How can faith support my mental health?
Often times, we view faith and our mental health care as two separate entities, when in reality faith can be a protective factor for our mental health. There is no reason we should have to keep them separate, when together they can lead to greater healing.
So let's talk about how faith can support our mental health. Faith does not just revolve around believing in God, but in having faith, we are open to so much more. Faith is a protective factor for us by creating community, creating a sense of hope, instilling a sense of peace and providing us with healing.
Faith, especially in the Catholic Church, brings us to community. In the Catholic faith, we believe that WE are the church, and therefore we believe we must go out and be the church for each other and the world. In building our faith communities, we build our support systems which creates a sense of belonging for us. As humans, we are bio-psycho-social beings, meaning we have different parts of us with different needs. For our social-being, we thrive when we have healthy relationships, a sense of belonging and a community of support. Faith brings us together in community and also teaches us the importance of community.
Hope and Peace
Faith also teaches us to have hope. We first learn hope through Jesus, where we find hope for our salvation. Throughout the Bible, we also hear the word "hope" and are told to have hope in God, especially during trying times.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
- Jeremiah 29:11
Hope can be defined as an optimistic attitude which expects positive outcomes, or a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain outcome. Hope is important because it gives us strength to endure difficult trials, creates a positive mindset, and helps us to simply try vs giving up. Studies have actually shown that hope is "positively correlated with life satisfaction and serves as a buffer against the impact of negative and stressful life events" (Duggal et. al, 2016).
When we have faith and trust in the Lord, we also develop a sense of peace in knowing that God is in control. Faith can bring peace to our anxieties, to the unknown and to our trials. When we have peace, we can breathe and bring true calm to our bodies and mind. We have peace when we can fully let go and trust in the Lord, which can be easier said than done at times. However, God wants nothing more than to love us, which means He will never lead us astray.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."
- 2 Timothy 1:7
Healing begins with having hope that we can be healed. Our faith provides healing through Christ, as long as we allow it. He left us with the gifts of the sacraments, in which we can receive God's grace. We are blessed to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we can seek forgiveness for our sins and receive healing as well. We are also blessed with the Sacrament of Holy Communion, where Christ himself can enter our hearts.
God wants nothing more than to love us unconditionally, but He is not a forceful God. He gives us the gifts towards healing, but it is up to us to seek them. Our faith can provide healing through prayer, through the sacraments and through our relationship with God.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
If faith can benefit our mental health, why keep it separate from our mental health care? Faith can support our mental health care by providing the positive resources mentioned here. Let's bridge the gap between faith and mental health to provide greater healing.