Does faith make you a healthier person?
If you've followed me for a while, you know that health (specifically on this platform, mental health) is important to me and has been a driving force behind my blog. But this week I'm switching it up a little in the way I'm talking about health: I'm sharing my perspective based on my faith. And not only that, I'm the one being interviewed!
My bestie Sarah Larson interviewed me recently for a seminary course she's taking, and the interview both intrigued me and got me thinking about these interested questions she posed. The main focus of the interview is how my faith and my health inform and effect each other.
In what ways, if any, are you a religious or spiritual person?
Church has been a big part of my life my whole life. Throughout my teen and young adult years, I’ve learned to rely on and relate to God in different ways.
Can you tell me about your own faith journey and the importance of religion in your life? What has helped you to grow?
I’ve been surrounded by Christians my whole life. My parents and family modeled to me what it looks like to religiously weave God into my life. The structure of church, though it's changed in my life since I was younger, has helped me to be consistent in connecting to God. Through that consistency, I’ve been able to get to know God in a more spiritual and personal level as I’ve grown older.
Who or what is God for you?
God is the creator, He’s in everything, He has a personal relationship with me
Could you tell me, from your perspective, how you differentiate religiosity and spirituality?
Religion can sometimes be emotionally empty and just rhythms that people go through without experiencing God, versus spirituality is usually more internal and personal, without necessarily being externally displayed.
What does it mean to you to be healthy?
Being healthy to me means feeling myself physically, emotionally, creatively, socially and spiritually.
How do you experience a connection between your faith, religious practices or spirituality and your own health?
When I feel unhealthy in any way is when I usually turn to God and get closer to God. But at the same time, I can often see how God is working in my good health.
Can you tell me about any ways that your religious/spiritual beliefs have affected your lifestyle choices regarding your health?
My spirituality gives me hope that I can have mental health and its also encouraging and informs my desire to work towards social, emotional and physical health knowing that those things are all important to God.
In times of serious illness, what religious/spiritual practices or disciplines have provided the strongest base from which you draw hope and strength? How did you experience God in that illness experience?
Journaling, praying, talking with friends about it, and going to church and experiencing God with others have always been the most helpful things when I am unhealthy. I've experienced God’s peace and hope through connecting with him on my own and through the help of others around me.
There has been a lot of medical research showing that people who attend worship services regularly are healthier and live longer. Why do you think that might be? What religious practices do you engage in that have a positive influence on your health and well being?
I feel like church, at least over the past 5 years, has been really grounding for me. No matter how healthy or unhealthy I’m feeling, it’s almost always helpful to worship and be able to process and pray through whatever I’m working through either on my own during the service or with others.
Can you tell me about any religious/spiritual practices that you do with others that are important to you?
I am part of a worship team at my church, a weekly small group, regular group prayer times, learning about God together with my community, conversations with Christian friends to learn with each other/
Can you tell me about any religious/spiritual practices that you do alone that are important to you?
Prayer and meditation and journaling are important to me, as well as worshiping through music.
How, if at all, has your participation in your congregation been good for your health?
It’s given me a community of people I can be honest with and be encouraged by.
How, if at all, has your participation in your congregation had a negative impact on your health?
I think it has at times made me feel like health or spirituality has to look a certain way. Also I think sometimes it's hard to balance how much serving is healthy and it’s easy to get worn out by it.
How do you receive support within your congregation? How do you give support to others within your congregation?
Praying with other people, meeting one-on-one with people
Can you tell me about what gives meaning and purpose to your life? What are your sources of hope?
Going throughout my day to day, I feel purpose when I connect with others, with myself or connect with God. Right now, a big source of hope is that I’m not responsible for everything in the world, I only have to do what’s in front of me each day, I know that God has his hand in both that and the bigger things that I stress about.
Is there anything else you think it would be important for me to know in understanding how religion and/or spirituality are related to health for you personally?
It’s important to note that when I talk about being unhealthy, it’s almost always my mental health that I am talking about- i.e. in a season of intense anxiety
I think it’s easy to be frustrated with God and blame him for my body not being healthy. I feel like he usually resolves it in me and shows me that he cares even though I’m not feeling like I want to.
I'd love to know if you have a similar view on this, or if there are other ways your faith and your mental/emotional/social/physical health connect. Comment below with your thoughts! Or better yet, start up a conversation with a friend and get your thoughts out on this.