Inspiring Connection: Martin Luther King Jr.
On 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 tospirituality 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.
How can you cultivate it?
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "the foundations of a person are not in matter but in spirit."
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 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.
Please share you thoughts, questions and stories below. 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.