Thinking about the ‘big questions’ in life can be pretty daunting.
Why are we here? What's the point of life? Is there anything on the other side?
Considering that we probably can’t actually ever answer them, it might be tempting to just ignore them, and concentrate on the little things - like life and work and Netflix. Just ignore it, right? You’re only going to stress yourself out.
Well, actually, no. You really should tackle those things. A new study has found that people who were willing to ask themselves those big questions every day had lower levels of depression and anxiety.
The survey questioned 307 people about their willingness to engage with their spiritual struggles and their mental health, and suggested therapists should address this directly in sessions.
The study’s co-author Professor Julie Exline said:
Religious and spiritual struggles — conflicts with God or religious people, tough questions about faith, morality, and the meaning of life — these are often taboo topics, and the temptation to push them away is strong.
When people avoid these struggles, anxiety and depression tend to be more intense than if they faced these struggles head-on. People who more fully embrace these struggles with fundamental beliefs and values report better mental health than those who don’t.
But he didn’t say you had to follow a religion to feel better – just engaging with ideas of life and death can help your mental health:
People seem to be more emotionally healthy if they’re able to accept troubling thoughts. Looking at spiritual doubts in an objective way seems to help.
You may or may not work through them, but at least you can tolerate having them.