for another.

Start a Yoga Practice

You can attempt a variety of yoga activities, but the majority of them incorporate breathing exercises, meditation, and physical activity.

Yoga is a tried-and-true method of improving your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Yoga can improve your strength and flexibility while also reducing tension, despair, and anxiety symptoms.


Meditating, like yoga, has physical, emotional, and spiritual health benefits. Meditating for as little as five minutes a day can help with stress, sadness, and anxiety symptoms, as well as promote mindfulness and possibly alleviate physical ailments such as headaches, high blood pressure, and sleeplessness.

A guided meditation software like Calm or Headspace, both of which have free trials, can be beneficial.

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Keep a Journal

Create a specific type of notebook, such as a thankfulness journal, or write whatever you're feeling at the time.

Journaling can aid in the processing of emotions, increasing self-awareness, achieving goals, and reducing anxiety and depression symptoms. Journaling is cathartic and allows you to reflect on your life events and feelings in a private, nonjudgmental environment.

Try Googling “journaling prompts for spiritual growth” to get started. Journaling prompts are questions or activities that you can use as thought openers to help you become more self-aware. According to research, concentrating on appreciation can help you:

Practice Mindfulness

When you're attentive, you concentrate on the current moment rather than the past or future. Breathing exercises, praying, or repeating a mantra are all options. Mindfulness has physical, mental, and spiritual advantages that are similar to yoga, meditation, and journaling.

Spend Time in Nature

Spending time in nature, whether hiking, walking, kayaking, or biking, can improve your spiritual health. Nature can help you relax, be happier, improve your attention, strengthen your immune system, and even boost your creativity.

Digital Detox

How much time do you spend on your phone, at your computer, or watching TV? There are a slew of mental health benefits to going on a digital detox, like being able to focus on the present without being distracted and falling asleep more easily at night if you don't use technology immediately before bed.

Try disconnecting from electronics for a day or simply a few hours to focus on yourself and interact with friends, family, and your partner.

Step Away From Social Media

It may be beneficial to take a vacation from social media if you find yourself feeling sad, angry, resentful, jealous, or any other negative emotions after browsing through your Instagram account.

While social media can be a useful tool for keeping in touch with friends and family and for making new connections, it can also be a source of social comparison for many people. Keep in mind that social media is nothing more than a highlight reel of other people's life.

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Volunteer in Your Community

Find a cause that you care about and ways to contribute. For example, you could foster a puppy or cat, volunteer at a food bank, or mentor or tutor a kid.

Joining a volunteer organization can help you grow your community and meet people who share your interests. Volunteering benefits others and gives you a sense of accomplishment.

Do a Good Deed

Even modest gestures, such as paying for the person in line behind you's coffee, can raise your mood.

Consider how you may support a friend, family member, coworker, or someone else in your life with tiny deeds. You may volunteer at a local retirement home, clean up a park, write a letter of gratitude to a loved one, or donate to a non-profit that shares your interests and values.

Develop Hobbies

Discover activities that you enjoy, such as painting, athletics, cooking, gardening, photography, or working out.

Hobbies provide you with delight as well as a sense of purpose. Here are some things to think about if you're not sure what you want to do for a hobby:

Some hobbies can be done alone, while others can be done with friends and family or to meet new people.

After you've tried a few of these 12 activities, figure out which ones work best for you and include them into your daily, weekly, or monthly routine. The more constant you are with your spiritual endeavors, just like with exercising or eating a nutritious diet as part of preventive care, the more positive outcomes you'll see.

Why is spirituality important in medicine?

). I teach medical students and doctors to take a spiritual history as part of a social history at every annual exam and, as needed, at follow-up visits. Physicians can use a spiritual history to determine when cases should be referred to chaplains. It invites discussion about one's values and beliefs, discloses coping methods and support systems, reveals positive and bad spiritual coping, and allows for compassionate treatment.

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What is your definition of spiritual care?

Spiritual care is a type of health care that focuses on the inner person (spirit/soul) in order to help you or a loved one cope with health issues. Concerns or questions concerning personal meaning, purpose, legacy, hope, and faith may be raised.

Do spirituality and medicine go together?

Michael and Tracy Balboni summarize their new book, Hostility Towards Hospitality: Spirituality and Professional Socialization within Medicine, in this issue's feature (Oxford University Press, 2019). Tracy, a physician, and Michael, a theologian, discuss how contemporary medicine overlooks, and may even be hostile to, the humanistic issues that are so important in spirituality and religion. “Both domains (medicine and religion) become more full through the light shed from the other,” the authors argue in their book. (vii)

Empirical research demonstrates an inextricable link between medicine and spirituality, which is broadly defined as the way people seek and express meaning and purpose, as well as sense connectedness to self, others, the significant or sacred.

