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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Breaking down Martin Luther King's psychology of faith and how it can help you today...

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 19th 2009

MLK StampOn August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. led a march on Washington to let us all know that he "had a dream". In this dream he inspired hope, belief, and faith in millions of people. His message laid the foundation for faith that America, as a nation, could one day move toward the unalienable right that all men (and women) are created equal. This faith has led an African American, Barack Obama, to continue his message of hope and faith all the way to the White House. So what role does faith play in your mental health and how can it help you in everyday life?  

Faith often points to some belief in spirituality. Clinical Psychologist, Stefanie Goldstein, Ph.D. defines spirituality as "meaning making, feelings of connectedness to others, self, and/or a higher power, and the openness and search for self-transcendence." In his dream, Dr. King helped people feel connected to a sense of faith and hope that gave even those in the poorest conditions strength to carry on.

Mounting psychological research suggests that religious and spiritual beliefs have tremendous benefits for us. Being religious has been shown to support people who suffer with addictions. Those who are connected to a spiritual community have been show to be less likely to have conflictual relationships with family and children. Having a connection to spirituality has been shown to cultivate virtues that support well-being such as compassion, kindness, and forgiveness. Finally, involvement in spiritual practice has been show to have a significant effect on stress reduction.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "the foundations of a person are not in matter but in spirit."

How can you cultivate it?

You may already be connected to and find meaning in certain religious or spiritual practices. If this is the case, try and reconnect with them with a spirit of mindfulness. If you don't connect with a practice, or even feel averse to the terms religious or spiritual, mindfulness is often seen as a non-threatening practice where people can experience a sense of present moment awareness and connectedness that many define as spiritual. In a national study I conducted in 2005, 73 people across the country showed that practicing mindfulness for 5-minutes a day in connection with an object they considered to have spiritual or deep meaning, had a significant effect on stress reduction and various areas of well-being (see Journal of Clinical Psychology).

While it is often best to be guided in a mindfulness practice, you can also just try it out for yourself. Click here to read about a practice that you can do in 3 minutes right now. You can also pick up a spiritual book, go to a service, think of ways to help your community, or look online for practices that may suit you.

Psychological research shows us that hope and faith are strengths and can support us in these challenging times (see recent blog on how to cultivate hope). While it serves us well to have leaders that inspire faith and hope from time to time, in the end it is an option for us to explore ways to cultivate it in our daily lives.

As always, ask questions below or share your thoughts on the article. You can also comment below on what gives you hope and strength. Who has inspired faith, belief, and hope in you or what do you do in daily life to support this? Your comments and questions can support so many.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    I have gdream - How To Start A Business In South Carolina - Jan 20th 2009
    It has been a long journey for improvements on civil rights and equality, and with Obama being sworn in, the civil rights movement have come full circle since the "I have a dream speech". I hope Obama can concentrate on increasing jobs, advancing education, and the decreasing of our dependence on fossil fuels.

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