Mental Health is an integral part of our lives and has become a buzz word nowadays owing to the many revelations that come each day as the science progresses and gives us a new insight into the many dimensions this topic has within itself. It is an highly complicated issue that has boggled the best of minds in medicine for decades and is still under research. WHO , in its 2019 report , had said that 7.5% of the Indian population suffered from some form of mental disorder. Mental Health accounted for 1/6th of all health related disorders in India and the global mental, neurological and substance abuse disorder burden by India was 15 % of the world total. This is a heartening figure to look at and needs some serious introspection both by the Government and the population at large. Carl Sagan’s euphoric words ring in the ears ,“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.” It will no longer be a lonely fight if you employ spirituality as an important aid in supplementation to the medication and treatment of Mental Health issues. Spirituality is not just a religious orientation of an individual but a way of life in reality which has it’s noted benefits. We seek to discuss the same in the following analysis.
What is Spirituality ?
Spirituality , as defined by a thesis of the University of Minnesota , entails a sense of deep connection to something bigger than ourselves and from a purist point of view involves a search for the meaning in one’s life. It can be described as a universal human experience , that touches every life. It can be alluded as something sacred by some people or just a sense of deep interconnectedness. It leads the human awareness to a level that is not common with average humanity and is often ascribed to a connection with a higher reality. There are many facets to this just like there are many roads that lead to a single destination. Some involve the use of a lot of paraphernalia like meditation , others use spiritual discourses on holy books like the Gita , Bible or any sacred text for that matter while many would prescribe attending rituals specific to a particular community. In all , it gives a sense of belonging to an individual to associate themselves with a divine truth.
Does it Help?
Yes , it definitely does help. According to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine , it is confirmed that the theory regarding the influence of religion/spirituality on physical health does hold true especially in terms of the religion giving a sense of purpose to life as seen in the elderly. It acts as a motivation in their lives and thereby helping in maintaining one’s physical and mental health. It has also been found that this ‘meaning’ is in consonance with a great degree of psychological well-being and physical health as well. Spirituality has been found to have a positive effect on the physical and mental health of an individual though the science is deep and requires more studies but there is a general consensus that it helps in alleviating a lot of problems plaguing humanity. Spirituality and Mental Health are deeply interconnected
To quote a recent study in the UK , where Depression is the most common form of mental health problem , spirituality had a positive impact especially on those who visited church and were found to have lower levels of depression among adults and children. There are numerous case studies available to show how beneficial can spirituality be as one of the many cures of Mental Health problems.
Consequence of Spirituality on Mental Health
As per the latest study carried out in the United Kingdom which included a meta-analysis of 42 known studies , it is confirmed that spirituality and mortality have a positive connection. Those individuals who pursue a higher number of spiritual or religious activity have been found to live longer in comparison to their counterparts who are averse to such a practice. This leads us to the critical analysis of Spirituality vis a vis the various Mental Health diseases.
1.Spirituality & Religion affecting Mental Health
Religion offers people something to believe in and hold onto , a robust structure to follow and links a group of people with similar beliefs to come together and converse. According to a 2013 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry , these components of religion can have a positive effect on the mental health of an individual as is evidenced by a reduced rate of suicides, a significant reduction in cases of alcoholism and abating of drug usage. People who are depressed often seek a visit to a Temple or a Church , as they have an inherent belief that there is a greater authority , God , who is in control of everything and seeking him through some way or the other can bring lasting peace. This clearly suggests that Religion can be a crucial factor in leading to a permanent cure for mental health issues.
2.Spirituality affecting the Community
- Promotes better social connections with other members: People tend to associate themselves better with individuals who are part of the same social milieu and have similar set of beliefs.
- Ushers a strong sense of belonging to a particular group: Belonging from a particular faith group or circle , like a church denomination or any other system like devotees to a particular deity or Temple or a Gurudwara , helps develop a strong sense of being a part of that whole process. This has been found to have a positive impact on individuals and can help in a lot of situations.
- Provides a trustworthy and safe social setup : When you are part of a belief system with similar group of people , you are rest assured of a good company of reliable individuals who will be idea talking to . This is can positively affect depressive people by giving them relief from their symptoms and a place to confide instead of suffering alone.
3.Spirituality and Rituals
- Empowers people to deal with difficult life situations (i.e. a last rites ceremony for the passing away of a loved one)
- Gives a strong structure, regularity of certain events(preparing for festivals) and predictability of the entire setup.
- Gifts time to rest and a lot of holidays to have a family get-together during certain times in a year.
- Improves the Self-esteem :Boosts a person’s sense of self and strengthens them through the choice to decide what their practice shall be.
- Others over Self : When you join a movement where you come across hundreds of other people in deeper suffering than yours and you are in a position to give service to them through any means , your inner ego and self-centricity is gradually eviscerated as you come to know that there is a higher meaning to your own life rather than dwelling on things just limited to you.
- Calms the Mind: This is the biggest plus you can get when you’re dealing with issues of mind. Spiritual practices like meditation , hearing sermons of the Gita, Bible or any other sacred text , singing Psalms or Aarti or even lighting a candle or diya and praying to the deity of your liking can bring great peace to you and gradually alleviate the symptoms of the disorders.
Spirituality is not just a collection of items to practice a certain form of worship , it is an experience and a positive amalgamation of all the things that help you in getting closer to the divine being and also embrace Nature. It’s way of pursuance can be many but it will definitely alleviate the malaise affecting one’s mind. It can act as a catalyst in improving the mental health situation of a devastated person. In a world of so many setbacks , take the current pandemic for example , there is a greater need of a method by which we can stay sane and improve our lives at the same time. Spirituality is that answer.