Spirituality has an impact on patient well-being, contentment with care, medical decision-making, and medical care outcomes when it is experienced individually and/or within communal, religious forms. The medical industry, on the other hand, appears to mainly ignore the spiritual dimension of patient well-being and sickness, according to data. This evidence, taken together, calls for a rethinking of how medicine interacts with spirituality and religion. Following is a synopsis of our research into this issue, followed by four recommendations for how medicine might better respond to patients' spiritual experiences of sickness. Hostility to Hospitality: Spirituality and Professional Socialization in Medicine provides further evidence to corroborate our findings.

Patient Experience of Serious Illness

Take into account the evidence that most patients perceive serious illness as a spiritual experience. Patients overwhelmingly approved religious attitudes and behaviors in a survey of 542 hospital patients in North Carolina, with 65 percent attending religious services at least a few times each month. In another study of 100 terminally ill patients at the M.D. In a survey of cancer patients at the Saint Vincent's Comprehensive Cancer Center in New York, NY, 29 percent of patients attended religious services weekly, and 66 percent described themselves as spiritual (but not religious).In addition to self-reported religiousness and spirituality, patients at the Anderson palliative care outpatient clinic in Houston, Texas, 80 percent of patients reported being Protestant, the majority of whom reported high levels of spirituality and religiousness. Many patients, according to data, view their sickness through a spiritual lens.

There is also evidence that religiousness and spirituality rise as people age and face serious disease. As a result, general population surveys of spirituality/religiosity will always underestimate the relevance of spirituality and religion in the setting of catastrophic sickness. Because there are no prospective studies that follow people as they transition from relative health to serious illness, the magnitude of any change cannot be calculated at this time. Patients with advanced cancer report significant changes in daily spiritual activities (e.g., prayer) after diagnosis (47 percent before vs. 61 percent after, p.0001). In a study of 108 women with gynecologic malignancies, 49 percent reported becoming more religious after diagnosis, with none reporting becoming less religious “This effect is a dynamic that sheds light on why religion and spirituality become increasingly operational when physical health wanes, as Freud believed.This effect does not necessarily explain the origin of religion, as Freud believed, but it is a dynamic that sheds light on why religion and spirituality become increasingly operational when physical health wanes.

A variety of spiritual needs arise in the context of serious illness, ranging from fear of dying or being punished to difficulty finding meaning in illness, to searching for God's presence. In a survey of cancer patients at Boston teaching hospitals, 51 percent wanted help overcoming their fears, 42 percent wanted help finding hope, and 40 percent wanted help finding meaning “Patients with spiritual pain had significantly lower self-perceived religiosity and spiritual quality of life,” according to the study. In a Boston-based study, 85 percent of the participants recognized one or more spiritual concerns, with a median of four issues per patient among the 14 spiritual issues evaluated. “Seeking a closer connection with God or one's faith,” 54 percent; “seeking forgiveness (of oneself or others),” 47 percent; and “feeling abandoned by God,” 28 percent were among the top spiritual issues among patients. Surprisingly, two-thirds of patients who said religion or spirituality was “not important” to their cancer experience had at least one spiritual issue, and 40% had four or more spiritual issues. Only 7% of all patients were consistently non-religious and non-spiritual, according to our findings. The findings of these research imply that religious/spiritual requirements are common among patients confronting serious disease, and that spiritual needs are common even among patients who do not consider themselves religious/spiritual.

Many patients turn to religion and spirituality to deal with disease, and some receive practical treatment through supportive spiritual communities.This research indicates how spirituality and religion are significant and ubiquitous within serious illness. Do spiritual experiences of disease, on the other hand, establish a responsibility to bridge the gap between medicine and religion? We believe they do when paired with outcome measures. Next, we'll have a look at this.

Spirituality and Religion andMeasured Outcomes

Religion/spirituality is linked to quality of life metrics, satisfaction, and utilization outcomes, according to growing research acquired over the last two decades.

Patient Satisfaction with Care: According to a cross-sectional study based on data from the University of Chicago Hospitalist Study, patients who reported that their spiritual needs were not being met by medical staff were more likely to rate overall quality of care as poor and to be dissatisfied with their medical care.

Similarly, a Duke University Medical Center study of 542 individuals treated for depression found that those with higher spiritual demands had poorer evaluations of satisfaction with care and lower perceptions of care quality.

While these preliminary studies do not show causation, they do suggest a probable link that will require further investigation.

Making Decisions: Religious beliefs and opinions have been linked to a delay in getting treatment for serious illnesses.

