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This week, many people around the world are observing a variety of religious holidays. Today, Christians observe Good Friday and this weekend will celebrate Easter. For the Jewish community, this past Monday marked the beginning of Passover. This month also marks the observance Laylat al-Mi’raj, an important holy day for Muslims.
While an increasing number of young adults in the United States don’t identify with any religion, especially here in New England, religion and spirituality can still play a very positive role in people’s lives, including those in recovery from mental health and substance abuse issues.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Research has shown that for some, religion and individual spirituality can directly improve our physical and mental health.” Spirituality and faith communities can take many forms and provide a variety of benefits. Some positive aspects of religion and spirituality which NAMI underscores include:
Meditation: whether it’s praying, studying, or just thoughtfully reflecting, all of these activities can shift your focus off of your problems/symptoms and onto something more positive.
Togetherness: By going to the church/synagogue/mosque/temple, etc. you come into contact with other people and become part of a community. Just make sure that community is accepting of you and your identity so that the experience is constructive and not destructive.
A Sense of Understanding: Finding the right spiritual community or religion can be like finding the right partner or friend. Faith serves as the foundation for many people’s recovery.
Helping Others: If blessings don’t entice you, consider instead the sense of well being and satisfaction that is derived from altruistic and charitable activity – be kind at least for your own sake, if not for someone else’s!
While I am in many ways very secular, my Faith and religious tradition also play a vital role in not only my identity, but in my mental and spiritual life. My Faith has helped me through some tough times, including emotional turmoil. Regardless of our individual religious beliefs, I think it is important that as mental health advocates we make people aware of what can be a very powerful resource in their recovery. That being said, it is also essential that we work to educate faith communities about the science of the human brain/nervous system, human thought, emotion, and behavior. “Faith” and “Reason” need not be contradictory – it’s our challenge to educate the community on how the two can complement each other to increase life satisfaction and well being for people living with mental illness.
This is a great post Brian. I am a very spiritual person myself and it has really changed my life. I pray almost everyday and it brings me warmth, comfort and reminds me that I have a higher power watching over me keeping me safe. I was struggling with drug addiction for about a year and a half and I had a really hard time quitting. When I took my first hit it was like I signed a contract that I could not get out of. I started praying to God every night that I could kick the habit and never touch it again. Eventually after about a month of praying staying away from it became easier and finally I quit for good. I have been clean now for about a year and 6 months. I advise everyone who is struggling with mental health and addiction to reach out to their higher power. God loves us and If we go to him for help he will always come through.
I definitely appreciate this post. I feel like I grew up being more religious than I currently am, but at the same time I still feel confident enough in my higher power and my connection with God to understand that He is always there and I need to not turn my back on him. Whenever I find myself struggling the most with my thoughts of self-harm, I find that praying is the only thing that seems to alleviate those urges or desires of my mind trying to take over. So, with that being said, thanks again for this post, it reminds me that I should probably reconnect with God.
I’m so glad to hear that this post resonated with you. What you say about the power of prayer resonates with me. Whenever actually open myself up to God, I always feel better than when I don’t. Doesn’t really matter where I’m at – even when I’ve done something wrong and made mistakes, I take comfort in being present with God in prayer. I usually avoid it for a while, but when I open myself to it, I find Peace. I understand it’s not that way for everyone, but that’s how it is for me.
Meanwhile, while I can’t presume to speak for God, I have a hunch God’ll be happy to have you reconnect 🙂 Take good care.
What a powerful story you shared about your relationship with God and how your spirituality – and prayer specifically – helped you to overcome your addiction. I’ve been growing in my own spritual life recently, I have been coming to believe more deeply that “With God, All Things Are Possible”. I always “knew” that, however I’ve really been starting to believe it more recently, and your story only reinforces that Truth for me even more. I admire your Faith and courage and want to congratulate you on sustaining your recovery thus far. Keep up the good work and keep sharing your story!
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TurningPointCT.org was developed by young people in Connecticut who are in recovery from mental health and substance use issues. We know what it’s like to feel alone, stressed, worried, sad, and angry. We’ve lived through the ups and downs of self-harm, drugs and alcohol, and the struggle to find help.
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