HOW SPIRITUALITY IS A PROTECTIVE FACTOR FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

in NaturalMedicine •  2 months ago  (edited)


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Spiritual health is a protective factor for mental health disorders

Before I begin, it is essential to consider how secularization in the Western parts of the world can have a profound impact on its population. The growing secular world influences the insignificance they put on the positive correlation between spiritual health and physical and mental health[1].

In consequence, I feel like the lack of faith in something bigger than life itself can prevent people from looking beyond their situation, therefore relying only on themselves or the traditional Western mental health system[2]. For this reason, I think it is essential to consider the benefits of including a spiritual approach to improve our mental health. In other words, to search beyond the traditional secular Western mental health treatment by looking into something more profound than life itself and past our inner ego. This article will show how positive spiritual health can be beneficial for someone living with mental health illness, followed by some tips on how to improve your spiritual health, and finally ending with my perspective on the subject.

Improving our sense of hope while living with depression

To begin, depression disorders (…include major depressive disorder, major depressive episode, depressive disorders not otherwise specified, and dysthymic disorder…)[3]. In many ways, praying to a higher power, such as God, can bring on the same positive effect of social support, therefor gapping the bridge of loneliness[4]. Another way of understanding is that the belief and sensation of higher power’s love tend to uplift the spirits of a person living with a mood disorder such as depression. I found a study of 1015 participants living with depression who prayed that showed (…85.02% of the participants had higher functional emotions, and participants who prayed had an increased positive mental health outcome, especially against depression and anxiety…)[5].

Decreasing our anxiety by improving our spiritual health

First, anxiety is: « a natural response and a necessary warning adaptation in humans. However, anxiety can become a pathologic disorder when it is excessive and uncontrollable, requires no specific external stimulus, and manifests with a wide range of physical and affective symptoms as well as changes in behavior and cognition [6].
A study consisting of women undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer who practiced daily centering prayer showed a significant decrease in anxiety and an overall increased sense of well-being. According to the study, it is more likely due to the increased intimacy and closeness with God, which develops their spiritual transcendence[7].
On a different note, empirical studies found a positive correlation between including spirituality in counseling and the increased well-being of children living with anxiety disorders[8]. Furthermore, these results were thanks to the spiritual counseling’s focus, which were to connect with God himself, acknowledging their fear through contemplation and breath control and finally, meditation and centering practices.

Coping with addiction by adopting spiritual practices

An addiction disorder is complicated to define, but the basis is that it is an « engagement in the behavior to achieve appetitive effects, a preoccupation of the behavior, temporary satiation, loss of control, and suffering negative consequences»[9]. A study has shown that mindfulness is a great practice to help control addiction through awareness of impulses and triggers for a person living with addiction[10].
A popular program offered for people living with addiction and impulse control disorders is the Alcohol Anonymous support group. This support group often recite the serenity prayer during every session because it allows a person that is feeling powerless to regain personal power by releasing the situation and giving it to a higher source of power[11]. In other words, there’s a sense of security and confidence in combining their will power with a higher power to achieve recovery. Also, the focus of many 12-step programs in recovery promotes humility and encourages gratitude towards a higher power, which then allows a person to heal spiritually. The 12-step program is a process that helps the person to show forgiveness, kindness, and gratitude into their lives for a greater chance of recovery by growing spiritually[12].
Finally, spirituality promotes a sense of well-being and purpose by believing in something higher than what they are, which can deter people from using a substance to escape from unwanted emotions and situations[13].

My thoughts on things that you can do to improve your spiritual health

I hope that reading this article brought more clarity regarding the many benefits of opting for positive spiritual health practices in a person’s life in general, especially for those who are living with a mental health disorder. Many types of research demonstrated the power of spiritual practice on a person’s well-being; therefore, decreasing anxiety, depression, and controlling their impulses and addictive behaviors.

In another matter, more awareness should focus on remembering the positive outcomes of spiritual health practices, including the misconception of Christian based approaches, primarily caused by the 21st-century secular movement.

Here are a few quick tips to include spiritual health practice into your life:

1- Include time into your daily life to practice meditation even if it is just for 5 minutes. These days you can find many guided meditations on YouTube to help you establish this routine into your life.

2- Be grateful to something higher than yourself. A tip to show gratitude towards the universe, a higher power, or to whomever you wish is to think about three things that you are grateful for in the morning before you start your day and three things before you go to sleep.

3- Read some spiritual quotes and recite the ones that relate to you the most every day. This practice is one of my favorite ways to improve my spiritual health. I like to find spiritual quotes, and I note down the ones that resonate the most with how I am feeling that day. By merely reading spiritual-quotes, it drives me to want to dig into my spirituality and discover new ways to reach spiritual awakening. Here is my daily spiritual health quote: “Much of spiritual life is self-acceptance, maybe all of it” written by Jack Kornfield.

