Research continues to prove that a meaningful connection to some form of religion, spirituality, or faith provides significant benefits to those living with mental health conditions. The same peace, balance, and comfort these disciplines bring to those who are emotionally healthy are available to those living through crisis, trauma, and mental health struggles. Whether through meditation, religious ritual, or contemplative prayer, most agree that these beliefs and practices benefit their overall well-being. But why is this the case?

faith and mental illness

Faith Bolsters Positive Emotions

Those struggling with mental health and wellness often battle negative emotions and damaging thought patterns. One of the most significant aspects of developing a faith or spiritual discipline is that it teaches us to think differently, changing destructive thought processes into positive emotions.

Togetherness and a Sense of Belonging: Many people with mental health challenges feel isolated, depressed, and alone. Faith, spirituality, and religion offer these individuals a place to establish and experience real connections with other like-minded humans. Gatherings such as church services and prayer meetings – as well as mindful meditation or yoga with friends – provide the community, belonging, and engagement that people need to be emotionally well. For some, these group rituals or activities offer the opportunity for structured social activities in a low-stress environment that supports and encourages them. For others, the most important aspect of religious faith is that it provides a framework for our experiences. Each of the major religions offers explanations and solace regarding the reality of hardship, and these stories and teachings can bring comfort to those confronting mental illness. When answers cannot be found in science, they can often be found in faith.

Outward Focus and Helping Others:
Volunteering our time and participating in the local community can have a genuinely positive influence on mental health and well-being. Most religious and faith organizations have opportunities to help others in need, which has been shown to reduce anxiety and elevate mood significantly. By focusing on the needs of others, individuals spend less time ruminating about their own issues, disappointments, and challenges. The more involved the individual becomes in caring for others, the less stress and sadness they feel.

Peace and Serenity: The most impactful health benefits of faith are often derived from mindful practices that enhance relaxation. The spiritual concepts of surrender, acceptance, and forgiveness (of self and others) can bring great peace and comfort – and they can easily be integrated into simple daily rituals at home. You may wish to listen to audio teachings, read about the history of your growing faith, meditate on spiritual principles, or develop a prayer life in your religious discipline of choice. Discovering new ways to express your spirituality and faith during times of sorrow or difficulty can help to navigate through all of the difficult emotions inherent to those situations.

Your Spiritual Journey is Personal

Many people are not comfortable with organized religion. Still, there are many ways to connect and communicate with the Divine – whether it be through nature, music, or simple times of peace. If you wish to join a structured faith community, find safe ways to be open about your mental health struggles to find support. The right faith-based community will allow you to express your fears, concerns, and vulnerabilities and allow you to engage with a strong and compassionate community.

Working with a mental health counselor who respects and encourages your spiritual beliefs is one of the best ways to both grow in your faith and address your emotional well-being. Denise Schonwald is a nationally certified coach and counselor experienced in integrating her client’s diverse faith backgrounds into compassionate treatment. Call¬† today to learn more.

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