Michigan: A University of Michigan Health System study has found that attending a non-denominational spiritual retreat can help patients with severe heart trouble feel less depressed and more hopeful about the future.
Heart patients who participated in a four-day retreat that included techniques such as meditation, guided imagery, drumming, journal writing and outdoor activities saw immediate improvement in tests measuring depression and hopefulness. Those improvements persisted at three- and six-month follow-up measurements.
The study was the first randomized clinical trial to demonstrate an intervention that raises hope in patients with acute coronary syndrome, a condition that 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.
"The study shows that a spiritual retreat like the Medicine for the Earth program can jumpstart and help to maintain a return to psycho-spiritual well-being," said study lead author Sara Warber, M.D., associate professor of family medicine at the U-M Medical School and director of U-M`s Integrative Medicine program.
"These types of interventions may be of particular interest to patients who do not want to take antidepressants for the depression symptoms that often accompany coronary heart disease and heart attack," added Warber.
The study has been detailed in Explore: the Journal of Science and Healing.