People who have severe heart conditions often times feel overwhelming sadness which leads to developing depression because of the stress associated with their condition. If these feelings are left untreated or addressed, patients may worsen their condition by developing high blood pressure, irregular heart beats, arterial damage, and a damaged immune system. University of Michigan Health System researchers have discovered that when heart patients attend spiritual retreats that are non-denominational, their depression can be decreased and they can become more hopeful in life.
Researchers found that spiritual retreats for those with severe conditions can restore many feelings of general well-being. Associate professor of family medicine at the Universityof Michigan’s Medical School, Dr. Sara Warber, did a comparison of patients who suffer from acute coronary disease who attended a retreat to those receiving basic cardiac treatment. There were two types of retreats; one of which focused on having a healthy lifestyle including stress management, nutrition, and exercise. The second type of retreat was more spiritual and included meditation, drumming, guided imagery, and writing in a journal.
The researchers used basic physical and mental markers to determine the success of each program. They used measurements from the Beck Depression Inventory as well as the State Hope Scale. For patients that attended the spiritual retreat, there were immediate improvements regarding their level of depression and hopelessness. These individuals were evaluated 3 and 6 months after the retreat as well.
Patients who attended the spiritual retreat began with a score of 12 on the Beck Depression Inventory which is considered to be moderate depression and after attending the retreat their scores went down to an average of 6. Those who attended the retreat about lifestyle began at a level 11 and after the retreat had scores around 7.
In terms of the State Hope Scale, all groups began with a score off approximately 35. Those who attended the spiritual retreat increased to an average of 40 and up, while the other groups had scores that remained much lower.
The spiritual retreat seemed to yield far better results overall. This specific retreat lasted for 4 days and was located at Michigan’s Windrise Retreat Centerand emphasized peace, unity, harmony, beauty and love. For those interested, the retreat is called Medicine for the Earth. This type of program is ideal for patients who are experiencing symptoms of depression but do not want to be put on antidepressants.
Healing the heart: a randomized pilot study of a spiritual retreat for depression in acute coronary syndrome patients. Sara, Warber. Sandra, Ingerman. The Journal of Science and Healing Vol. 7 Issue. 4
Reynolds, D. RD. 2011. Heart Patients Benefit from Spiritual Retreats