A Special Place to Heal the Heart

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Doctors’ advice to patients with severe heart trouble involves many things, and one of them is to try and improve quality of life in any way you can. Rid yourself of stress, stay well-rested…that sort of thing. A nugget of health news now shows that these patients could really help themselves and how they feel by visiting a retreat.

Specifically, researchers at the University of Michigan found that attending a non-denominational spiritual retreat could help heart patients reduce depression and feel hopeful for the future. This was a four-day retreat that included meditation, guided imagery, drumming, journal writing, and outdoor activities. Those who partook saw immediate improvement in tests measuring depression and hopefulness, benefits that lasted for at least six months.

This was the first study to show that intervention raises hope in patients with acute coronary syndrome — which includes chest pain and heart attack. Previous research has shown that hope and its opposite, hopelessness, have an impact on how patients face uncertain futures. A retreat like this can be especially useful for patients who don’t want to take antidepressants to battle the psychological effects of severe heart trouble.

In the study, the retreat group was compared to another group that received standard cardiac care as well as one that participated in a lifestyle change focusing on nutrition, physical exercise, and stress management.

The study used many standard mental and physical benchmarks to assess the success of the program. The spiritual retreat group went from a score of 12 on the “Beck Depression Inventory” (which means they have mild to moderate depression) to an improved score of six right afterward for a 50% drop. Participants also showed marked improvement in their scores on a test measuring hope. Scores can range from six to 48 and, after the retreat, people’s average scores rose above 40.

This highlights the critical nature of psychological well-being for anyone who faces serious medical issues. A better quality of life could mean you live longer, and experience a reduced disease burden.