Spirituality’s Impact on Your Mental Well-Being

Mental well-being has many dimensions. The most well-known dimensions include your emotional health and your physical health. However, there is also something else to consider: the impact of spirituality. By making spirituality a part of your life, you can gain a variety of mental health benefits. But in other circumstances, spiritual expression can actually hinder mental wellness. Here, we take a closer look at the potential positive and negative effects of spirituality.

What Is Spirituality

Spirituality is not a precisely defined term. Instead, it is an outlook on life with several potential definitions. Only you can decide exactly what it means to you. Goals that may fall under the heading of spirituality include such things as:

  • Seeking a deeper meaning to life
  • Creating a sense of purpose
  • Connecting to things beyond the scope of everyday existence
  • Developing and maintaining a hopeful outlook on life
  • Finding a source of solace that makes it easier to endure hard times

Not everyone places the same amount of emphasis on spirituality. For some people, cultivating connections for spiritual growth is the main motivation in life. For others, such connections may mean little or nothing at all.

Comparing Spirituality and Religion

Spirituality is not the same as religion. It is probably accurate to say that all religions have a spiritual element. However, not all spiritual people consider themselves religious.

How do spirituality and religion compare to each other? Generally speaking, spirituality operates at the personal level. It informs your one-of-a-kind perspective on life. In contrast, religion operates at a community level. In addition, it typically has some kind of organizing structure that guides the religious community.

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The Relationship Between Spirituality and Mental Health

How does spirituality affect your mental health? And why does this impact occur? The answers to these questions lie in another question. Namely, what makes you mentally healthy?

One key to good health is a lack of untreated mental illness. The absence of untreated symptoms makes it possible for you to support a sense of wellness. That sense of wellness also depends on the presence of things that positively influence your mental state. For many people, one of those things is spirituality.

Positive Impacts of Spirituality and Religion on Mental Health

General Effects

A spiritual outlook can bolster your day-to-day mental state in numerous ways. Examples of common positive influences include:

  • Helping you to put your problems into perspective
  • Increasing your acceptance of major and minor difficulties in everyday life
  • Making it easier for you to live with uncertainty
  • Improving your ability to control yourself and your actions

Religion also comes with some general, daily benefits. Examples of these benefits include:

  • Increasing your sense of connectedness with other people
  • Giving you a sense of belonging within a community
  • Creating a built-in structure for daily life
  • Offering guidance during times of personal crisis
  • Providing teachings that support feelings of wellness

Since religion has a spiritual aspect, the benefits of spirituality and religion often overlap.

Impact on Specific Mental Health Conditions

Research has also demonstrated the positive impact of religion and spirituality on mental illnesses. For example, dozens of studies have found that religious/spiritual beliefs can help ease the seriousness of depression symptoms. These kinds of beliefs may also help lower your suicide risks.

The influence of religion and spirituality on other kinds of mental illnesses is more mixed. Some studies show that this influence may ease the effects of certain anxiety disorders. However, other studies do not support this point of view. The same mixed findings hold true for schizophrenia.

What about the impact of spirituality and religion on substance use disorders? (Under modern definitions, these disorders are classified as mental health conditions.) More the 100 studies demonstrate that religion, in particular, is a deterrent to substance use and abuse. Nationwide surveys of drug and alcohol use support this finding.

Negative Effects of Spiritual Practices and Religious Practices

In most cases, spirituality and religion act to create mental health benefits. However, this is not always the case. Some people are affected by something called negative spirituality. This term describes beliefs that undercut the potential benefits of a spiritual outlook. For a religious person, such beliefs might include a sense of being abandoned by God. For a non-religious, spiritual person, might include a more general sense of abandonment or disconnection.

A negative spiritual point of view is associated with a decline in mental health. This does not mean that negative spirituality causes poor mental health. Instead, it simply means that negative spirituality and poor mental health tend to occur together. There may be some deeper underlying causes that explain this connection.

Religion, in particular, may also have other negative mental effects. Potential examples of these effects include:

  • Excessively rigid thinking
  • Disregard for the well-being of others with different religious beliefs
  • Substitution of prayer or ritual for needed mental health treatment
Spirituality and Mental Health

Evidence-Based Treatment Vs. Spiritual Treatment

Evidence-based treatment is the current standard of care for mental illnesses. This treatment relies on options supported by high-quality research. There is no basic conflict between such care and spirituality. In fact, spiritual practices often form part of evidence-based treatment programs.

Spiritual Programs That Have Been Proven to Work

A prime example of this approach is 12-step facilitation therapy. This therapy can play a part in both drug and alcohol treatment. It actively encourages people in treatment to join a 12-step self-help program. Some of these programs have a strong religious aspect. Common examples of this approach include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous

Other programs do not emphasize religion. Instead, they stress a more general spirituality.

Twelve-step facilitation is evidence-based. Research shows that it helps increase your odds of a successful recovery. It does so by providing benefits such as:

  • Peer-to-peer support
  • Additional support from a one-on-one sponsor
  • A safe place to discuss past and present experiences
  • Access to help and advice in crisis situations

There is also an increasing use of therapy options informed by spirituality. Examples here include:

  • Spirituality-based therapy
  • Compassion-focused therapy
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy

Inpatient Treatment and a Spiritual Practice

There is also no basic conflict between inpatient treatment and spirituality. Inpatient treatment is a live-in approach. This means that you cannot leave your facility to attend spiritual or religious services. However, many inpatient programs encourage spiritual involvement. In addition, there are programs with onsite 12-step resources.

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Counseling and Spiritual Improvement

Today, some people work as certified spiritual counselors. These counselors are trained in psychology. They also learn how to help support spiritual well-being. Some counselors work within a specific religious tradition. Others do not. There may be spiritual counseling available in your area. If so, it may help improve your spiritual outlook. In this way, it may also help improve your mental health.

Foundations for Lasting Recovery and Spirituality

Recovery and spirituality can be mutually supporting. The foundation for lasting recovery is proper treatment. This treatment takes place in a quality mental health program. Some programs only treat illnesses not related to substance use. Others only treat substance problems. However, many top programs treat both substance problems and other mental health issues.

At their core, the foundations of spirituality are personal. They spring from your core beliefs about:

  • Your self
  • The world around you
  • The place you have in that world

Sound mental health can support spirituality. In turn, spirituality can support sound mental health. This is true even if you are affected by mental illness. Untreated illness can interfere with healthy spiritual expression. But with effective treatment, it is possible to regain your spiritual footing.

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Learn More About Spirituality and Mental Health at Emerald Isle

Spirituality is not a strictly defined term. Instead, it is defined individually for each person. In this way, it differs from religion, which has a community orientation. Spirituality tends to have a positive impact on your mental health. But this is not always the case. Some people have a negative spiritual outlook. This negative perspective can actually worsen your mental health.

Research shows that positive spirituality has general benefits for mental well-being. It may also have benefits for the symptoms of specific mental illnesses. Some treatment programs actively encourage a spiritual life. Why? Spiritual self-help groups have been proven to support effective recovery.

Need more information on spirituality and mental health? Call Emerald Isle today. We understand the potential role of spirituality. If it is important to you, we can incorporate it into your customized recovery plan.

Emerald’s Isle’s plans also include a full slate of treatment options. We feature options that support recovery from drug and alcohol problems. We also feature options for recovery from other mental health conditions. In addition, we offer help for dual diagnosis. This condition involves both substance problems and additional mental health issues.

No matter the nature of your illness, we will support your return to wellness. Available options include multiple forms of outpatient care. You can also take advantage of our inpatient program. To learn more about our full slate of recovery services, call us today.