The Link Between Spirituality And Mental Health
Before discussing how spiritually and mental health, as well as physical health, are connected, it is important to understand what spirituality means. For some people spirituality is a synonym for religion, while for others it is a much more encompassing term. When talking about spirituality it is important to clarify the meaning during the conversation to avoid confusion and possible misunderstandings.
In a counselling or therapeutic setting spirituality is not a synonym for religion, but religion can be a part of spirituality depending on the personal beliefs of the patient. Spirituality in counselling refers to:
- The acceptance and belief in a higher power
- The reason and purpose that give meaning to life
- Harmony and hope
- Having a sense of value and belonging in the world
- A search for wholeness or connectedness to the world around you including yourself, God, the Universe as well as nature
Religious beliefs will influence the expression and definition of spirituality for an individual. For example, many of the world's major religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam, worship God although their specific religious practices may be very different.
People that do not report themselves as being religious or following a particular faith often see spirituality and the connectedness of themselves with the world around them and with the universe as a whole.
Spirituality Is Part Of A Holistic Approach To Mental Health
Spirituality, or the belief that everyone is part of the whole, is essential as an element of mental health. When people know that they are connected to the world around them it is a positive motivator for change and for self-healing. People that feel connected to others and to the world around them, even if only on a spiritual level, have a unique sense of self-worth and self-value that can help to alleviate depression, anxiety and associated mental health conditions.
Spirituality has long been considered a component of health and healing in Eastern religions and practices. Eastern healing practices include elements of balancing the harmony of the body and mind through yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massage and other forms of manipulation of the body. Exercises that allow positive energy to flow through the body are key in many Eastern medicines and, through this positive flow of energy, the universe is also enriched and gives back.
Satisfaction With Life
Not only is spirituality connected to a greater personal happiness and sense of contentment, it is also associated with decreased risk of developing depression or anxiety and also in recovering from those conditions should they occur. Anyone can have depression or anxiety and spirituality is not a complete preventative measure, but it is a buffer.
People that report that they are spiritual, however they define that term, also tend to have better interpersonal relationships and also tend to report increased satisfaction with their marital relationships as well as with relationships with their children and other family members. These stronger interpersonal relationships in turn provide a solid support network that can help individuals deal with challenges in life in positive, proactive ways that can assist in the reduction of many stress-related mental health issues.