Having Faith Can Improve Your Mental Health
There is a strong connection between religious faith and mental wellbeing. Research indicates that religious faith provides believers with several tools they can employ to tackle those circumstances in their lives that lead to angst and poor mental health.
Religious practices, in particular praying, may help to reduce stress since prayer has been shown to lower amongst other things, high blood pressure. Participation in worship and other religious events not only boost the body’s relaxation response but also encourage believers to think in positive ways. Positive emotions in turn craft a strong sense of belonging and may be associated with perceptions like optimism, sense of meaning and purpose to life. All these have been found to be linked to good cardiovascular, endocrine and immune functioning. Additionally, religious belief may help people cope better with anxiety and could serve as an alternative to less healthy coping strategies like alcohol or drugs use.
Belonging to a faith community moreover offers believers a support network upon which to draw. When they suffer an illness, the support of their faith community, particularly their prayers, speeds the healing process. Likewise, when they live through the death of a loved one, the faith community comforts them through the grief process giving them greater coping capacity. Predominantly, belonging to a faith community affords almost never-ending opportunities to be of service to others. Involvement in Outreach programs has revealed to have beneficial effects on self-satisfaction and thus on mental and emotional wellbeing.
While having faith in God and his promises is not a cure-all, it does lessen the likelihood of depression and acts as a buffer if and when depression occurs. Additionally, participation in rituals, provides structure, regularity and predictability, while the teachings identify life lessons, even from challenging situations.
Faith in God ultimately imparts anchors for life ensuring that through our darkest moments, we are not alone or without hope. God’s words of comfort remind us that when we are weak He will be our refuge: In the passage from Isaiah 41:10, God reassures us of His pledge to ameliorate our anxieties: “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you….”.
Let us consequently, never underestimate or worse, discount the gift of faith and may we be reminded of how beneficial faith in God is for our overall mental health and emotional wellbeing.