Graphic by Chloe Staples
With the fast-paced daily lives of teens and adults, it can be hard to find time to focus on mental health and faith. The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact research outlet that informs the public about current events, has proved people who classify themselves as “very happy” identify with a religion and actively practice it, showing people generally tend to be happier when they are a member of a faith community.
“When you look at the research on happiness, people who are religious tend to be happier than people who are not,” Cathedral Catholic High School psychology teacher Mr. Francis Caro said. “There are a lot of interpretations of why this is. One reason is that they have a community, and that’s really important for happiness and feeling like you’re connected. On the flip side, if I am religious and I don’t connect with the people at my church, that could make me feel less happy.”
People who actively practice religion also tend to do better when they are sick or stressed, because they have an outlet for their issues. Religion allows people to have a belief that something better will come, and that belief gives them commonly a more positive outlook on the future.
“If you are having serious cardiac surgery and receive strength and comfort from your religious faith, you’ll be almost three times more likely to be alive six months later,” said Mrs. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., who serves as the Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside. “Forty seven percent of people who report attending religious services several times a week describe themselves as ‘very happy,’ versus 28 percent of those who attend less than once a month.”
The companionship of neighbors in a faith community can often provide more comfort and provide a better outcome for someone going through a difficult time in his or her life.
“People who are religious tend to have a better outcome than people who aren’t,” Mr. Caro said. “What I mean is that they get through their struggle not necessarily more easily, but they’re more grounded. A lot of anxiety and depression is about a lack of control, like when we’re unhappy, worried, or sad about something. It’s because we don’t think we can make it any better. So we think, ‘I’m anxious and worried about something, and if I can stop it, I wouldn’t be anxious.’
“The helplessness that people feel, people can deal with it by praying.”
People of any faith have a belief that there is something good for them in the future, and if they don’t have to worry about what might happen when they have their faith to fall back on.
“A non-religious person might feel they cannot do anything about it,” Mr. Caro said. “On the other hand, having a belief that praying on things will work it out and knowing that there is something better down the line will help our mood and our overall mental health.”
According to Catholics, humans also have a natural need for God and for their faith. Everything in life that is material will all go away as it only provides temporary happiness, but ultimately God can only bring people true happiness that is eternal.
“When we embrace our faith and practice it, then there is a great sense of fulfillment and joy because our souls have a thirst for God,” CCHS priest Father Martin Latiff said. “God is infinite, and so we have a thirst for the infinite. The things that are finite in this world cannot quench that desire of the infinite that our soul has.
“We can find God through material and finite things, but ultimately, we have to answer that thirst in our soul to meet God. That is why our faith brings us happiness when we find God.”
Many students who are stressed feel a lack of control in life, and taking control or feeling firm in one’s spirituality can offer that crucial comfort.
“We have a lot of students who come to meet with us with a desire to grow in their friendship with God through their prayer life,” Father Latiff said. “I think what helps students the most when they come to us is they have someone that they can talk to about things that are important to us. God permits some challenges for a greater good, and I think through spiritual direction we are blessed to help our students to have a greater trust in God, and rely on him.”
The daily lives of a CCHS students can be stressful and very busy. Many students find comfort in dedicating a portion of their day to their faith, often times relieving some anxiety.
“Even though I’m not a strict Catholic that goes to church every Sunday, I definitely do feel better and more calm during my day when I have taken even just a little time dedicated to my faith,” CCHS student Grace Hogan ‘21 said. “I believe that practicing your faith is interpretive, rather than on a strict daily schedule. When I take time to pray on my own time or go to mass when I feel like I need to, I feel a lot better about my upcoming week.”
Knowing that faith resources are available for students at CCHS allows students to feel that they have a safety net in their life and that they always have someone to express their worries to.
“I believe that practicing religion affects my overall happiness because it makes me feel more calm and at peace with my life,” Hogan said. “Whenever I am stressed or worried about something, knowing that I have my faith to fall back on is super comforting.
“I feel most motivated to do my best when I am strong in my faith, so it affects not only my personal life but also my work ethic at school.”