Spirituality and its Connection with Mental Health

Mental illness is a widespread problem all around the world. As people are becoming busy with their lives, their stress level is increasing and they are unable to cope with their problems. Research shows that lack of spirituality, sometimes, can make people more vulnerable to problems and they suffer more when they have to face life challenges. People who have some kind of faith are more likely to handle their problems and cope with them effectively.

Many people suffer from what is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It is a disorder that affects our coping capacity. People with this disorder, tend to manufacture and imagine all kinds of scenarios, all negative when they have to face a problem. It is characterized with “what if“thinking. People lose their sleep just wondering, for example, if they will wake up on time to go to work, whether they will catch the flight, how to make bill payments, whether they will run in an accident and so on. They will visualize the details of catastrophe and get anxious with worry thoughts. However, it has been found in research that if people have some kind of faith in a Higher Power, they are more likely to transfer their worry thoughts to the Higher Power and attain mental peace. Otherwise, they will keep on worrying as opposed to doing something about their problems. Research shows that attention to spirituality may facilitate better health.

I have written another article on this website on Meaning, Purpose, and Spirituality. I would refer the writers to read this blog post for more details on spirituality. In a nutshell, spirituality means having a belief system that focuses on intangible forces that add vitality to one’s life and also give meaning and purpose. It does not mean that the person has to worship, attend a church, or go the temple regularly. Spirituality is not a concept limited to any one religion. Anyone can benefit from spirituality regardless of occupation, age, color or religious affiliation. Spirituality may have a positive effect on our physical health also. Hypertension, cardiac problems, ulcers, weak immune system, insomnia could result from not having a faith that binds the person together when problems are faced. It has been found in research that when people have faith, it helps them get more involved in community activities, which, in turn, gives them a support system to lean on to, so that they do not feel lonely.

Krucoff and Crater did a study and showed that there is a lot of power in prayers. They studied three groups of people, one group received standard therapy. The other group received standard therapy along with therapies such as healing touch, stress relaxation, and guided imagery. The third group received standard therapy and also prayed by diverse prayer groups e.g. Buddhist monks, Baptist and Carmelite nuns. It was found that the group which received prayers from diverse groups, showed the best recovery. Group prayers are very effective and have a cumulative effect. It is interesting to note that the patients in the third group did not know that these groups were praying for them. So there is a lot of power in prayers. Sometimes when doctors have done everything they could, and a miracle happens which heals the patient. There are numerous examples of this fact in the literature. Prayer is a spiritual practice and it is intangible. It has health benefit even when the person is not aware that someone is praying for their recovery.
In order for us to develop spirituality, it is important that we make a conscious effort to tune into spirituality. If you have the capacity to tune in, you will be able to get in touch with your spirituality. It is also helpful to have openness and willingness to look into seemingly intangible processes. Sometimes the exercise of visualization helps you in giving a concrete form to your Higher Power and it becomes easy to focus on carrying a dialogue with your Higher Power. When you relax your body and focus on your breath and visualize your Higher Power standing in front of you, it feels real for that moment. In this state of mind, you can converse with your Higher Power and it builds strength in you. It has been found that practicing visualization with guided imagery, works wonders to reduce pain, anxiety and worries. It also helps your mind to drift away for the moment from worries and makes you believe that it is really happening. For more details on visualization, please refer to the blog post on Visualization.

Additionally, it is important to have the awareness of observable effects of spirituality. You slowly begin to feel the love, trust, and hope. You realize that there is a Higher Power who is helping you in your recovery and this lessens your anxiety and worries. These are the three vital ingredients of spirituality and they help you bind when there is a crisis. If you do not have hope, trust and love, you will always be thinking about your problems and this mental anguish will rob you of your health. People develop ulcers, hypertension, asthma and many other health related problems when they are worrier type personalities. In order to conquer fear, it is crucial to have faith and hope. When you have faith, you will automatically reduce your anxiety and will be able to enjoy positive things of life as opposed to dwelling in unproductive worries.

It is also important to know that depressed people lose their hope very easily and stop making efforts to cope with their problems effectively. Their thinking becomes very negative and all they can imagine is how bad things will continue to happen in their lives. They suffer from a mental anguish due to this kind of self talk. IT has been found that depressed people lose faith and hope and their perception becomes totally distorted. However, when one becomes spiritual, all of a sudden the entire perception and perspective begins to take a twist. A ray of hopes flashes and this helps in reducing the depressive symptoms also. The person becomes optimistic about the outcomes of his action and this helps in getting desired results. Self talk also changes and the person becomes more willing to take actions to solve the problems as opposed to dwelling on them and reinforcing the worry talk.

In this way, we see that spirituality in life can enhance the quality of your life. It will also help you get involved in various acts of kindness, charity, volunteer work, and community service. It has been found that when people deplete their egos and offer their time and service to others, they find a meaning and purpose in life, which in turn, empowers them to handle their life problems with much ease and facility. Offering these kinds of acts is also another form of spirituality. When the person is too absorbed in self, and focuses only on himself, he is more likely to have worries and anxieties. On the other hand, when you transcend this state and rise above yourself, you become more spiritual and pragmatic and are more willing to offer your services to others. There is a certain kind of bliss you feel when you engage in community service as it connects you to spirituality.

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