Mental Health and Spirituality

People who are spiritual tend to believe in a higher power, find meaning and purpose in their lives and have a sense of connection with others. Many are religious or identify as spiritual but not religious, and they may also seek experiences beyond organized religion such as time in nature, yoga or meditation. Being a spiritual person can help you cope with challenging situations and feel more resilient.

The complexity of spirituality makes it difficult to measure and study. In addition, the broad range of possible definitions for spirituality and its relationship to religion further complicates efforts to standardize a research framework and measures. Consequently, the focus of most studies on spirituality has been on cognitive or philosophic aspects (e.g., search for meaning and purpose) and beliefs and values rather than on experiential or emotional aspects (e.g., feelings of hope, love and connection).

But a more holistic approach to spirituality could be beneficial for many people. For example, a woman who was HIV positive reported that her spirituality helped her cope with her illness and led to a more peaceful life. Similarly, individuals who are coping with major life events such as genocide or the loss of close family members report that their spirituality has helped them to reframe and appreciate what is truly important in their lives. As the number of people who identify as spiritual continues to rise, it is worthwhile to consider what this might mean for our mental health and society.