As with many alternative therapies, the ways in which spirituality may help—or hinder—recovery from depression and anxiety aren't fully understood. Some of the benefit may be social. For example, people who attend religious services regularly and are part of a community may receive valuable support. Attendance at religious services is also associated with other healthy behaviors such as seeking out preventive health care, engaging in physical activity and avoiding risky behaviors—all of which may improve mental health.

Can spirituality help you?

If you're a member of a faith community, you may find that speaking with your clergyperson or becoming more involved with services and activities may be helpful. If you don't have a religious background, anything that helps you feel centered and connected, such as simple prayers, meditation or mindfulness—a state of active, open attention on the present often used as a stress management tool—may be helpful.

Here are some suggestions on how to incorporate spirituality into your life:

  • Bring up your faith or spirituality to your mental health professional. He or she may not ask about it, but your religious or spiritual background is an important part of who you are and how your mind works.
  • Give prayer a try. Some people are able to pray spontaneously, while others would rather read something already written. If you would feel more comfortable with a set prayer, look for a book or ask your clergyperson for suggestions.
  • Find a prayer group. Ask your religious organization if it has a prayer support group for people with mental health issues or if they know of one nearby.
  • Go online. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has an outreach program to those who want to approach mental illness from a faith perspective. NAMI's FaithNet (nami.org/namifaithnet) has articles, resources and an online discussion group.
  • Learn to meditate. Evidence suggests that meditation may help with depression and anxiety. Meditation can be as simple as repeating a mantra—a calming word or phrase—while focusing on your breathing.

Publication Review By: Karen L. Swartz, M.D.

Published: 21 Aug 2013

Last Modified: 21 Aug 2013