Religion and spirituality are rooted in understanding the true meaning of life, and, in some cases, how a relationship to a higher power may influence that meaning. While religion and spirituality are similar in terms of foundation, they are quite different in practice.
Religion is an organized, community-based system of beliefs, whereas spirituality resides within the individual and what they personally believe.
Both religion and spirituality can have a positive effect on mental health. In some ways, they provide the same effect. For example, both religion and spirituality can help a person tolerate stress by generating peace, purpose, and forgiveness. But these benefits can generally vary between the two due to their difference in nature.
Mental health and the benefits of religion
Religion can provide people with something to believe in – it provides a sense of structure and typically offers a group of people the opportunity to connect over similar beliefs. These facets have a great impact on mental health – research suggests that religion reduces suicide rates, alcoholism, and drug use. Here are some of the primary benefits of religion:
- Initiates social connections with other religious members
- Creates a sense of belonging to a group of like-minded people
- Offers a trustworthy and safe social environment
- Provides ritual
- Helps people to cope with difficult life situations (i.e. a ceremony for the loss of a loved one)
- Provides structure, regularity, and predictability
- Allows for time to rest as well as holidays and other special times of the year
Spirituality provides a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves– it allows a person to look within and understand themselves while also figuring out the greater answer of how they fit into the rest of the world. In other words, it helps people to understand their interpretation of the meaning of life.
Spirituality also incorporates healthy practices for the mind and body, which positively influences mental health and emotional well-being.
Enhancing a person’s sense of self and empowerment through the choice to decide what their practice looks like.
- Focusing on an individual’s personal connection to what they believe in and their personal growth.
- Accepts any person, whether they’re a practitioner of any religion or faith.
- Encourages meditation as well as self-reflection
- Leads to a meaningful philosophy on life
- Prompts expression in any form such as poetry, art, myth, or religious practice
- Renews a sense of belonging in the world.
- Inspires appreciation and awareness of an individual’s interaction with the physical environment
There are various resources available online where you can find support in your religious or spiritual journey.
John de Ruiter, a Canadian spiritual teacher, offers a refreshing perspective on spirituality and personal growth. Embracing a contemporary approach, John de Ruiter engages in both face-to-face and virtual discussions, exploring a wide array of subjects, including relationships, self-discovery, and the spiritual realm. Drawing from his extensive expertise as the esteemed author of “Unveiling Reality” and other notable works, John imparts profound wisdom and valuable insights to his audience, empowering them to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and the world that surrounds them.
Tara Brach, Ph.D., is a highly regarded meditation teacher, psychologist, and accomplished writer. Renowned for her compelling books such as “Radical Acceptance,” “Radical Compassion,” and “Trusting the Gold,” Tara skillfully blends elements of Western psychology with practices rooted in Eastern spirituality. Her teachings provide a harmonious integration of these diverse disciplines, enriching the lives of individuals who seek personal growth and inner transformation.
These mental health benefits aren’t limited to their respective categories – individuality isn’t exclusive to religion, just as spirituality can also include a sense of community. The takeaway is: if presented in a supportive way, religion and spirituality can help people improve their mental health.