Churches are well positioned to promote better mental health outcomes in underserved populations, including rural adults. Mind-body (MB) practices improve psychological well-being yet are not widely adopted among faith-based groups due to conflicting religious or practice beliefs. Thus, "Harmony & Health"(HH) was developed as a culturally adapted MB intervention to improve psychosocial health in urban churchgoers and was adapted and implemented in a rural church. The purpose of this study was to explore the feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of HH to reduce psychosocial distress in rural churchgoers. HH capitalized on an existing church partnership to recruit overweight or obese (body mass index [BMI] ≥25.0 kg/m2) and insufficiently active adults (≥18 years old). Eligible adults participated in an 8 week MB intervention and completed self-reported measures of perceived stress, depressive symptoms, anxiety, and positive and negative affect at baseline and postintervention. Participants (mean [M] age = 49.1 ± 14.0 years) were mostly women (84.8%), non-Hispanic white (47.8%) or African American (45.7%), high socioeconomic status (65.2% completed =bachelor degree and 37.2% reported an annual household income ≥$80,000), and obese (M BMI = 32.6 ± 5.8 kg/m2 ). Participants reported lower perceived stress (t = -2.399, p = .022), fewer depressive symptoms (t = -3.547, p = .001), and lower negative affect (t = -2.440, p = .020) at postintervention. Findings suggest that HH was feasible, acceptable, and effective at reducing psychosocial distress in rural churchgoers in the short-term. HH reflects an innovative approach to intertwining spirituality and MB practices to improve physical and psychological health in rural adults, and findings lend to our understanding of community-based approaches to improve mental health outcomes in underserved populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)546-554
Number of pages9
JournalTranslational behavioral medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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