Religious variables are also linked to patient and surrogate choice preferences, such as a desire for aggressive treatment and a desire to use all measures possible to prolong life.

Religious groups, according to studies, encourage medical decision-making based on religious views.,

End-of-Life Care: A prospective cohort study of 340 advanced cancer patients found that patients who reported high levels of spiritual support from their medical teams (e.g., doctors, chaplains, nurses) had a three-fold greater chance of transitioning to hospice care at the end of life than patients who reported low levels of spiritual support.

Patients with strong religious coping who had their spiritual needs met by the medical system were five times more likely to transfer to hospice and five times less likely to undergo aggressive care in their final week of life, according to the same study. As a result, while the Phelps et al study revealed that high religious copers are more likely to receive aggressive care at the end of life, further analyses suggest that spiritual support from the medical system reverses this trend. Spiritual care and medical care received at the end of life were found to have an impact on end-of-life medical costs in a follow-up report. In the final week of life, medical care for patients whose spiritual needs were badly met cost $2,441 more on average than for patients whose spiritual needs were properly met by the medical team.

These studies demonstrate that spiritual care in the medical setting, such as identifying and addressing patient spirituality/religion, has an impact on patient end-of-life outcomes. Religion and spirituality are not incidental to medical care; they have observable effects across multiple dimensions.

Medicine's Neglect of Spirituality

Evidence of spirituality's significance in sickness and patient outcomes should prompt the medical system to respond positively to patients' spirituality/religion as part of patient-centered and culturally sensitive care. According to studies, the majority of seriously sick patients regard spiritual inquiry and participation as vital, appropriate, and supportive within the patient-clinician interaction. Notably, 67 percent of patients treated in primary care wanted their physician to be aware of their spirituality/religion; but, the majority (78 percent) would not want talks of religion/spirituality if it meant less time spent discussing medical issues. The need for spiritual interaction among patients was also observed to grow as the severity of their sickness worsened. However, few clinicians connect spiritually with patients with serious illnesses.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, Patients in Boston, for example, said they had rarely gotten spiritual care from their doctors (6 percent) or nurses (13 percent) during their cancer treatment.

Many patients and their families use a spiritual/religious framework of values and meaning to participate with the greater sickness experience, including medical decisions. In a multi-site survey of 275 advanced cancer patients, 87 percent said they believe in religious beliefs related to end-of-life medical care (e.g., sanctity of life, miracles), with 62 percent saying they believe in three or more. In a 2015 report from a multicenter prospective study of 249 audio-recorded family interactions with surrogate decision makers in the ICU, the medical team's frequent lack of recognition of this facet of the disease experience is illustrated. Despite the fact that most surrogates (78%) thought religion/spirituality was essential, just 16 percent of interactions discussed spiritual or religious themes, and 65 percent of those dialogues were initiated by the surrogate. Furthermore, fewer than 20% of physicians engaged further or asked follow-up questions after surrogates directly stated religious concerns regarding treatment decisions.

The separation model, in which medicine ignores and avoids spirituality/religion, is fostered by “plausibility structures,” as defined by Peter Berger.

These are unstated assumptions anchored in certain social processes that give socially held views and practices a matter-of-fact quality. At medicine, especially in academic medical schools and teaching hospitals, the belief that medicine and spirituality should be kept separate is often unchallenged. Clinicians are socialized to ignore or avoid patient spirituality and religion because of plausible frameworks.

  • Hospitals are largely technological and curative institutions, rather than humanistic care organizations.
  • Physicians see themselves first and foremost as scientists, then as health administrators, rather than as healers who care about the whole person.
  • The human person is divided into material and spiritual parts; there is no direct relationship between body and soul on an anthropological level. Spiritual influences have no direct impact on physical health or sickness.
  • Fear, finitude, and death are all subjective domains that are best handled by others, such as clergy and religious communities.
  • Modern medicine is influenced by bureaucratic concerns as well as secular forces such as the economy, science, and technology. This method does not allow for spirituality or religion.

Engaging the Gap

As scientific evidence increases, medicine cannot continue to ignore spirituality and religion as the status quo. Simple distinctions between body and soul fail to account for patients' experiences with disease or how many individuals approach medical decisions. Dichotomous approaches are not patient-centered, and they are resulting in costly gaps in care for the seriously sick and those nearing the end of life, for both patients and the health-care system. So, how can medicine respond to patients' spiritual experiences of sickness in a productive and non-defensive manner? We have four quick responses for you.

