Spiritual beliefs and religious practices play a vital role in dealing with the circumstances of human life. Most of us adhere to our religion devotedly to save our souls. But did you know that religious involvement can benefit our physical and mental health too?
Having a religion gives us something to have faith in. It can be our source of guidance and comfort. Religious beliefs give us the sense of connectivity to a supreme being that is far more powerful than our sorrows. However, religious coping can become a double edge sword. How we perceive religion and spirituality can promote or cause more damage to our mental health.
Read further and know the difference between positive and negative religious coping. And how it can significantly affect our recovery when dealing with mental health and illnesses. Does it really provide mental peace?
Religion And Spiritual Beliefs
Religion is defined as a set of practices and beliefs that are often related to worshipping a higher supernatural being. It is a collection of cultural and spiritual values that bridges humanity to its moral standards. Religion has influenced our societies’ history and identity regardless we consider ourselves religious or not.
On the other hand, spirituality is associated with universal themes such as compassion, love, and life after death. It means we know that life has a significant context beyond just everyday existence. Our lives are an important part of the universe. Spirituality is characterized by experiences that involve transcendence and connectedness.
The impacts of religion and spirituality on our psychological well-being have always been an area of controversy and debate. But our religious and spiritual practices can empower us to maintain psychological stability through our connection to a higher force—religion and spirituality work hand in hand in developing one’s inner peace, strength, and optimism.
Mental Health in The Indian Tradition
An Indian Journal explains how spiritual history affects psychiatric treatments in India. It has also become a subject of controversy because it lacks a universal definition that is acceptable. Cultural factors influence the diagnosis and management of psychiatric illness in some countries.
Culture can change how we view behavior and ideas. In terms of our mental health, it can affect our decision to seek help. Here are four ways how culture can influence our mental health:
- The cultural stigma. Each culture has a different way of viewing mental illness. For some, there is a developing stigma that affects mental health. Challenges in mental health are considered something to be ashamed of and should be kept a secret. This becomes a struggle for those who are affected to speak freely of how they actually feel.
- Identifying the symptoms. Different cultures influence how people perceive their psychological symptoms. It can also affect whether they will choose to recognize these symptoms or not.
- Social Support. Cultural factors can also determine how your family and social community support you regarding your psychological health. It may be because of the common stigma that others may want to cut off ties with you. Others are left alone to find mental treatments for themselves.
- Resources. When looking for a treatment facility to provide you with what you need, you want to talk to a professional who will understand you. Sometimes people with a mental health condition find it hard to look for resources that consider cultural-specific factors.
Does Religion Provide Mental Peace?
In medical settings, mental health professionals use this idea of religious empowerment to help those who struggle with mental illness. Religious principles such as the sanctity of life and phrases in the Bible could prevent these patients from giving up or ending their lives.
There are a lot of researches that focus on how religion affects our life expectancies and mental health. Religion acts as a guideline on how we can formulate a course for our lives. Life uncertainties that cause us strain and stress can be easily tolerable with these guidelines.
Research shows that individuals with higher levels of religiousness and spirituality are associated with better mental health outcomes. These people tend to deal with stress and other negative emotions more effectively.
People who stick to their religious beliefs and spiritual traditions present better self-esteem, optimism and are happier.
Taking part in certain religious rituals makes you feel that you are a part of something. Whether an organized religion or a community group, religious involvement can provide adequate spiritual support and positive outcomes.
An international journal also concludes that religion is a pervasive and effective coping method for patients with mental health problems. Health care professionals consider it an important integration of psychological practice. It can treat mental health disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and depression.
How Can Religion Worsen Mental Illness?
Positive religious coping may be empowering to individuals with mental health problems. Negative religious coping, in contrast, can be unhelpful and could aggravate mental health issues. Studies imply that it can lead to poor psychological adjustments and more depression in medically ill patients.
Religion is considered a double-edged sword that can either improve or worsen physical health and well-being. How? Religion is purely based on having faith in cultural beliefs that has no objective proof that it exists.
Studies suggest that using religious beliefs in clinical practice has been effective in helping patients with mental disorders cope with stress.
Positive religious belief has resulted in better social support and self-regulation. Following religious practice improves these patients’ inner locus of control that is beneficial to their well-being.
Religious rituals, prayers, and meditations are effective in countering the damage brought by medical illness. It reduces the anxiety, tension and as well as stabilizes emotional ups and downs for these patients. It also diminishes self-criticism and improves self-knowledge.
Negative religious beliefs, on the other side, can result in more struggles and violence. When they say that you are being possessed by an evil spirit every time you feel ill or are punished for something you did, they are examples of negative beliefs.
Some religious groups will suggest seeking treatments such as exorcisms and witchcraft, leading to a more harmful result. There are also what we call as an extremist who has strong beliefs on religion that are:
- Ethically wrong
- Against the law
How Do Certain Religious Practices Influence Mental Health
The benefits of religious coping for patients with psychiatric disorders are significant, especially those who lack financial means and social support to seek treatment. It can be considered as an effective tool for recovery which is free and easily accessible.
Both religion and spirituality are proven to have a positive impact on our overall health. Here are some beneficial ways how our religious practices can improve our mental health:
It Can Improve Our Lifestyle and Well Being
Religious people have a better sense of purpose in life. They are more aware of what they eat, drink, and do with their bodies. They take care of their health seriously and practice healthy behaviors.
In Christian populations, people who have regular church attendance are happier than people who worship less. Their religion contributes positive feelings that have a significant impact on their health.
Forgiveness and compassion are some of the qualities that a religious individual may possess. Clinical implications of practicing these traits are also thought to be associated with improved resiliency and decreased stress.
Improved Spiritual/Social Support
People who follow a particular faith are connected to specific groups. They develop a healthy sense of belongingness with people who have similar religious beliefs.
Spirituality unites people from different walks of life into one common belief system. Being a part of this general population provides a source of social support and facilitates spiritual interactions.
Diminish Self-blame and Improve Self Esteem
Spirituality enables self-control and decreases depressive symptoms. It gives people a sense of empowerment and connections to what they truly believe. People who always join religious activities highly value their faith, thus, reducing the risk for depression.
Being a member of a religious community also enhances coping skills. They are more inclined to have positive coping reactions after receiving positive spiritual support. Studies also show that God-fearing people have increased self-esteem than non-believers.
It Protects You From Depression
Common mental illnesses such as depression and substance abuse are proof that you are void of spiritual guidance.
Religion motivates us to self-reflect and meditate, which are healthy practices that positively influence our mental state. It gives us the chance to forget about the psychological distress and other depressive symptoms to lead a more meaningful life.
Our Faith and Mental Health
Is faith a delusion? The Royal College of Psychiatrists defined delusion as the abnormal experiences of a patient with a mental illness. It can be confirmed through objective and subjective observation. For many years, researchers have consistently proven the positive association between religion and mental health.
Religious individuals are repeatedly proven to have healthier mental health. They have more stable support groups, marital status, and a positive outlook in life. They are happier compared to non-believers.
If you have other inquiries concerning your mental health issues, you could always book an appointment with us at Kentucky Counseling Center. Each member of KCC are highly trained, professional, certified and experienced, in providing optimal mental health care for Kentucky and Ohio residents. KCC also offers Online Telehealth Counseling Services via online appointments for your convenience.