What is Spirituality?
Spirituality can be described as an attempt to understand the meaning of existence, human nature, and can also be one’s internal compass of awareness. Spirituality can mean different things based on cultural belief systems about spirit and existence, and it can also describe a connection to something that is more than ourselves. It can be viewed as an internal energy – one’s values, beliefs, ethics, and other factors that are meaningful in life. This can also include activities that help explain emotions and thoughts such as in meditation, journaling, and yoga practices. Total wellness encompasses the mind, body, and spirit – mental, physical, and spiritual health (Good Therapy, 2019).
Spirituality and Mental Health
An individual can find connection and develop acceptance and resilience through spirituality. Studies show that spirituality has a potential to decrease risk factors for mental distress. Spirituality is hypothesized to impact mental wellness by nurturing qualities such as humility, altruism, forgiveness, and gratitude. These virtues are encouraged and called transcendent as they correlate to allow individuals to draw strength in oneself. Transcendent virtues have been studied to correlate with improved mental health, which may explain the relationship between wellness and spirituality (Kao et al., 2020).
Spiritual Support in Therapy
When considering combining spirituality with therapy to help improve your spiritual wellness, it is important to consider having an open dialogue with the therapist about incorporating your beliefs, values, and morals into therapy. A therapist that is aware of cultural sensitivity will work with your beliefs, even if theirs differ. There are also therapists that offer spiritual therapy that attempts to treat an individual’s soul, mind, and body by tapping into the individual belief system and using energy or faith in a higher power to explore areas of conflict. For example, a person who is experiencing depression may find a conflict in their life is not aligned with their moral compass.
Therapy that is spiritually inclusive can also involve nature (ecotherapy), meditation, mindfulness, music, dance, chakra healing, reiki healing and other nontraditional therapeutic practices that are employed to connect the body and mind with the soul – explore the deepest parts of oneself. Although spirituality can be nurtured through religion, yoga, or meditation, it is also possible to nurture spirituality through the following ways:
- Travel – reset and explore the world, different cultures, and different ways of living
- Practice Acceptance and Optimism – reframe setbacks as opportunities; accepting life is full of challenges
- Moments of Mindfulness – simply be with yourself for 10 minutes; listen to your thoughts without judgement
- Express Thoughts – art, journaling, voice notes, video journaling
- Spend Time in Nature – connecting to the spiritual self through outdoors, exercise, walks, hikes
- Volunteer – increase empathy and compassion for others; gives life meaning
Therapy should never attempt to push personal beliefs on a person or attempt to change one’s spiritual or religious beliefs. However, a therapist will bring attention to beliefs causing distress or contradictions between values and goals. The therapist will help support the process and walking along your spiritual journey to better well-being.
Kao, L. E., Peteet, J. R., & Cook, C. C. H. (2020). Spirituality and mental health. Journal for the Study of Spirituality, 10(1), 42-54, DOI: 10.1080/20440243.2020.1726048
Good Therapy. (2019). Spirituality. https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/spirituality
Rasna Saini is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. One of Rasna’s areas of specialization includes spirituality. Rasna uses evidence-based modalities and an integrative approach in order to help his clients receive treatment that is personalized to their unique needs.