The Mental Health Benefits of Religion & Spirituality

DEC. 21, 2016

By Luna Greenstein


Religion and spirituality are both rooted in trying to understand the meaning of life and, in some cases, how a relationship with a higher power may influence that meaning. While religion and spirituality are similar in foundation, they are very different in practice.

Religion is an organized, community-based system of beliefs, while spirituality resides within the individual and what they personally believe. “The idea of religion and spirituality is like a rectangle versus a square. Within religion there is spirituality, but if you have spirituality, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have religion,” says someone who practices both religion and spirituality.

Both religion and spirituality can have a positive impact on mental health. In some ways, they provide the same impact. For example: Both religion and spirituality can help a person tolerate stress by generating peace, purpose and forgiveness. But benefits generally vary between the two due to their different nature.

Mental Health Benefits of Religion

Religion gives people something to believe in, provides a sense of structure and typically offers a group of people to connect with over similar beliefs. These facets can have a large positive impact on mental health—research suggests that religiosity reduces suicide rates, alcoholism and drug use. Here are some of religion’s main mental health benefits.


  • Initiates social connections with other members 
  • Creates a sense of belonging to a group
  • Offers trustworthy and safe social engagement


  • Helps people to cope with difficult life situations (i.e. a ceremony for the loss of a loved one)
  • Provides structure, regularity and predictability
  • Allows for time to rest as well as holidays and other special times of the year


  • Provides guidelines to live by (i.e. the importance of doing the right thing)
  • Teaches compassion, forgiveness and gratitude
  • Identifies life lessons, even from challenging situations

Mental Health Benefits of Spirituality

Spirituality is a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves—it helps a person look within and understand themselves while also figuring out the greater answer of how they fit in to the rest of the world. In other words: It helps people understand their interpretation of the meaning of life.

Spirituality also incorporates healthy practices for the mind and body, which positively influences mental health and emotional wellbeing. Here are some of those benefits:


  • Enhances a person’s sense of self and empowerment through the choice to decide what their practice looks like
  • Focuses on an individual’s connection to what they believe in and their own personal growth
  • Accepts any person, whether they are part of a religion or not


  • Encourages meditation and self-reflection
  • Leads to a meaningful life philosophy (i.e. feeling connected to others, nature or art)
  • Prompts expression in any form such as art, poetry, myth or religious practice

Unity with Surroundings

  • Renews a sense of belonging in the world
  • Inspires appreciation and awareness of a person’s interaction with the physical environment

These mental health benefits are not limited to their respective categories—individuality isn’t exclusive to religion, just like spirituality can include a sense of community in some instances. The takeaway is that: If presented in a supportive way, religion and spirituality can help people improve their mental health and promote recovery.

To learn more about how faith and spirituality can benefit mental health, go to


MAY, 04, 2017 03:14:42 AM
I know this not while I am sick, but while I am well, because my faith community is already aware of my illness.
- See more at:
I wonder if faith leaders understand this.

APR, 11, 2017 03:11:35 PM
Debbie Meyer
My faith is not part of my illness; it can't be. When my symptoms are active, depression puts me in such a deep dark hole that I am I am unable to feel, do, act, reach, move, see, speak, OR pray. I am in pain and fear feeling distant from my God and cannot do anything about it. However, faith IS a very big part of recovery. Knowing that others are picking up in prayer and service where I cannot is helpful. I know this not while I am sick, but while I am well, because my faith community is already aware of my illness.

When I hear faith leaders suggest I get on knees to pray or talk to someone like a Stephen Leader, they are telling me to do almost the impossible. It just might be too soon. Will they wait or find it too uncomfortable?

I wonder if faith leaders understand this.

JAN, 16, 2017 07:02:32 PM
Iam so glad that this is apart of nami

JAN, 16, 2017 06:59:14 PM
Please contact me

JAN, 08, 2017 04:36:42 PM
Alvin Brown
Thank you for this blog. We which work in a mental health field needs to understand the true make-up of a person to better address life's issues.

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