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Mental well-being and the power of prayer

Jolel Miah on how faith, culture and religion can help to enhance mental health

Jolel Miah on how faith, culture and religion can help to enhance mental health


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What we believe about the world plays an important role in the way we think and behave. People come from a range of backgrounds and have different faiths and religions, and whether we believe in the afterlife or not certainly has an effect on our everyday behaviour.

For example, some people choose to consume food that has been prepared in a certain way – halal or kosher – and others may not follow the same choices. Faith groups may encourage abstinence from mind-altering substances to maintain health and well-being. Most faiths, if not all, encourage positive behaviours, such as kindness, compassion and empathy.

Congregation

Praying in a congregation, whether in a temple, mosque or church, can help to reduce social isolation and enhance well-being: such environments gives people and communities the opportunity to thrive and prosper. If we live well, we are able to contribute positively to our families, friends, neighbours and the wider society.   

‘I believe faith has a huge role to play in creating and building communities which can enhance people's well-being through a non-judgmental environment’

For me and others who think like me, healthcare is embedded in faith guidance, and allows us to practise positive behaviours. Subsequently, we have to accept that we won't get everything right overnight and it may take time to get a particular behaviour in place.

Once we have learned the techniques and practised over time, the behaviour will become conditioned and, in some cases, can be formed as muscle memory. In a deeper sense, it is taking an unhealthy behaviour from the subconscious into the conscious and adapting our behaviour through learning and exercise so that it becomes a subconscious, but healthy behaviour.

Faith integral to healthcare

There is some evidence to suggest that faith plays an integral part in healthcare and also in recovery from mental illness. But we should not consider faith as a tool to use when things don’t go well for us – it should be an integral part of the person from the beginning, rather than an afterthought.

‘Whether we believe in the afterlife or not certainly has an effect on our everyday behaviour’

I believe faith has a huge role to play in creating and building communities which can enhance people's well-being through a non-judgmental environment. All it will require is creative thinking and genuine belief that it can be done while maintaining that faith has the answers.   

Applying behavioural science (activities and interactions among human beings) is central to the work we do at the Our Minds Matter charity, which I founded. We focus on changing the perceptions that people have about mental health and teach people relevant skills, including how to spot signs of mental health problems and how to listen others and start helpful conversations.

This is primarily achieved through the programme of Mental Health First Aid and the national mental health campaign Time To Change.

Encourage and share

In addition, we encourage those we come in contact with to practise what we have taught them and share their knowledge with others. Using simple behaviour change strategies like this can improve wellbeing and help to prevent mental health problems.

We know that the environment – including the way we were brought up and where we work and live – can have an effect on how we are in the world.

At Our Minds Matter we focus on social networks – including friends, family, neighbours and colleagues. It is an effective way to create a safe space for people who might be experiencing mental health problems.


About the author

Jolel Miah is a PhD student at the University of Bedfordshire, a health psychologist in training and founder of the charity Our Minds Matter

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