1. Research: Clinicians should use empirical research as a vital tool to move forward with their replies. This necessitates collaboration and investment on the side of doctors, spiritual/religious specialists, and funding organizations in order to conduct thorough research investigations. Greater description of the patient experience of spirituality in various cultural and clinical contexts (e.g., pediatrics, psychiatry, internal medicine, etc.) as well as exploration of how these factors relate to important medical outcomes like quality of life and medical decision-making are among the research needs. In order to create and assess spiritual care therapies, further research is required. Hypothesis testing, increasingly sophisticated assessments, peer-reviewed research, and medical-religious alliances are all important steps in closing the gap in patient spirituality and religion. While the topic of spirituality and health is still in its early stages, data and clinical consequences are beginning to emerge.

2. Training: Spiritual care training for physicians and nurses must be incorporated as a significant structural change in the socialization of professionals. It has been proven that receiving spiritual care training is the most powerful predictor of physicians and nurses providing spiritual care to the seriously ill. Even non-religious people were considerably more inclined to provide spiritual care to gravely ill patients after being instructed. Even a rudimentary amount of mandated clinician training would undoubtedly aid in the removal of biases generated by systematic silence.

3. Concerns about patient-centeredness or professionalism: Patients and clinicians agree in polls that neither should be made to feel uncomfortable or compelled to participate in a spiritual/religious dialogue while receiving spiritual care. Furthermore, patients do not want professionals to be accused of not being true to their own values. Spiritual care should be patient-centered and tailored to the clinician's professional role and training. Clinicians should be expected to ask each patient if and how spirituality or religion may be essential to their disease as a minimum standard.

  • If the patient states during the initial clinical history that spirituality and religion are not important to them, the physician moves on.
  • If the patient appears to be spiritually distressed, the clinician would help coordinate a chaplaincy visit or, if appropriate, encourage the patient to see their local minister or other trusted community spiritual supporter, with the patient's permission.
  • If the patient expresses a desire to include spiritual supports (e.g. clergy) in medical decision-making, the physician must consider how to appropriately address the spiritual aspects of those discussions.

There are numerous more aspects that influence how suitable patient-clinician spiritual involvement is at different times. The length of the relationship, the degree of training and comfort with spirituality and religion, and spiritual/religious concordance; the degree of mutually shared awareness of tradition, beliefs, and spiritual practices are all factors in determining appropriateness. There is no expectation that clinicians will go beyond a basic level of spiritual inquiry when dealing with serious sickness. However, when both the patient and the physician feel at ease, there are numerous more reasons to encourage further dialogue or shared practice.

4. Religious Partnership: Because the sickness setting is a combination of secular, holy, and humanistic aspects, medical practitioners and medical institutions will be most effective when they collaborate with local religious communities and religious clergy. In Hostility to Hospitality, we propose that future collaboration is crucial in caring for patients' bodies, minds, and spirits. Equally essential, we believe that as market, technological, and bureaucratic forces increasingly dominate health, equally powerful forces such as community spiritual/religious organizations will be required to maintain the personal and human qualities of compassion and care.

Follow the Evidence

Many years ago, one of our Harvard academic mentors, a self-described humanist and atheist, taught us a vital lesson. She showed us that following the evidence, no matter where it leads, is always the best course of action in medicine. Our mentor was a big supporter of the parts of our study that showed how spirituality and spiritual care might improve patient outcomes. She smiled and stated, “I was able to support that work despite my personal convictions,” when we asked her how she was able to do so “We follow the evidence for the sake of our patients.” Her words of wisdom inspired us to explore and publish scientific data that revealed religious influences had a negative impact on end-of-life outcomes at times. Spiritual and religious factors in illness are becoming easier to measure in research, and there is enough evidence to demand that medicine follow suit “follow the evidence,” and form collaborative relationships with the spiritual/religious resources of the patients, families, and communities it serves.

Michael Balboni is a Harvard theologian and social science scholar who also serves as a minister at Boston's Park Street Church. Tracy Balboni is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and a radiation oncologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. They lead Harvard's Initiative on Health, Religion, and Spirituality as codirectors.

Is religion the same as spirituality?

Religion is a collection of organized ideas and behaviors that are usually shared by a community or group of people.

Spirituality: This is a more personal discipline that involves feeling at ease and having a sense of purpose. It also refers to the process of forming views about the meaning of life and one's connection to others in the absence of any predetermined spiritual principles.

Imagine a football game as a metaphor for the link between spirituality and religion. The rules, officials, other players, and field markings all serve as guides as you play the game, much like religion can help you uncover your spirituality.

Kicking a ball around a park, without needing to play on a field or follow all of the rules and regulations, can still provide fulfillment and fun while expressing the core of the game, comparable to spirituality in life.

