It matters who says a thing. Just try to soak in this paragraph . . .
Dr. Harold G. Koenig MD, MHSc was trained at Stanford, UC and Duke University in psychiatry, medicine and biostatistics. He is board certified in general psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, geriatric medicine, and is a registered nurse to boot. He’s written 40 books and over 350 scientific peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. He is the former editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, and is on editorial boards of many more professional journals. He has been featured on over 50 national and international TV news programs (including The Today Show, ABC’s World News Tonight, and several times on Good Morning America), over 100 national or international radio programs (including multiple NPR and BBC interviews), hundreds of national and international newspapers or magazines (including cover stories for Reader’s Digest, Parade Magazine, and Newsweek), and is considered by biomedical scientists one of the world’s top experts in his field. He has testified before the U.S. House and Senate and has been nominated twice for the Templeton Prize. He the director and founder of Duke University’s Center for the Study of Religion, Spirituality, and Health.
I feel lazy. But there’s more.
He began this amazing journey after being expelled from U.C. for emotional problems and ended up living on the streets of San Francisco. Homeless, sleeping under buildings, he bathed with garden hoses in strangers’ yards using a coffee can for a toilet. Along the way he developed arthritis with chronic pain syndrome and then prostate cancer. He calls himself a vulnerable creature, who is emotionally sensitive, prone to depression and anxiety.
So, how did he survive?
He attributes his recovery and slow climb back from destitution to medical orderly to nurse to physician to acclaimed professor to one thing – faith. He says prayer keeps him sane. Here’s part of an interview he did for author Ben Sherwood for his New York Times best selling book The Survivor’s Club – The Secrets of Science That Could Save Your Life.
Dr. Koenig says he wouldn’t have been able to achieve anything–let alone survive arthritis and cancer–without faith. “It would be hard for me to raise my children and stay married to my wife without religious faith,” he adds. “It would certainly be impossible to deal with many of my colleagues without religious faith.” The last thought makes him laugh.
Dr. Koenig replies that belief is the most powerful survival tool in the world. Faith gives you hope that no matter what you’re going through, something good can come of it. It also gives you a sense of meaning and purpose that can help you overcome incredible adversity. Almost anything is possible, Dr. Keonig says, when you believe that God loves you, the He has a plan for your life, that He will never leave you alone and will give you strength to handle your hardships. Faith and religion, he says, empower you with “the kind of strength that nothing else I’ve ever seen can give.”
“There’s amazing things that you can do,” Dr. Koenig says gleefully, with “the creator of the entire universe, of history, and of the future . . . at your side.”
So, what’s this amazing scientific secret to living longer? According to Sherwood:
Photo by Horia Varlan via Flickr
If you want to grasp the power of religion in survival, consider this extraordinary fact: People who go to church regularly live around seven years longer than people who don’t. That’s right: seven years.”