There was an interesting article posted online which recently caught my attention: “Positive spiritual well-being associated with better mental health outcomes.”
It was a short article but well worth the read. Of particular interest to me was that Otago University planned to host a symposium on this very topic. Specifically, how “to tackle some of life's most fundamental questions, including the nature of reality and the meaning of life.”
Here are some of my takeaways from the article: a few key points, my thoughts regarding them, as well as reflections on the topic as a whole.
1. Spirituality is crucial to those experiencing distress in their lives
This is very true. Even those who consider themselves atheists or agnostic have been known to search for a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. This is evident often when things get difficult or following tragic circumstances. Personally, it’s a shame that it often has to come to this before we consider what ‘ultimate meaning’ we are lacking in life. We get so caught up on the daily treadmill of life that we sometimes forget to look further within. I believe spirituality is crucial for everyone— whether in distress or not. We just tend to get distracted from this truth.
2. Positive spiritual health and well-being is associated with better mental health outcomes
This is critical, and what follows should be “why?” I think this has a lot to do with meaning and relationships. If I got up tomorrow, void of any spiritual connectedness, I would struggle to get out of bed. Honestly! There is much more beyond a broken world— hope perhaps, for a better tomorrow. This gives me purpose to get up every day and do what I do. And for personally, this spirituality is centred in a belief in the Creator God. However, I would think that for anyone who has a spiritual connection of any sort, the same would be true.
From a Christian perspective, spirituality goes hand in hand with relational connectedness. And that plays a key part as well. I believe the bible directs us to the ultimate relationship that God has invited us to: a relationship where we can experience true forgiveness, trust, faith, joy and peace. We know the research correlates happiness with the level of their social connections. The outpouring of which is our desire to build strong connections with those around us.
3. Mental health/spirituality and psychology/spirituality haven’t traditionally mixed well
Never was a truer thing said— from both sides, no less! I often notice the fields of mental health and psychology to be (although, not always) quite void of spirituality. However, I also recognise the longstanding stigma of psychology in the Christian context as well. I know many Christians who would never even consider seeing a psychologist. It appears as though they correlate it with doubting God’s ability to heal them. I feel the truth (and healthiest perspective) lies somewhere in the middle.
When we are physically sick, we don’t hesitate to see a doctor. Why is the same untrue for our mental health? That said, I feel it’s important to find someone who can include spirituality in the discussion of your mental health. There are Christian counsellors and psychologists out there and I don’t perceive it as or wrong or weak to see one if need be.
Yes; pray, journal, study the bible, and seek Him first. However, don’t linger in the vortex of mental illness out of the stigma attached to seeking professional help: get help. Imagine how much more God could make use of your talents and gifts if you were well!
It’s okay not to be okay
It doesn’t mean you are unworthy of God’s love or that you lack faith. We need to invite God into this conversation more often. Or rather, we need to embrace the fact that this is a conversation God wants us to have.
Overall, this article made me consider the other end of the spectrum.: the impact of positive psychology and spirituality. It flows more naturally than we think. We see the benefit of spirituality for people in mental distress and we know that spiritual well-being is associated with better mental health. It makes sense then, to enhance our well-being and engage ourselves in the ultimate meaning by incorporating spirituality into psychology. I know this is true for me. I pause to smell the roses more, I practise gratitude, I prioritise serving others, all in response to the spiritual backdrop of my life. God is my rock, my shelter and my strength when I am weak.
Why do we wait until we are in mental distress to seek out the deeper meaning in our lives? We have every opportunity to do it right now and potentially reap the benefits to our own well-being. I know people have their own opinions on spirituality and will have their disagreements on this, but that’s ok. These are my own reflections to share in writing. More than anything, I think it’s great to have this conversation altogether.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Leave me a comment and we can further the discussion.