How Spirituality Supports Mental Health

The National Association on Mental Illness, also known as NAMI, is a U.S.-based non-profit advocacy group whose mission is to improve the lives of anyone who suffers from mental illness. For more than 40 years, NAMI has been helping individuals and families cope with the challenges presented by every conceivable form of mental illness. One of the many topics discussed on the organization’s website is the interesting relationship between religious faith and mental health.

While many journals focus on Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, and other common behavioral challenges, or a residential elevator company written about Seasonal Affective Disorder, there appears to be a close connection between spirituality and mental health. For example, people who attend church or who meditate regularly in a group are less apt to suffer from a whole host of mental illnesses. How does spirituality help fight against mental illness? Here are a few of the ways that receive the most discussion on medical blogs, in psychology journals and on mental health blogs:

A Sense of Community is Universally Comforting

Mental health professionals often point out that faith-based groups are a good, and usually safe, way for people to make connections with others. Churches and meditation groups are an effective way for people with mental illness to build social ties with others. Therapists say that one of the big advantages to being “spiritual” is that people usually pursue these kinds of goals in groups. For anyone facing a mental illness challenge, it can be very helpful to develop a sense of belonging to a faith-based group of any kind. Experts are quick to note that the definition of “faith-based” is quite broad. It can include things like church groups, yoga classes, prayer circles, Sunday school classes, parish get-togethers and discussion meetings that focus on any topic even loosely related to spirituality.

Rituals Teach People How to Deal with Stressful Events

The most obvious example of a faith-based healing ritual is a funeral. For people who feel overwhelmed by life’s problems, attending a funeral can be a cathartic, therapeutic experience that helps them understand and begin to accept the passing of a loved one. Historians say that people have had funeral rituals for the dead since the dawn of the human race. But it’s not just about funerals. All sorts of religious and spiritual rituals can help bring structure and predictability into the lives of those who suffer from mental illness. Psychologists often recommend that their patients join a faith-based group for this very reason.

Spiritual Guidelines and Teachings Add Structure to Daily Life

Millions of human beings gravitate to spiritual organizations and groups in order to find a code to live by. Even the most loosely-based spiritual group usually has some common set of beliefs about how to behave, how to differentiate good from bad, and the basic understanding of how to treat others. One of the best things about spiritual teachings is that that often have a primary focus on how to uncover valuable lessons out of negative life events.

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