How spirituality changed my life
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I will try to keep this a short and sweet as I possibly can, but most of us know that we can define spirituality in so many ways, there are no right or wrong beliefs, as long as it feels good and helps you become a better person. I grew up in a Catholic family, and for the longest time, that was all I knew. There was no other possible higher power. For me, religion was always part of my life, it helped me through so many difficult times, and I am so grateful for this spiritual side. Especially through my brutal high school years, I would live a full week of bullying, and with my social anxiety, this led me to isolate myself, and I would miss school for weeks at a time. Despite how much this period of my life was difficult, praying to God and going to church profoundly helped me. The feeling of power, courage, and hope I got every time I went to church on Sunday was enough for me to get through my first year of high school.

Through the years, even though I truly believe that praying to the only source I knew at the time saved my life, I did question some things about Catholicism. Unfortunately, I feel like some parts of the religion were a way to control and install fear in people's lives. In my opinion, this led many people to resent any aspects of religion and brought up the secularization. Since then, my spirituality is eclectic, I don't belong to any specific group, I accumulate different spiritual views and ideas and incorporate what resonates with my inner being, and this is enough for me. I believe in a universal power, whatever you want to call it, depends on your belief system.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to read this article. Please feel free to follow me if you are interested in learning more about holistic approaches for growth within your mind/body/soul.

[1] Stratton, Stephen P (April 2015) Mindfulness and Contemplation: Secular and Religious Traditions in Western Context, Counseling and Values, Vol.60(1), pp.100–118
[2] Ibid
[3] V. Michaelson and al. (2016). Developmental patterns of adolescent spiritual health in six countries, SSM-Population Health, p. 2294–303
[4] Meisenhelder, Janice Bell; Chandler, Emily N (October 2000) Prayer and Health Outcomes in Church Lay Leaders, Western Journal of Nursing Research, Vol.22(6), pp.706–716
[5] Meisenhelder, Janice Bell; Chandler, Emily N (October 2000) Prayer, and Health Outcomes in Church Lay Leaders, Western Journal of Nursing Research, Vol.22(6), pp.706–716
[6] Joyce, Janine; Herbison, G Peter (April 2015), Reiki for depression and anxiety, The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 36 p.
[7] Fox, Jesse & Al (2016) Centering’s prayer effects on psycho-spiritual outcomes: a pilot outcome study, Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 20, Vol.19(4), p.379–392
[8] Samta P, Pandya (March 2018) Spiritual Counseling Program for Children with Anxiety Disorders: A multi-city experiment, Pastoral Care, Vol.72(1), pp.45–57
[9] Sussman S; Sussman A (2011) Considering the Definition of Addiction, Public Health, Vol 8, pp. 4025–4038
[10] Larrivee, Denis & Echarte, Luis (2018), Contemplative Meditation and Neuroscience: Prospects for Mental Health, Journal of Religion and Health, Vol.57(3), pp.960–978
[11] Kissman, Kris; Maurer, Lynn (January 2002), East meets West: therapeutic aspects of spiritually in health, mental health, and addiction recovery International social work, Vol.45(1), pp.35–43
[12] Ibid
[13] Fox, Jesse & Al (2016) Centering’s prayer effects on psycho-spiritual outcomes: a pilot outcome study, Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 20, Vol.19(4), p.379–392

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I strongly believe lack of spirituality in West is DEFINITELY a precursor for mental health issues in society. Theres a big diff between spirituality and organised religion, and whilst organised religion really messed with us, a spiritual framework helps bring meaning to our lives and helps us cope. Great post.

Yeah, that's valid point. Thank you for taking the time to read and for commenting.

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Wow, You're just taking Steem by storm here! Another fantastic post, that I need to put aside a few more minutes to read properly.

Thank you :) All of these articles were already written and I finally got the courage to try something new. I am working on something new now.

Do you have another blog you do?

Yes, I have an account on Medium, but my articles on there need some tweaking as it was my first blogging experience.

I've heard of it, but never tried it. How did you find it?

Just re-read my original question. I must have been tired when I wrote it! 😳😅

Faith is such a powerful thing, and it doesn't have to be in anything specific. Faith in humanity is enough, but faith in a higher power works too

Yes agreed. Thank you for the comment :)

So good, and I couldn't agree more! Lookit you, coming in and making a $27 steem post!

Thank you! All of the articles were already written and I tweaked them. I finally got the courage to try something new. Facing my fear of failure one step at a time. Thank you again!

@porters here on behalf of @NaturalMedicine - Lot of clarifying information there and I am with you on having a healthy spiritual practice. I feel it make us more resilient, happy and peaceful!

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Only when you are in relationship with yourself you can discover you are your own enemy. Motivation to bite into meditational practices is big but sometimes this isn't enough to make it a routine. Motivation doesn't get the work done and it is though to change. Even so nothing is certain except change.

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Yes, that's a good point. Thank you for your comment 🙂

Anxiety is a terrible energy consumer that takes away all appreciation for the present. Faith is at the heart of all medicine that can brighten up our darkest moments. Thanks for reminding me so in this post!

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