“Health is vitality. It is the vitality born of living a genuine life—a life that is full of meaning and purpose, a life that has direction and a life that is meaningfully engaged with others and with the world. This produces a vitality, a will to live and a desire to contribute—a certain zest for life.” — Living the Way of Knowledge
The relationship of spirituality and religion is very distinct yet often the two are intertwined in nature and used interchangeable because of their similar components. The definition of religiosity and spirituality respectively according to Jacqueline S. Mattis, the author of Religion and Spirituality in the Meaning Making and Coping Experiences of African American Women
“Religiosity” is defined as the degree to which individuals adhere to the prescribed beliefs and practices of an organized religion. “Spirituality” refers to an individual’s belief in the sacred and transcendent nature of life, and the manifestation of these beliefs in a sense of connectedness with others (e.g., humans, spirits, and God), and in a quest for goodness”.
Both religion and spirituality have practical effects on those who hold those beliefs. They both increase the positive optimist displacement of finding meaning in difficult moments. Religion and spirituality both strengthen and help to instill resilience in the lives of believers — many attribute their positive view of life to religion and spirituality.
Religion and spirituality help individuals to express themselves and give them strength that can manifest in health and healing (Swarbrick & Burkhardt, 2000).
There are many studies that support the idea that religion and spirituality play a significant role in helping people dealing with and coping with mental health. Religious and spiritual beliefs were associated with better mental health, physical health, survival, well-being measures, and quality of life (Moreira-Almeida et al. 2014).
A recent systematic review and meta-analysis (Goncalves et al. 2015) found religious/spiritual interventions (activities stimulating faith) were associated with better mental health outcomes, probably through the following different mechanisms: changing an individual’s thoughts, promoting greater acceptance of illness, social support, and a deeper understanding of existence together while encouraging belief and faith. The same results were found by another meta-analysis carried out by Oh and Shin (2014), which showed that spiritual interventions had significant but moderate effects on spiritual well-being, the meaning of life and depression.
- Religion instills an optimistic (positive) worldview – i.e. supreme being or a personal transcendental force that loves and care about human beings and provides for their needs (responsive to their needs)
- Religious and spiritual beliefs provide sources for coping mechanisms such as skills for dealing with stress that may employ increasing amounts of positive emotions
- Regions / Spirituality provides meaning to life’s most difficult circumstances or events (Koenig, 2012)
- A sense of purpose – having a sense of purpose can help eliminate or reduce unwanted or negative thoughts, which sometimes lead to adverse reactions
- Acceptance – religion / spirituality promotes a sense of acceptance of illnesses and brings a deeper understanding of existence
- Social support – individuals living with mental health issues can find support within their community, and encouragement with which they see or view the world in a more positive light
- Religion / spirituality instill faith and hope for a better future and a sense of resilience. (Goncalves et al. 2015)
Religion and Spirituality have now been advocated for more than ever in mental health and other related fields because of the benefits listed above and more. Therapist, counselors, and psychologists are encouraged to learn about, understand, and to be mindful of their clients’ faith or spirituality. That is why the body of the association of counselors, marriage and family therapist, social workers, and psychologists mentioned religion and spirituality in their definitions of multiculturalism and also included them in their training guidelines for multicultural fitness or competence. (APA, 2002; American Counseling Association, 2005; National Association of Social Workers, 2017)
It does not matter what your beliefs are, as long as you believe in a higher power, it helps instill hope that you are not alone in your fight for mental health. There is always ‘Hope’ that accompanies faith. Therefore, hold on to faith and let our lives shine no matter how hard life may be.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you have learned or gained something. On that note, if you do not mind, can you please share how your faith or spirituality have helped you cope with mental health?
Wishing you all a lovely and relaxing weekend. Happy Weekend!! 🙂
Gonçalves, J. P. B., et al. “Religious and Spiritual Interventions in Mental Health Care: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials.” Psychological Medicine, vol. 45, no. 14, 2015, pp. 2937–2949., doi:10.1017/s0033291715001166.
Moreira-Almeida, Alexander, et al. “Clinical Implications of Spirituality to Mental Health: Review of Evidence and Practical Guidelines.” Revista Brasileira De Psiquiatria, vol. 36, no. 2, 2014, pp. 176–182., doi:10.1590/1516-4446-2013-1255.
Peres, Mario Fernando Prieto, et al. “Mechanisms Behind Religiosity and Spirituality’s Effect on Mental Health, Quality of Life and Well-Being.” Journal of Religion and Health, vol. 57, no. 5, 2017, pp. 1842–1855., doi:10.1007/s10943-017-0400-6.