The Role of Spirituality in Mental Health and Wellness

The word “spirituality” is thrown around a lot these days, but do we really know what it means to be spiritual? Unlike religion, which looks to another being or God for guidance, spiritual practitioners look inwards, using the tools within themselves to find their path. Maintaining a spiritual practice helps a lot of people cope with mental illness and achieve overall wellness, so what’s the secret?

Spirituality attempts to help a person heal themselves—it is an inward study of the self, the wounds we each have and how we can recover from them. A person must be willing to be vulnerable and accept the challenges that inevitably arise—be they memories, trauma, or pain—when they reflect inwards. Spiritual practice requires a person to be very present and in tune with their mind and body. It’s not an easy, but dedicating some time each day to the practice will make it feel more natural over time.

One of the main points of spirituality is to help a person realize that they have the tools to heal themselves; We do not need to seek help from anyone or anything to clear the mind and rid it of nasty thoughts and habits. A spiritual practice provides a person with the tools they need to solve their own problems and make their own decisions. Mental illness is often a sign of lack of spiritual practice.

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Image Mitchell Joyce

Since spirituality is such an independent practice, everyone will have their own habits and ways of pursuing it. To start a spiritual practice, dedicate some time every day—even just five minutes to start—to be silent and still your mind of its regular chatter. Ask yourself questions such as, “Am I being honest with myself?” “Do I feel I belong and am valued?” “Do I feel safe?” “What gives my life purpose?” “Are these healthy practices?” and “Do I need to change anything?”

After a person has developed a spiritual practice, they can take what they’ve learned about themselves out into the world. Because they have begin to love themselves and heal past wounds, they will be happier and will spread that joy, whether they meant to or not. Hope, compassion and selflessness are all aspects of spirituality and can be greatly beneficial for individuals and their community, no matter how they are shared.

The most important thing when embarking on a spiritual journey is to find what works for you. Play around with different things such as meditation, chanting or journaling. Don’t be afraid to incorporate new things into your practice as time goes on and take it slow in the beginning. Over time, you’ll settle on certain methods that bring you inner peace and happiness, which is an investment that can last a lifetime.

Feature image Vinoth Chandar