An individual’s faith and religion need not be isolated from their mental health journey and recovery. While researchers continue to study the pros and cons of religion on mental health, we know of some mental health positives from faith and spiritual practices, including a sense of community, connection to the larger world, hope, and purpose.
On this National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding, marked every year on the Tuesday of Mental Illness Awareness Week, two faith leaders share ways to connect spirituality and religion to better mental health — one offers a prayer and an affirmation, while the other explains how we can effectively meditate. Don’t be discouraged if you want to try prayer but don’t participate in organized religion or don’t know any formal ways to pray. You can use the following as guides to get you started, look at how religious texts talk about emotions and worries, or simply take a quiet moment to think and reflect on mental health as a broader concept.
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Alejandra Purple Liera, Traditional Indigenous Healing Prayer
Today I raise my prayer that we remember our collective power. That by supporting each other we do not lose anything, we only gain. Let us remember our sacredness. May we remember that we carry the strength of our ancestors, we carry medicine.
Our purpose on this earth is to share our light, to bring to life our prayers. Don’t leave this world without sharing your magic, without sharing your light.
When we move to the direction of our soul, when we tap into our inner fire, when we speak up, and see the strength we carry within, it opens up new possibilities and pushes us forward.
Not only have we been here in the struggle, we have been here in the light.
Affirmations for liberation
My body is a safe space. Every cell in my body is filled with joy, abundance, tenderness, and gratitude.
I give light to my dreams, I give light to all the things that bring me joy.
I reclaim my right to thrive. Joy is my birthright. Rest is my birthright.
I wake up each day honoring my truth. I am safe.
I step into my power with confidence. It is my birthright to take up space.
Liera is an educator, activist, healer, and community organizer. She is the founder of the WOC Sister Collective, which offers a wide variety of BIWOC-focused events, circles, and workshops that educate, motivate, and empower women in our community.
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Gen Kelsang Demo, Buddhist teacher
Mental health is of key importance in our ability to be happy and free from mental pain and problems.
Happiness and suffering are states of mind, so their main causes lie within the mind. If we want to be truly happy and free from suffering, we must learn how to control the mind.
The real source of happiness is inner peace. If our mind is peaceful, we will be happy all the time, regardless of external conditions, but if it is disturbed or troubled in any way, we will never be happy no matter how good our external conditions may be. External conditions can only make us happy if our mind is peaceful.
One method to develop and maintain a special experience of inner peace is by using meditation. Meditation is a method to familiarize our mind with virtue, the main cause of inner peace. There are many different types of meditation we can train in. One type we can use to transform our problems and pain into mental peace is meditation on compassion. We can use our experience of suffering and recall how many others are struggling in the same way.
We can then transform our mind into the compassionate wish, “May everyone be free from suffering,” and hold that wish single pointedly, first for one minute, then two, until we can maintain concentration on this compassionate wish for as long as we want. In this way, we take our suffering and use it to transform our mind into a positive, confident, and courageous mind of altruism.
This is just one example of how we can use meditation as a tool to solve our problems, improve our good qualities, and increase the cause of happiness – inner peace.
Demo is the Midwestern U.S. National Spiritual Director and the Resident Teacher at Kadampa Meditation Center Washington, D.C. She has been teaching Kadampa Buddhism since 1998.