Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Spiritual influence on our mental well-being

First of all, I want to very much thank Mel, David, Sarah (an ever so big welcome back to you) and Princess Heidi for your comments on my last post. Princess Heidi, I will come and visit your new blog soon. You're so lucky to have a dad who will help you with that.

I've been meaning for a while to draw from Harold Koenig's book, Faith & Mental Health, and share with you some of the treasures of thinking and understanding I have found there.

Koenig tells of nearly 500 studies during the twentieth century that reported statistically significant associations between religion and mental health. (478 out of 724 studies) (page 133)

He lists and explains ten ways in which religion could improve mental health. Religion:
  1. Promotes a positive worldview
  2. Helps to make sense of difficult situations
  3. Gives purpose and meaning
  4. Discourages maladaptive coping
  5. Enhances social support
  6. Promotes other-directedness
  7. Helps to release the need for control
  8. Provides and encourages forgiveness
  9. Encourages thankfulness
  10. Provides hope.
I wish I had the room here and the time to go into each of these points in detail. What will have to suffice is my testimony that I have found all these important in my Christian walk and important in my ability to be well. Not that I'm always perfectly well. Those who have come to know me will remember many times I have struggled. Yet my faith has grown and my mental health has improved since I began following Christ. I love my life. God has given me much to be grateful for.

Good, non-judgmental Christian support is very important for those who suffer from mental illness. People with such illnesses need Christ-like love, so they will be encouraged in their faith - so they will benefit from their faith as described in the ten points listed above.

And I'm going to, once more, mention Living Room, the support group I facilitate. I am fortunate to have the support of my entire church. The church considers this one of its most important ministries. Many people are finding support - the kind of support only a faith-based group can offer. We are helping people put their trust in God. We are helping people have hope. Knowing this gives me joy and helps keep my own mental health strong. If this were only possible for more of those who suffer!

Christians CAN help people with mental illness. I believe they want to; they only have to know how. They need the tools. They need the understanding.

Now you're probably getting tired of hearing about this, but now that my Living Room manuals are coming out, I am on a quest to see more groups start up. If you are interested in learning how to set up a Living Room group in your church, email me at When the manuals come out, I can send you copies of a manual that explains the concept (good for pastors to see) as well as a guide for facilitators. When I get them back from the printer I will be able to let you know the cost.


Sarah said...

An idea sprouted a group of people which originated even booklets. It's so exciting to see Living Room growing.
May the Lord bless you richly.
Listen my newest post will sound as if I'm depressed but wait for the second part of it ok?
Much love

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Marja,
Thanks for the acknowledgment in your post. God will bless you more for the efforts you are doing to help in alleviating the sufferings of those with bipolar disorders. I know God will bless your project- Living Room, and it will sprout worldwide for the glory of God. Thanks for the very moving post. I was so enthralled by it. God bless you more with all His precious blessings and resources for your magnanimous project.

Syd said...

What a beautiful and timely post, as usual. Thank you for sharing the list of 10 ways that religion can improve mental health. What an important reminder.

I hate to admit it but many times when I'm in the midst of a depression or otherwise stressful situation, I default to old and unproductive behaviors like worry, anxiety and fear. During these times, it may take a while for me to "remember" what I know, that no problem is too big or too small for God and that if I can just let go and let God, things will work out as they should.

I'm so thankful that God knows this weakness of mine and that no matter how long I selfishly and stupidly hold on to my problems, the minute I turn them over to Him, things begin to change. The situation doesn't usually change right away, but my perspective towards it almost always does!

I wish you all of God's blessings as you continue to plants the seeds of this wonderful ministry all around the world!

marja said...

Thank you Sarah, Mel, and Sydney for your encouragement. And how valuable encouragement like that is to receive! I don't take it for granted.