Saturday, July 9, 2011

Spirituality and Mental Health

I just returned from a family trip to London,and was,again,moved by Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral,as I sat inside and the afternoon light streamed in through the ancient stained glass windows.I had visited these same churches years ago when I first got out of college, but it was very meaningful to return years later and share the experience with my husband and our daughters.

Then,this morning,I had the honor of attending an intimate religious ceremony for a young woman I know,and see her affirm her faith,with generations of her family standing nearby for support.It was very moving to hear first hand about the journey of faith in a young person's life as they transition to adulthood,and choose to practice their faith.

What does faith and spirituality have to do with mental health? Actually,quite a bit. Numerous studies have seen higher levels of happiness,contentment,and meaning in people who have developed their spiritual side. Having a belief in a divine spirit,something bigger than yourself,can be comforting and healing. Life is full of random hits,losses,and disappointments.Having a source of meaning which trancends the physical and the here-and-now can be a great strength and solace.It can be a resource as I help people with anxiety or depression.

Developing our spirituality can also help provide us with ethics,an honor code,and a sense of right and wrong.Often people develop their spirituality after becoming parents, and being challenged to teach their children about their beliefs.This is a normal part of family lifestage development.Many children are naturally curious about life,death,God,and other spiritual matters.Sometimes children lead their parents to a spiritual path.It is also in the second half of life that our normal life tasks include more reflection,contemplation,and awareness of spirital matters.

Developing your spirituality offers a host of benefits for your mental health and well-being. It increases the chances of your life having a meaning,your relationships being sacred,your conscience working,and you being a happier and hardier soul.Discovering more about your spiritual life, and what feeds it, is an important way to develop yourself on a whole different level.
It can guide you towards the light and away from,as Carl Jung called it,your "shadow self".We all have one.Spirituality and faith can help us with forgiveness,of our flaws,and other peoples'.

I remember hearing the Dahli Lama speak years ago at UCLA,and how frustrated he got when someone asked him about a quicker way to enlightenment and real happiness. His short answer? There is no shortcut to creating it;our soul work is out there an a daily basis for us to develop ourselves,or not.

1 comment: