This Simple Habit Can Be The Key In Boosting Your Mental Health

A January 2022 study published in the Journal of Religion and Health has pinpointed an incredibly powerful way to boost mental health. Researchers looked at the impact of religion and spirituality — and more specifically, the belief in a superior power — on the mental well-being of participants. They found that accountability to a higher power resulted in feelings of self-worth, dignity, and a sense of purpose in life. These positive associations increased when participants engaged in prayer with their higher power. 

In a news release for the study, the term "theistic accountability" was used to differentiate between behaviors that reflected adherence to social norms, such as simply attending church, and those that reflected an active procurement of the guidance and wisdom of a superior being (via Baylor University). Co-author Blake Victor Kent, Ph.D. explained, "People who embrace theistic accountability see themselves as answerable to God. They welcome responsibilities that are associated with their faith and view accountability to God as a gift that helps them lead happy and successful lives."

Lead author Matt Bradshaw clarified the study's findings that accountability to a higher power results in greater mental well-being, stating, "Humans are social creatures, and our psychological health is bound up in positive and constructive relationships, not only with other people, but also with God," (via Baylor University). It would seem that putting our faith in a higher power and purpose can allow us to find self-realization and peace within our minds.

Mental health benefits of religion and spirituality

In addition to the mental health benefits of being accountable to a higher power, there are many other benefits that come from practicing religion and spirituality in general. The National Alliance on Mental Illness points out that studies have shown religiosity to reduce alcohol and drug abuse, as well as suicide rates. Religion offers the opportunity to connect with a community of like-minded individuals, which reduces feelings of social isolation. It also includes a number of teachings that serve to guide us morally while also providing a framework for coping with suffering and loss. 

Spiritual practices also positively affect our mental health (via the National Alliance on Mental Illness). Given the more open-ended nature of spirituality, individuals are encouraged to decide how they view a force larger than themselves and incorporate this into their day-to-day lives. Spirituality often supports personal growth and self-empowerment while encouraging activities that benefit our mental health, including self-expression through art and meditation. 

In fact, meditation has been shown to produce benefits, reducing stress and negative emotions, both of which adversely affect our mental well-being if not properly managed, per the Mayo Clinic. For anyone experiencing depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other mental health challenges, meditation can be a powerful tool in managing symptoms while also provoking a greater sense of relaxation and peace.