Religion influences mental health by directing one’s attention outside of the self. As noted earlier every major world religious leader has instructed his followers to support and care for one another—Moses, Jesus, the Buddha, Hindu holy men, and Mohammed. All emphasized this teaching as the key to happiness and spiritual progress. Such teachings promote forgiveness, mercy, kindness, compassion, and generosity toward others. Other- directed actions can themselves produce healing in those whose lives have been scarred by deprivation, neglect, loss, and struggle. Focusing attention outside the self helps to prevent brooding over personal problems, resentments, and entitlements. Well-being is enhanced as one sees others benefiting from one’s actions. This helps a person feel more involved in the world and more related to others in it. The effect that such other-directed activities may have on resolving deep seated emotional problems in those with mental illness is only beginning to be explored. Research in the mental health field has fallen far behind work in other medical disciplines that has examined the effect of other- directed activity on those with physical illness.

Note from Marja:

Those who came to Living Room will remember our discussions about other-centeredness. Different word, but meaning the same thing as what Dr. Koenig talks about. We found that other-centeredness especially helped with depression. It kept us from the self-centeredness, so often part of depression. Thank you, Dr. Koenig, for reminding us.

I will continue these excerpts from Dr. Koenig’s book, Faith & Mental Health as I can – perhaps even daily? Keep watch.