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Using Spirituality to Improve Mental Health

Spirituality can complement and improve your mental health. As American writer and journalist Elizabeth Gilbert has said, “God dwells within you; as you. God dwells within me; as me.” You can use spiritualty to help address your mental health concerns. But how? Read on to learn more about using spirituality to improve mental health.

Portrait of Elizabeth Gilbert against a dark grey background wearing a blue, shoulderless v-neck and looking directly at the camera. She has medium length, wavy blond hair and is smiling.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s (pictured here) 2003 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, focuses on themes of spirituality and romance.

Spirituality Can Positively Impact Your Mental Health

Whether an individual identifies as religious or spiritual, they are ultimately tapped into a higher power that influences their outlook, values, and approach to life. Religion is composed of a specific set of organized beliefs and practices that are shared within a devout community, whereas spirituality is considered more of an individual practice with emphasis on peace, purpose, and connection with others. Both religion and spirituality share tenants of belief, comfort, reflection ethics, and awe. Famed author Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love” once described the Divine as, “the perfection that absorbs.” As an ordained minister and licensed clinician, who has dedicated most of my adult career to these two disciplines,  I could not agree with Gilbert more.

There is a gorgeous interplay between spirituality and psychology and when approached from a stance of humility and curiosity, my clients are pleasantly surprised at the complementarity between both schools of thought along with the countless ways that psychology and spirituality can positively impact their mental health. Oftentimes those who subscribe to a spiritual path/practice are open to seeking greater understanding concerning their life’s purpose, professional vocation, relationships, values, and destiny.

Pie chart displaying the percentage of Americans who are both spiritual and religious (29%), spiritual but not religious (18%), religious but not spiritual (22%), neither spiritual or religious (31%).

According to the Public Religion Research Center, Americans are relatively split between whether they are spiritual, religious, both, or neither.

Using Spirituality to Improve Mental Health

As data regarding the connection between the mind and body continue to emerge, the clearer it becomes that spirituality and faith can greatly complement one’s emotional wellness, even improving certain mental health conditions including but not limited to: grief, bereavement, trauma, stress, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. In some instances, people turn to their faith in times of tumult and crisis in order to make meaning and recover. At other times individuals integrate routine spiritual practices such as prayer, devotionals, praise and worship, studying scripture, meditation, yoga, chanting, or spending time in nature as part of their routine coping skills to quell feelings of stress, angst, or depression.

Some of the benefits of partaking in either a religious and/or spiritual community include: cultivating an established sense of belonging; meaningful social connections with likeminded individuals; and trustworthy and safe social engagement. Attending congregational gatherings such as Sunday service, Saturday Torah readings, consecrated times of prayer at a mosque, or worship at Hindu temples provide structure and intentional socialization. Such gatherings lower anxiety and lift low moods by creating safe and empathic spaces where people can be vulnerable about life’s trials and tribulations, including mental illness or family discord.

Spirituality & Self-Care

Spirituality correlates with self-care, which is any intentional action we take to care for our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. The following are examples of spiritual self-care that can impact our mental health include:

  • Listen to music
  • Practice radical acceptance
  • Understand what you can control and what you cannot
  • Cultivate a gratitude practice
  • Light soothing, scented candles
  • Spend 10 minutes a day in nature
  • Practice your faith and spirituality wherever applicable
  • Meditate silently during the workday
  • Read inspirational quotes/articles/books

Portrait of Australian psychologist Sebastian Salicru against a brown background. He is looking directly at the camera with a neutral expression. He has a short grey beard and short dark hair. He is wearing a black sports jacket and white button down shirt. His hands are clasped.

Australian Psychologist Sebastian Salicru has written for Psychology Today and other publications on the intersection of spirituality and mental health.

A Spirituality Journey All Your Own

For some people, their spiritual path is invaluable because it affords insight for understanding each of our unique human experiences. Major world religions offer explanations of why suffering exists in the world. For those who subscribe to religious belief systems, these explanations yield a tremendous sense of comfort to those diagnosed with mental illness or struggling interpersonally in relationships. Research suggests that both science and spirituality can serve as companions in helping to answer life’s “why me?” or “why now?” questions. You can access the benefits of peace and relaxation in the company of others or in the comfort of your own home. It is important to think of places, people, and experiences that provide a sense of meaning and solitude when considering a spiritual practice that is most relevant for you and your mental health needs.

Staff Therapist and Blog Author Chimere G. Holmes

CFR Staff Therapist Chimère G. Holmes is an expert in using spirituality to improve mental health.

About the Author

Chimère G. Holmes, MA, MSEd, LPC, is a CFR Staff Therapist and is accepting new patients. You may request an appointment with her.

If you have questions about this blog or want to learn more about how spirituality can improve mental health, reach out to Chimère at or 215-315-7551 ext. 7064.

See our Therapist & Psychiatrist Directory to find a CFR therapist or psychiatrist near you.

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