You can identify as religious or spiritual in any combination, but being religious does not inherently make you spiritual, and vice versa.

What are 3 examples of spiritual?

Spirituality can be linked to religion and even a higher power for some people. Others may find it in non-religious activities such as connecting with nature, art, yoga, meditation, and so on.

What are 5 examples of spiritual health?

Finding meaning and purpose in life may be a lifelong process that changes over time as a result of unique circumstances, personal experiences, and global events. A person's level of spiritual wellness, like the other dimensions of wellness, varies throughout their life. It's common to feel a range of emotions on the route to spiritual healing, both positive and negative (hope, forgiveness, acceptance, joy) (doubt, fear, disappointment, conflict).

Spiritual wellbeing has the power to make our decisions and choices easier, to center us during times of change, and to provide us with the resiliency to face hardship with grace and inner peace. Having a spiritual component in our lives may even assist us in healing whether we are afflicted with a physical or mental ailment.

Personal Reflection

Take a moment to measure your spiritual well-being by answering the following questions.

  • Do I make an effort to broaden my understanding of various ethnic, racial, and religious groups?

Practice Spiritual Wellness

When it comes to spiritual wellness, it's vital to identify the strategy and approach that works best for you; unlike the other dimensions of wellness, there is no “one size fits all” solution.

  • Volunteering in your community, spending time in nature, and appreciating music and the arts are all good things to do.

In future articles regarding spiritual wellness, we'll look at ways to figure out what your meaning or purpose is, as well as activities that can help you maintain or improve your spiritual wellness.

How do I become spiritually healthy?

Religion brings spirituality to some people, but it does not bring spirituality to others. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to spiritual well-being. Here are a few ideas to get you started if you're not sure where to start.

According to a Gallup poll, 43% of Americans claim to be members of a church or other religious organization. These houses of worship provide a variety of opportunities for those living with mental illnesses to connect with others in their communities.

Reconnect with someone or an organization that shares your ideas and thoughts, whether online, over the phone, or in person. Find ways to connect with like-minded people in your religion community who can support and encourage you by reaching out to a pastor or spiritual leader.

“Many people's support mechanisms were taken away from them during the pandemic—church, volunteering, support groups,” Wester added. “It was especially difficult for individuals who were already dealing with mental health concerns.” I advise people to reconnect with their religion group as soon as they are physically secure to do so.”

It's fine if you don't have a faith community. Finding a cause that resonates to you and giving back is another way to feel connected to your spirituality and faith. Working in a food pantry, becoming a mentor or tutor, or fostering an animal are all options. As a result, your community will develop and you will be able to meet individuals who share your interests. It will offer you a sense of purpose and thankfulness to serve others.

You don't have to be a yogi to benefit from the practice's spiritual benefits. Yoga is suitable for people of all ages and abilities. It can improve your mind and spirit, as well as strengthen and stretch your body, by lowering stress, depression, and anxiety symptoms.

You don't have to be an expert meditator like you don't have to be an experienced yoga practitioner. Because it takes so little time, meditation is one of the easiest disciplines to keep. “Some people believe you must sit and be silent, but this is not the case,” Wester explained. “You can walk while meditating, paying attention to the sensations of your feet on the ground and the intricacies of your surroundings. Simply slowing down your body can help you calm down your mind.”

Even five minutes of meditation can help you reduce stress, despair, and worry while also increasing your mindfulness. There are numerous fantastic guided meditation applications, such as Calm or Balance, if you need help.

Writing can help you process your emotions, raise your awareness, and provide a nonjudgmental space for you to express your feelings in the present. Start a daily thankfulness notebook with prompts or write down your anxieties and fears.

Spending time in nature, whether you live in the mountains, the desert, or near the ocean, can improve your spiritual health. You can't seem to get away from your phone, your day, and your problems. Even a few minutes spent watching the birds, trees swinging in the breeze, or crashing waves on the shoreline can be relaxing.

Find activities that you enjoy, such as knitting, coloring, cooking, sports, or working out. Focusing on things you enjoy might help you regain a feeling of purpose and stay present in the moment, even if only for a short time.

If you're having trouble connecting with your spiritual side or your mental health, get help from someone who is specially trained or someone you trust.

“Chaplains are specifically equipped to deal with religious issues in a clinical setting,” Wester added. They can assist validate your feelings without sweeping them under the rug. They can help you get back on track spiritually.”

How does spirituality affect mental health?

Religion and spirituality can both be beneficial to one's mental health. They have the same effect in certain respects. Religion and spirituality, for example, can both assist a person cope with stress by instilling calm, purpose, and forgiveness. However, due to their distinct natures, the benefits of the two often differ.