Faith plays an important role for millions of people, providing guidance and a greater purpose in life. Nearly 80% of Americans consider themselves followers of a particular religion, whether Christianity, Judaism, Islam or one of the other myriad of religions practiced around the world.
Religion can do a lot of good for those who participate in faith-based institutions, providing strength in times of weakness, direction when feeling mentally or spiritually lost, and comfort when love and support are needed. And for many people, practicing a religion can have a positive effect on mental health.
Religion is often a central tenet in rehabilitation programs of all kinds. Those struggling with mental illness are often encouraged to find strength and structure in religion, and 12-step programs rely on the presence of a higher power to guide recovery. And anecdotally, it seems to work. While not necessarily the right fit for everyone, combining mental health and religion can have strong effects on the outcome of a treatment program for those willing to commit.
What Role Does Religion Play in Mental Health?
Religion isn’t right for everyone, but it holds many benefits for those who find peace and comfort in the presence of a higher power and the promise of a greater purpose in life. Some of the benefits of religion in maintaining mental wellness include community, structure, moral guidance, hope and peace.
Religion Provides Community
It’s possible to worship alone, but many believers prefer to worship in groups, like at a church, synagogue or temple. Going to a place of worship provides easy access to a community of people who believe the same things and hold the same values. This can be very comforting, especially when participants need someone to turn to for advice and support.
Participating in mass religious practices or joining a group can create a sense of belonging that may otherwise be lacking. As humans are social creatures, taking part in a community of shared values and beliefs can improve quality of life and enhance satisfaction. For those who feel depressed or anxious when alone or without a support system, this sense of community can be very valuable.
Religion Provides Structure
Many religions have some sort of regimented schedule for worship, from Sunday mass to Shabbat to prayers multiple times a day. These sorts of rituals can provide structure, helping practitioners live their daily lives in a way that keeps their faith alive. Taking part in regular worship-related practices can add meaning to life and help participants feel connected and fulfilled by their relationship with a higher power.
Religion Offers Hope
The world can be a challenging place. Factors like social and economic inequality, relationship problems, climate change and even political strife can impact quality of life in significant ways. Religion, however, can be a beacon of light in an existence that can otherwise feel a little dark. With the support of religion, particularly religions that promise a heaven or other form of salvation, religion can be encouraging and inspiring. When times get tough, faith can remind us there’s ultimately something better awaiting us as long as faith is maintained.
Religion Creates Peace
Belief in a higher power can be very calming, especially for those who appreciate the structure and traditions provided by religion. Working toward building a relationship with a higher power or the universe as a whole can be very rewarding. In fact, practicing religion has been found to reduce tension, diminish anxiety and stabilize emotional variability. Practitioners of many different religions can embrace the idea that someone else, something greater than oneself, is in control, which can make it easier to navigate challenging life circumstances.
Religion Guides Morals
Most religions offer particular and unique teachings about how to treat fellow humans and what to do to live a beneficial life with the well-being of others in mind. This sort of concrete guidance on how to best exemplify the teachings and tenets of a particular faith can be very beneficial to practitioners. Almost all religions emphasize doing good for family, friends, loved ones and the community as a whole, resulting in increased participation in things like charity organizations.
It’s wholly possible to be a good, moral person without religion — many, many people are — but with the instruction of a prophet or religious figure to follow, it can be easier to make good, healthy choices. For those who need inspiration and guidance when navigating tough circumstances, religion can provide a positive example of moral behavior.
Is Religion Necessary?
Religion does have some concrete benefits to offer, but is it necessary? Is recovery from addiction or mental illness only possible through faith? Does a lack of faith mean a lack of mental wellness?
Religion, like many things in life, is deeply personal. Everyone believes — or doesn’t believe — in an individual way, and there’s no one right way to worship or practice religion. For some people, religion will never be compatible with personality or lifestyle for any number of reasons, and that’s okay. Religion can be an advantage, but it’s not essential, and rehabilitation from all kinds of conditions can be successful without faith of any kind.
Further, faith alone isn’t always enough to see ideal results. Religion may be able to complement medical science, but it doesn’t function as a replacement. Many people living with mental health challenges will require treatment outside of a belief in a higher power alone, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The road to recovery is highly individual, and if medical treatments or prescription medications are required to see results, that’s not the result of religious failings. Never hesitate to seek essential health care under the assumption that faith alone will provide a solution.
If you or someone you love requires comprehensive treatment for mental health disorders, FHE Health can provide qualified, supportive care in a professional environment. Contact us today at (844) 299-0618 to learn more.