25 Oct 3 Ways Spirituality Can Help You Relieve Anxiety
Most of the scientific literature about treating anxiety and depression is rooted in either a cognitive-behavioral perspective or a pharmacological one. Despite many advances, sometimes these methods are not enough. A certain percentage of men and women will not benefit from CBT, medication, or a combination of the two. Even those who do make progress with one of the standard treatments still stand a good chance of relapse. Here are just some of the ways spirituality can help relieve anxiety:
You feel more hopeful.
Some type of spiritual framework, a belief in some order or power greater than ourselves, can help us maintain hope even when the road is long. Through faith in something, we are able to hold strong to the belief that positive change can occur; it’s not just wishful thinking. Psychiatrist Thomas Oxman and his colleagues at Dartmouth Medical School studied 232 patients over age 55 who were undergoing cardiac surgery. They found the patients who gained strength and comfort from their religion – they, in essence, had hope – survived long after the surgery than those without hope. One of the most important things I try to do in my first session with new clients is to offer hope. People need the expectation that their lives can be better. Otherwise, what incentive is there to follow through with the necessary and often difficult work ahead? I also routinely tell new clients that different things work for different people and that I’m committed to doing what works for them. If one approach doesn’t work, we’ll find another one. Shakespeare wrote, “The miserable have no other medicine, but only hope.” Fortunately, in our day and age, we do have medicine as well as psychological treatments. But hope will always be our necessary partner.
Your attitude evolves in a positive direction.
Engaging in spiritual practices – whether it’s praying, meditating, attending a church service, or simply spending time in nature – may help you experience positive changes in your attitudes and behaviors that will help you in your fight against anxiety and depression. For example, spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation can help you to more easily recognize and separate from the knee-jerk, emotional reactions we all experience. You learn to tune into the quiet part of yourself that knows the best thing to do at any given moment. You understand sometimes the best thing to do is accept where you are and simply do nothing for a while. Other changes may occur. You may realize you don’t have to be perfect to be loved. You may remember an old saying, “God doesn’t make junk.” Or perhaps you realize your own innate goodness (Buddhists call this “Buddha nature”). In reality, you don’t need to change so much as you need to clear away the confusion so your true self can shine through.
Your perception of the problem changes.
When you view your life is having a spiritual path, problems are not obstacles but instead, opportunities for growth and learning. You begin to believe that you are right where you need to be at any given moment. I don’t expect you to jump up-and-down for joy when you experience setbacks or encounter difficulties. But if your initial gut reaction of getting angry about the problem or feeling disappointed, you can step back and ask yourself, “what can I learn here? What opportunities are hidden behind this obstacle?” What do you think? Have you used some type of spiritual practice or path to help you cope with anxiety or depression?