J2S – The Impact of Spirituality on Mental Health (Episode 4)
Heart racing, head aching, pores sweating, limbs shaking, in a complete state of confusion and desperation. I would say I have always felt I had a strong mind, with that nothing-is-impossible kind of attitude toward life, not on that day, however. Two days before, we had a visitor at our home in Lagos. Everything seemed normal. For weeks before the visit, my head was in a complete mess, “I am four months into my acceptance of this new reality, but things are still the same”, I had been thinking for a while. If the causes of my perceived problems were spiritual, then why haven’t things automatically changed for the better after having performed four different rites and rituals? I wondered. What could this mean?
It appeared nothing worked in my favor, but I wouldn’t bring myself to accept such negativity. Neither would I let my life be directed by an external being in form of a spiritualist or psychologist, so I searched deeper into myself to find the answers I needed. At this point, I knew my mental health was in danger as suicidal thoughts crossed my mind for a split second the day before my journey from Lagos to Onitsha. For the first time in a while, I didn’t like myself. I didn’t like the life I had created. And it was out of character for me not to take responsibility for my life, as every decision that got me to where I was was made by me.
Fear was what it was, as I found out on my way to Onitsha. I feared my possible reality. Spirituality is defined as the recognition of a feeling or sense or belief that there is something greater than myself, something more to being human than sensory experience, and that the greater whole of which we are part is cosmic or divine in nature. My sensory experience was in denial of the cosmic forces that controlled my experiences on this earthly plane.
My bad habits, addictions, and immoral tendencies were my downfall, but being too difficult to stop or curb, I made excuses that made me normalize these behaviors for the longest time. And then my thought-life, which I had altered with these behaviors over time had deteriorated excruciatingly to the point of me praying not to wake up the next morning (a coward’s way out). I could not blame anyone else but myself. I was at ground zero again and like other times, the only way to go was up, as six feet was the way down left, and as God or the universe will have it, I wasn’t taken in my sleep. Waking up every morning meant the opportunity to get it right.
This led me to dig deeper into the connection between spirituality and mental health. Firstly, I had to stop creating reasons to go back to eat my vomit. Meaning I had to drop behaviors that didn’t serve me for good this time. I also needed another opinion about my existence. I needed to know what being a DIBIA really meant, so I reached out to one of my spiritual directors to get a grip on what my issues were.
It is crazy how we already know the answers to our problems but needs to be told repeatedly by other people. Obviously, my way of life was getting the way of the experiences I wanted to bring to my reality. And he reminded me in the way that I needed to hear, harsh and honest. I listened like a clueless child as he poured into my soul, the words that I needed to make that turnaround. “It is now or never”, I said to myself as I listened patiently.
“The reality in this material world is the dream, and the real world is in the spirit. As a DIBIA, you have been blessed with knowledge, but without discipline and commitment to do right and focus on why you have been given this gift, you would remain in this loop you have chosen”, not his exact words, but close to one of the points he made on that hour thirty minutes call. He added, “You are on the path of self-mastery, and it takes dedication, humility, and steadfastness to attain. Unlike some other religions, the way of our African spirituality isn’t hypocritical. You can’t say one thing while you do another. Alignment with the universe on a continual basis entails that you practice what you preach while living a life in accordance with your spirit. Your issue is your lifestyle, change it and find you will find inner peace.”
Like a miracle, my mental health felt better after that call. Productivity soared, my thought life was pristine, and my focus on the things that mattered improved immensely. We live in this material world tied to the things of the flesh, imprisoned in an envelope of confusion with all the lies we choose to believe.
Our forefathers had a writing system called Nsibidi, but we were made to believe we had no form of writing before the Western invasion of our land. The ways of our ancestors are sinister and evil, they say. Even when we were moral enough to walk our streets half-naked without our women being scared of rape or other forms of sexual oppression. How then have we gotten this depraved and immoral with supposed better religions that have our women all covered up but scared to walk in crowded places for fear of being harassed and molested? One must ponder.
Our spirituality is tied to our mental health. A poor spirit life leads to a poor mental state. To rid me of the thought of suicide meant to confront myself and do better. How can I be at peace when I live a carefree lifestyle that affects not just me, but my loved ones too?
How Spirituality Impacts Mental Health
Our spirituality influences many decisions that we make. It urges us to build better relationships with ourselves, others, and the unseen. Spirituality helped me deal with weeks of mental stress by giving me a sense of peace, purpose, and productivity. In times of emotional stress or illness, it becomes even more important
A. Here are some positive impacts of spirituality
There are several ways spirituality supports our mental health:
- It gives us a feeling of a higher sense of peace, purpose, hope, and meaning.
- We experience higher self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-control.
- When ill, spirituality helps us feel inner strength which results in faster recovery.
- We build better relationships with ourselves and others.
- Our experiences in life begin to make more sense.
B. How to Improve Spiritual and Mental Health
As I took measures to support a healthy mental state, I had to make sure I also took care of my spiritual health. There are various approaches that work differently for different people. Firstly, I realized that I must do what makes me most comfortable and happy. Here are some ideas that can help you improve your spiritual and mental health:
- Discover what makes you feel loved, strong, peaceful, and in alignment with your spirit.
- If you can, dedicate a part of your day to the service of others and the community.
- Read inspirational and motivational self-help books.
- Mindfulness and meditation.
- Outdoor walks help in clearing the mind.
- Pray – alone or with other people.
- Exercise and practice yoga.
- Engage in your favorite sporting activity.
- Create a quiet time for yourself.
Spiritual Health vs Mental Health
Assessing your spiritual health is sometimes necessary as part of assessing your mental health. Mental issues such as depression and substance abuse can be a sign of spiritual emptiness in your life. It is therefore important to understand the difference between a spiritual crisis and a mental illness to get to the root of whatever your problem is.
Watch out for the next episode >>> Uncovering the Superiority of African Spirituality in the True Story of the Black Panther
J2S – journey to self