Depression is inherently a collection of negative emotions. Many individuals who experience depression report feeling periods of sadness, helplessness, doubt, even guilt. Even worse, there is often no warning as to when these emotions will surface, and they often outstay their welcome.

Conversely, spirituality – a concern with the soul as it relates to something bigger than ourselves – is inherently a collection of positive emotions. In spirituality, many find the hope they need for each new day, alongside optimism, integrity and a sense of purpose, all tied to a belief that something spiritual exists that is bigger than any of us.

On the surface, it seems as though spirituality could provide some measure of relief for individuals experiencing depression, pairing inherent sadness with the lasting feelings of hope and belonging that spirituality offers to so many individuals. Many studies have actually considered this same question, in whether spirituality can actually provide relief for individuals experiencing depression, anxiety or any other behavioral or mental health issue.

We’re going to dive into several of the reasons why spirituality can absolutely help individuals who experience depression. However, spirituality alone is not a sufficient treatment method. We recommend that you connect with a certified health professional you trust, to help determine next steps in overcoming your depression while you pursue spirituality.

Discovering a guide toward purpose

Whether your depression manifests itself as a loss of appetite, decreased sense of self-worth, lost productivity, feelings of helplessness, prolonged worry or any other symptom, spirituality can absolutely help an individual along their journey toward purpose. Here’s are 4 ways that’s accomplished:

1) Identifying with a plan larger than yourself

No matter your degree of spirituality, spirituality itself is founded on the principle that there is a reality larger than yourself. In other words, you are contributing to a greater good that is larger than the simple positives and negatives in your own day. If you prescribe to this mentality, it can make day-to-day struggles with depression so much more meaningful; true spirituality means that no struggle is wasted, and no pain is pointless.

Give this principle a try the next time you find yourself struggling with depression. Offer up your struggles, your challenges and your shortcomings for an individual or individuals you know who could use the extra love. Identify with a reality larger than yourself, in that your struggles and your triumphs, your highs and lows are all part of a grander plan than what we can see at the moment.

2) Deepening your connection with yourself and others

Your spirit is an entirely immaterial part of you. Separate from your body parts, your spirit is the nonphysical facet of your being that defines your personality and unique identity. Spirituality allows you to deepen this part of yourself, and deepen your connection between your soul and others’.

Your body may very well be challenged by the symptoms of chronic depression. But your spirit is only damaged as much as you allow it to be. Deepen your connection with others, as well as yourself, through spirituality. The better you know yourself – physically, mentally and spiritually – the better you can truly understand what you need to survive and to thrive.

3) Actively finding purpose

There is purpose in spirituality that you won’t find anywhere else. Prescribing to a reality larger than yourself means that you’re now one part of a grander plan, and your sacrifices are never made in vain. Beyond living as part of a whole, there’s purpose in spirituality. Just as you wouldn’t want to spend all your time working out your upper body and neglect your lower body, you wouldn’t want to focus all of your time on your body and neglect your soul.

Finding purpose in spirituality lends itself to a balanced view of body and soul together. Learn to exercise your entire person – body and soul – to find a purpose not only in meeting the challenges that depression throws at you, but also in the ways you find your soul can interact with others’ during the day.

4) Desiring a better world

Spirituality helps you further a desire that many of us already feel: the desire for a better world. We want a better world not only for ourselves, but for our children and for anyone else who may live on in this world after us. Spirituality not only helps us to think selflessly about those individuals and this world as a part of the larger picture, we’re also connected with anyone who will come after us, if not in body and time than in soul.

Desiring a better world starts with desiring a better self. Like they say, if we can change ourselves then we can change the world. And changing ourselves starts with changing not only our physical habits, but also our spiritual habits. Even if it’s just 5 or 10 minutes a day, take time to pray, to meditate or to otherwise reflect on your place in this world, and on how you can use the unique challenges you face with depression to actually make this world a more loving home.

Spirituality in depression: one piece of the puzzle

Admitting you need help with your depression is the first step toward a happier, healthier life, but it’s also the hardest step and the biggest barrier you must overcome toward seeking treatment. There are so many individuals currently struggling with depression that will never receive the help they need, simply because they won’t admit to needing the help.

Don’t let the symptoms of your depression get in the way of the solution. If you’re feeling the sustained effects of depression, it’s time you got help in effectively managing that aspect of your life. Likely through a tailored combination of therapy and medication, you’ll be able to decrease the effect that depression is having on your life, while returning to many of the activities that make life worth living.

Though you can’t control whether or not you experience depression, you can absolutely control the outcome. Armed with trust in spirituality and a reliance on therapy and FDA-approved medications, you’ll be able to deploy a trusted combination of intrinsic and extrinsic treatment methods, to overwhelm depression and begin to enjoy the small things again. Take the first steps toward relief today, and pursue spirituality and treatment alike for the best chance to overcome depression on your own terms.