The Benefits of Spirituality on Your Mental Health

By Geraldine “Gerry” Viggiani

Once upon a time there was a woman. She was a faithful person, prayed every day, studied her religious tome, and engaged in community religious practices. Her spiritual practice guided her everyday life, gave her a moral path, and helped her to find peace and solace when things weren’t going well. She found the belief in a higher power; a loving being made her feel safe. She also found a sense of belonging when she practiced her spirituality within the religious community she belonged to.

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As she aged her belief and faith deepened. One day she found out she had cancer. The news was both devastating to her and her family, friends, and community as well. She endured her treatment and found peace in her everyday spiritual practice. Until finally she was told that there was nothing left that could be done. As any human might, she feared for her life and felt grief as the end loomed, but she also felt calm and serene. Family and friends came to visit, feeling sad, but the woman would console them; her faith and belief was rooted in a beautiful afterlife. She lived a spiritual life, lived through the lens of that life, and believed because of that, her fate was not scary but peaceful. She died peacefully later that week.

Spirituality helps us to individually understand the meaning of our lives and how we connect to the world around us. It gives us an internal road map or compass to strive for. Olga Phoenix developed a helpful tool to help identify aspects of your life that need to be nurtured to reach overall health. The Self-Care Wheel focuses on six domains: Psychological, Emotional, Spiritual, Personal, Professional, and Physical, all of which need to be nurtured to achieve self-actualization, generally thought of as the full realization of one’s creative, intellectual, and social potential through internal drive.

We will be focusing on the spiritual domain in this article and how that relates to the other areas of the wheel.

Religion is not spirituality. Spirituality exists on its own. Religion provides a guideline and structure and a community to practice spirituality. As a matter of fact, the idea of having spiritually likeminded individuals coming together to practice their spirituality is one of the many mental health benefits of spirituality. We are not alone, and having a shared belief provides a sense of safety. Many spiritual practices also endorse an explanation for the afterlife, which can be a spiritual beacon of hope and peace. It provides those who are dying or those who are bereaved a set of rituals and hopes to ease the passing. Rituals and the routine of spiritual practice can also provide a reason to live. It offers a welcome distraction or a way to cope with—or even solve— life’s problems. In striving for spirituality, we are striving toward living our best lives.

There is often a certain mortality associated with spiritual beliefs. Morality serves as a set of standards that we deem right and wrong. It is a mix of societal ethics and personal beliefs that we use to guide our life.

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