Microdosing spiritual practices into daily life for mental well-being and recovery

6 June 2024
Anuradha Ghosh Written by Anuradha Ghosh
Anuradha Ghosh

Anuradha Ghosh

Anuradha is a mental health advocate, writer, entrepreneur, content marketer, and learning and...

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Insights from a therapist on how to infuse mental wellness in our lives. 

I often struggle with incorporating spiritual practices into my daily life. While I have earmarked 30 minutes on my calendar every morning to sit and meditate – there are very few days I get to it. Life gets in the way.

The house help wants to ask me something or I am running late or I can’t figure out where my car keys are. In the midst of my prefrontal cortex being alarmingly stimulated and busy, meditating is not on my mind. Or it is, but I have snoozed it into the background. 

What has helped more than earmarking those 30 minutes on my calendar is microdosing bits and pieces of mindfulness practices peppered throughout the day.

It is doable and can significantly enhance mental well-being. This approach, involving brief but consistent practices such as a 5-min meditation, 2- 3 surya namaskars, or just holding the yogic squat for a minute, walking around trees and plants, and connecting with nature, has helped with providing a sense of purposeful action, inner peace, and connection to something greater. 

The role of spirituality in mental health

There is quite a lot of content out there on spirituality and mental health. It took a while for mental health to be taken seriously and to acknowledge that therapists and psychiatrists are not just dummy medical professionals. And now, suddenly, we are at the deep end of mental health challenges. Growth, we call it, or healing, and they have serious spiritual undertones.

In fact, ​​a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders examined the effects of spirituality on depression and anxiety. The researchers found that higher levels of spiritual well-being were associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety. This study concluded that spirituality could serve as a protective factor against these mental health conditions (Koenig, 2012).

Research from Harvard Medical School examined the neurobiological effects of mindfulness meditation, a common spiritual practice. The study used MRI scans to observe changes in brain structures after an 8-week meditation program.

Results showed increased gray matter density in the hippocampus (involved in learning and memory) and decreased density in the amygdala (associated with anxiety and stress). These findings suggest that meditation can lead to structural brain changes that promote mental health (Holzel et al., 2011).

Also, a study published in the Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly focused on the role of spirituality in recovery from substance abuse. The researchers found that individuals who incorporated spiritual practices into their recovery process had higher rates of abstinence and lower levels of psychological distress.

The study emphasized that spirituality provides a framework for personal growth and coping strategies, which are crucial for long-term recovery (Kelly, Stout, Magill, & Tonigan, 2011). 

The science and the research speaks for itself. Spirituality plays a vital role in mental health, offering individuals a framework for understanding life’s challenges and a means to cope with stress. 

Dr. Lisa Miller, a clinical psychologist and author of “The Spiritual Child,” emphasizes the importance of spirituality in mental health. She states,

“Spirituality is a natural and fundamental dimension of human existence. When we nurture our spiritual lives, we are better equipped to handle life’s challenges, build resilience, and find joy and meaning.”

This begs the question—what do laymen understand when they think of spirituality? Not all of us can take to asceticism, become the Buddha, meditate for hours on end, or renounce worldly affairs.

What are the avenues of spiritual devotion that one can incorporate in daily life? 

Meditation: A gateway to inner peace

Meditation is one of the most accessible forms of spiritual practice that can be easily integrated into daily life. Microdosing meditation—practicing in short, consistent intervals—can have profound effects on mental health. Even just 5 minutes of meditation each morning can set a positive tone for the day, reduce stress, and improve focus.

Research from Harvard Medical School found that mindfulness meditation can change brain structures associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress.

There are various schools of meditation. As a practitioner, I am drawn to Samatha Vipassana more than others. That said, YouTube offers a plethora of guided meditations for us to experiment with. Netflix’s Headspace Guide to Meditation is also an easy place to start. 

Yoga and workouts: connecting body and mind

Yoga is a powerful spiritual practice that promotes mental well-being by harmonizing the body and mind. Incorporating short yoga sessions into your routine can help manage stress, improve mood, and increase overall physical health.

Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube is a great place to start. I love it when she says, “Find what feels good.” 

A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice found that yoga can be an effective adjunct treatment for depression and anxiety. Regular practice can increase gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels, a neurotransmitter associated with improved mood and decreased anxiety.

Connection with nature: Finding serenity

Spending time in nature is a simple yet powerful way to incorporate spirituality into daily life. Nature has a calming effect on the mind, reducing stress and promoting feelings of peace and well-being. A short walk in a park, gardening, or sitting outside can make a significant difference.

Personally, I have found that walking barefoot on grass helps with grounding me almost immediately. Quite a few times, my errant lower back ache disappears when I walk on the grass.

It cannot be a coincidence. I also feel like I have a better handle on my emotions and thoughts after that walk. 

Microdosing spiritual practices into daily life is a practical and effective way to enhance mental well-being and support recovery from mental health challenges.

It does need consistency to show results the way you imagine. Starting with small steps can lead to profound changes in your mental health and overall quality of life.

In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, a renowned Zen master, “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”

Embrace these moments of spiritual practice, and allow them to guide you on your journey to recovery and mental well-being.

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