Spirituality and Your Mental Health
In Douglas Adams’ beloved novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a supercomputer by the name of Deep Thought spends seven and a half million years calculating the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.”
The answer, as it would turn out (SPOILER ALERT!), is 42.
The trouble is that no one knows what the question is.
The search for meaning—ultimate answers to ultimate questions—has likely preoccupied humans from the very start. Why are we here? What are we meant to do? What constitutes a good life?
These questions are the stuff of spirituality. And while the answers (or the questions) might be hard to come by with any certainty, it seems clear that having some sort of spiritual practice in our lives can provide support for our mental well-being.
Why would that be? Let’s take a closer look.
First Things First: An Important Distinction
It might be tempting to think of spirituality and religion as synonyms. They are not.
Practicing a specific religion—Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or any of the more than 4,000 (you read that right!) distinct religions practiced around the world—is one approach to spirituality, but it is not the only one.
Any approach to making meaning in our life is a spiritual practice. That process of looking for and pursuing meaning may involve philosophies, activities, and ideas that are not part of any specific set of religious practices (or that draw from a variety of religious traditions).
So the long and the short of the situation is this: If you are actively seeking meaning in your life, then you are a spiritual person. This is true no matter what religion you practice or even if you practice no religion at all.
Finding Meaning Means Getting Outside Ourselves
When we are struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders, it can be all too easy to turn all of our attention inward toward the difficulties we are experiencing. That, of course, can be counterproductive. This inward focus can reinforce the problems we are having rather than ameliorating them.
But a spiritual approach to life encourages us to turn our attention outward so that we can forge connections with others, find beauty in the world, and search for a purpose that allows us to contribute to the greater good.
Connecting with others, finding the beautiful in your life, and pursuing a purpose for which you feel passion can all give a boost to your mental health. After all, all of these things offer a counter-narrative to the ongoing story your mental health disorder may have you telling yourself. Depression, for example, may tell you that nothing much matters. A spiritual outlook, however, will remind you that many things matter—and that you can contribute to the process of making meaning in your own life and in the lives of others.
A Word of Warning: Spirituality Is Not a Cure-All
We want to make an important point here. It is certainly true that spirituality can play an important part in your overall mental health. However, we do not want to give the impression that a commitment to spirituality will miraculously cure you of a mental health disorder.
We mention this because some faith communities that are leery of the very idea of mental health disorders can do more harm than good by suggesting, for example, that if you simply had more faith in God, you would not be struggling with anxiety, depression, or what have you. That is a dangerous idea that can actually exacerbate a mental health disorder by suggesting that care—including therapy, medication, or both—is unnecessary for a person of faith.
We urge you to avoid falling into this trap.
Your spiritual life can certainly be a boon in many ways, but it does not follow that spirituality can simply replace mental health care.
We Possess a Spirit of Service to Support Your Mental Health
At Peak View Behavioral Health, we are committed to helping you improve and maintain your mental health. We bring a commitment to personalized, evidence-based treatment to the table and will listen intently to you to ensure we are offering the resources, strategies, and support you need. We approach our work with a spirit of service and compassion driven by expertise and experience. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, a trauma-based disorder, or other mental health challenges, we can help.