The Serenity Prayer is a common tool in the fight against addiction, serving as a central resource for those in 12-step programs of all kinds. Even for those who aren’t religious, this prayer can offer the guidance necessary to accept addiction and make meaningful steps toward recovery.
However, the prayer isn’t exclusive to addiction treatment, despite the common associations. In reality, this prayer can be a key part of recovering from any kind of challenging circumstances in life, and that includes mental health. With a guiding message intended to inspire hope, faith and resilience, this prayer can help those in need make decisions for the better.
There are many different ways to approach treatment for mental health. For some people, improvement comes from counseling or medication. But for others, it’s the Prayer for Serenity at work, helping guide the healing process.
What Is the Serenity Prayer?
The Serenity Prayer is one of the central aspects of 12-step programs and has been since the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. The 12 steps, including the use of Serenity Prayer meditation, has proved to work, too, with higher rates of sobriety among those who have attended 12-step programs and adhered to the steps.
The prayer itself was written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1930s. Today, it’s highly recognizable, even among those who are not religious. While there are different versions of the Serenity Prayer available, the most commonly used form reads as follows:
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
The most important aspect of the Serenity Prayer for those seeking a brighter future is stated in the first four lines. This central message encourages those facing tough circumstances to accept that there are some things that can’t be changed and many others that can be, and that understanding the difference can be key to overcoming challenges. While this is commonly applied to addiction and the assumption that there are ways to change behavior for the better, the same principles can be applied to mental health.
Some 12-step programs are critiqued for a heavy reliance on the Christian faith, but the Serenity Prayer is often presented as a mantra, rather than a true prayer, for those who aren’t religious. Those of other faiths or who don’t believe in a higher power are encouraged to interpret mentions of God as a reference to the universe or fate.
How to Use the Serenity Prayer for Mental Health Needs
For those who find peace in religion, prayer and mental health can be intrinsically linked. Believing in something bigger than oneself can help individuals find peace and acceptance that may otherwise be missing. These kinds of feelings can help those living with mental health challenges to ultimately accept their circumstances and strive for a better, healthier future.
These five tips can help those with mental illness improve mental health using the Serenity Prayer.
Use The Serenity Prayer to Deepen Faith
For those who find peace in religion, a deep connection to faith can be very important. Finding that faith is shaken can be a very difficult realization to confront, and it’s not uncommon for those with mental illness to struggle to maintain their faith. The Serenity Prayer speaks to accepting and enjoying life in service of a higher power, a message that can be very powerful for those looking to strengthen or revitalize a commitment to their faith.
Use the Serenity Prayer to Meditate
Meditation is a valuable tool for those from all walks of life. A way to clear the mind and reduce anxieties, meditation offers benefits to both mental and physical health. Serenity Prayer meditation can allow individuals to isolate what really matters and take time to focus on acknowledging the reality of mental illness and building the strength necessary to make changes.
Use the Serenity Prayer to Accept Life Circumstances
The road to accepting mental health challenges can be a complicated journey. Many people find themselves living in denial, especially in the days and weeks following a diagnosis. The mantra “accept things I cannot change” can help those with mental illness accept the reality and shift focus to what can be done to better life circumstances.
Use the Serenity Prayer to Build Trust
While the first four lines of the Serenity Prayer are the best known, they’re not the only statements of value within the prayer. The line “trusting that You will make all things right” encourages the cultivation of trust, both in oneself and in a higher power. Focusing on how trust can play a role in recovery can help strengthen convictions and encourage individuals to take positive steps forward.
Use the Serenity Prayer to Seek Guidance
Overcoming mental illness often can’t be managed alone. Other people, from counselors to faith leaders, can play a role in encouraging wellness. With a prayer that encourages finding the courage to make changes, those living with mental illness can determine how to address treatment and who can best offer help.
Can the Serenity Prayer Work for You?
Seeing the Prayer for Serenity at work can be an excellent tool for some, but it isn’t right for others. Some forms of mental illness require professional intervention to properly address, and there’s no shame in that. Prayer, meditation and mental wellness exercises can only do so much, no matter how hard you try.
If you’re struggling to live with mental illness, FHE Health can provide the support and resources you need to approach recovery in a safe, healthy manner. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs.