Mental Health and Spirituality

For some people, spirituality is a central aspect of their lives. It can include a belief in God, active participation in organized religion, or non-religious experiences such as meditation, time in nature, private prayer, or yoga.

For others, spirituality may be a central component of their mental health treatment. Studies show that a healthy spirit is correlated with a positive outlook on life, reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improved quality of life in patients living with HIV, traumatic injuries, and cancer.

It is important for health professionals to know how to address and assess spirituality with their patients, including whether it may be an integral part of their recovery. They should seek cultural competence in understanding the meaning of spirituality for their patients. Some ways to do this include using lifemaps, in which patients depict their own spiritual journey; genograms, in which health professionals and patients chart the role of spirituality across several generations of a family; and eco-maps, in which individuals map their current relationship with the natural world.

To further expand our understanding of spirituality, it is useful to consider it through the use of metaphors. One of the most helpful is that of wind. As the author points out, one cannot see wind, but its effects are apparent—tree branches sway, hair blows in many directions, balance is difficult to maintain, and new life can be generated. These characteristics of wind are similar to spirituality.