Most humans spend some time in their lives attempting to get answers regarding the meaning of life. Religion and spirituality tries to answer our questions and give us a relationship with a higher power. While religion and spirituality are similar in their foundation, they are very different in practice.
Religion refers to the organized, community-based system of beliefs. Spirituality, on the other hand, resides within the individual and what they personally believe. You can be part of a religion and not be spiritual, while you can be spiritual and not a part of an organized religion. Both religion and spirituality are shown to have positive impacts on mental health.
Mental Health Benefits of Spirituality
Spirituality helps someone look within themselves to find a sense of connection to something bigger. It refers to one’s individual meaning and interpretation of life. Spirituality tends to incorporate healthy practices for the mind and body, which in turn influences mental health in positive ways. Some of those benefits include:
Spirituality can enhance one’s sense of self and empowerment by choosing their particular practices. By focusing on our own connections rooted in our belief systems and craving personal growth, we can push ourselves to be the best version of ourselves. Individuality also brings about the idea that we should accept each person for their unique selves, regardless of whether or not they are part of a religion.
Spirituality generally encourages meditation and self-reflection, which can lead to a meaningful life philosophy. When we feel more connected to others or nature, we can feel better about our own decisions and purpose. This can also prompt our desires to express ourselves in art, poetry, or religious practices.
3) Unity with Surroundings
When we feel “at one” with our surroundings, we have a renewed sense of belonging in the world. This can inspire appreciation and awareness of our interactions with the environment. This can encourage positive thinking, which can enhance our moods.
Mental Health Benefits of Religion
Religion connects people with similar beliefs, which can give us something to believe in, as well as a sense of structure. Research (click here to read the study) has shown that religion reduces suicide rates, alcoholism, and drug use. Some other benefits for mental health include:
Religion gives people opportunities for social connections with other members. By having these connections, there is a sense of belonging to a group. When people immerse themselves in these groups, they begin to feel a trustworthy and safe environment, which can lead to more social engagement.
We are creatures of habits, which is why rituals have positive effects on our mental health. When we are faced with difficult life situations that we do not know how to handle, the structure, regularity, and predictability that religion brings can be comforting. It also allows for time to rest, such as holidays or other special considerations throughout the year.
Religion tends to provide guidelines that you are expected to live by, which usually surrounds the importance of doing the right thing. Many of these teachings include compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude. This helps us to identify life lessons, even when there are challenging situations.
While the above mentioned are the most common mental health benefits we get from spirituality and religion, the list is not exhaustive. The takeaway is that when we are in a supportive religious or spiritual environment, we will see positives in mental health. If you find yourself struggling with finding a purpose or spirituality, click here to work with a therapist who can help!