Meaning and Purpose: Spirituality and Mental Health

Spirituality and Mental HealthThere’s a Zen story about a horse which suddenly appeared galloping down the road.  The man riding the horse, looked as if he had somewhere important to go.  Another man, at the side of the road shouted “Where are you going?”, to which the man on the horse replied, “I don’t know!  Ask the horse!”

Have you ever had the experience of arriving at a time or a place in your life and wondered how you got there?  Perhaps you have sat and considered questions such as, “Where am I going in life, what is my purpose? Who am I, really? ”

When life events have taken you down a path, either out of habit or circumstances beyond your control, you may find that where you are isn’t really where you’d planned to be.  When a relationship breaks down for example, especially if that relationship was one-sided or controlling, you may come away wondering who you really are, what you really like and where you actually want to go now.  Bereavement and other types of loss, like redundancy, can all leave you feeling as if you’ve arrived at a crossroads with important decisions to make.

Believing that you have no purpose in life can be a huge source of distress.  During a time of crisis, without a support network of healthy relationships, if you lack confidence or feel unable to articulate your concerns, it would be easy to think you have no contribution or value to add.  But it’s during this time that developing your own personal, positive space, exploring your spirituality and asking for help can make all the difference to a positive outcome.

Spiritual health is about a person’s approach to life, their understanding of who they are, where they fit in to the world, what brings them peace and what they bring to the party of life.  It’s your values, beliefs, what gives you a sense of meaning and purpose, what nourishes you on a deeper level and what makes you “you”.  The definition of spirituality is not based on religious practice, in fact some spiritual people follow no religion at all.  Religion can form part of what defines a person and who they really are, but that is only one part of their ‘spiritual self’.  Spirituality is also about our ability to show empathy and compassion towards ourselves and other people.

Murray & Zentner (1989) define spirituality as:

“In every human being there seems to be a spiritual dimension, a quality that goes beyond religious affiliation, that strives for inspiration, reverence, awe, meaning and purpose, even in those who do not believe in God. The spiritual dimension tries to be in harmony with the universe, strives for answers about the infinite, and comes essentially into focus in times of emotional stress, physical (and mental) illness, loss, bereavement and death.”

There is always uncertainty around time of change; you may be frightened or unsure of what will happen next or consider ways that you can change the outcome of what’s happening, through your thoughts or behaviour.  Change can cause or exacerbate symptoms of stress, depression, anxiety and negative thinking, which can all lead to feelings of hopelessness.  This is how spiritual health – how you approach the world and whether you have faith in a positive outcome – can affect your overall health.   Spirituality can help with mental ill health if you can create a space for possibility when everything else feels like it’s falling apart or out of control.  It’s recognising the connection between your mental, physical and spiritual health in your wellbeing, and other people seeing you holistically, not just as the label of an illness you may have or a situation you find yourself in.

If you are going through a period of crisis you may find talking to the Samaritans helpful.  You may find your doctor, a spiritual advisor or talking therapy can also help you make sense of the chaos you may be experiencing, both inside and out, and help you discover true meaning.

You can also access free Guides to help you reconnect with your sparkle when you subscribe to my newsletter.  Dreams and nightmares can feature in our discovery of who we are and where we go next; you might like our dedicated resource on Dreams and Sleep.  I also offer Spiritual Coaching to explore these topics in more detail.

This article was written as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.  Please read the important information at the foot of this page before leaving a comment or question.  Thank you.

About Delphi Ellis

Qualified Counsellor, Mental Health and Well-Being Trainer, and Mindfulness Practitioner. Creator of Monday Mojo™. Talks 'Lady Business', raising awareness of factors which predominantly affect Women's Mental Health like pregnancy and domestic abuse. Helping to improve the global conversation, and bring an end to stigma and shaming. Dream Explorer as seen on the telly. Avid tea drinker.

2 Comments

  1. […] On Monday 10th October, I will be starting a conversation on my Twitter and Helping You Sparkle™ Facebook page about mental health and, in particular, the role of spirituality in mental health.  […]

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