Religious practices and their place in our life and mental health

Today, which is actually yesterday for you, our dear reader, is Yom Kippur, a day where Jews reflect on their past year, their triumphs, their mistakes and ask forgiveness for those they have wronged. The tradition is to undertake a total fast, abstaining from both food and liquid, which got us thinking about how a religious fast can be very triggering (this train of thought was sparked after reading an instagram post of someone we follow). The basic gist of their post was that they do not fast on Yom Kippur because for them it is a trigger for restricting and binging, this is honestly not something we had considered before;they went on to say how they have instituted other traditions to focus their thoughts on renewal and forgiveness in lieu of fasting.

“The power of fasting is miraculous.” - Lailah Gifty Akita, Think Great: Be Great!

It is interesting to consider how certain aspects of religious practices can trigger certain individuals and how we should, as varied religious groups, identify, acknowledge and perhaps come up with alternative options. For me personally, I have never had a religious experience whilst fasting, I am simply hungry. I try to go into the fast with the best of intentions, but end up basically having an inner dialogue with whatever version of God I am personally imagining, that goes something like this, “are you happy, my stomach is literally eating itself, am I holy enough now?!” So you can see my version of religion is more than a little warped.

“A fast is not necessarily something we offer God, but it assists us in offering ourselves” -Jen Hatmaker

The Jewish faith is FAR from the only religion that requires fasting, the list includes most major religions, Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, those of the Bahá'í faith, and the list goes on, are prescribed to fast on Holy Days. So it is important to listen to your body and decide ahead of time what you need to do, will this fast cause a relapse in your recovery, does your faith allow exceptions (most do, if a person is ill, pregnant, on their cycle, or past a certain age). If you are unsure, consult your religious leader and discuss ways that you can fulfill the religious requirement without putting your health at risk.

“Find YOUR Balance.”
― Kayla Rose Kotecki, DA#N THE DIETS: How To Recover From Restrictive Diets, Neurotic Exercising, Eating Disorders and Body Degrading

Religion should be a personal choice and along that same line of thought, so should the practices it espouses. Anything you do should bring you comfort and internal joy, it shouldn’t feel like a drudgery. Life is filled with way too many “thou shalt nots,” adding religious rules into the mix can be daunting. If covering your hair with a wig or hijab brings you joy, do it, but if they feed into some insecurity over your body or your hair, then is wearing either being done for the right reason?

Pilgrimages, food bans/requirements, fasting, to circumcise or not, to marry within your faith or not, to wear modest clothing or comes down to this, does it bring you happiness, or does it feed into a mental health issue that you are not addressing? Does it help perpetuate body dysphoria, an eating disorder, does it increase your anxiety, does it keep you in the closet...if the answer is yes, then I would ask you to consider, really consider, if continuing to following these religious rules is worth it?

“God has no religion.” - Mahatma Gandhi

This Life Hack is not one big anti religion message, quite the opposite, it is about looking at aspects of your life that may have become rote and meaningless. This is an opportunity to evaluate how religion can enhance your life, not be yet another thing to check off the list of things to do in your day, week or month. And for those who are anti-religion, or non affiliated, then this is your moment to take time to reflect, does this make me happy? Do I miss some of the traditions I grew up with? There is no rule, in our opinion, that states that you cannot pick and choose when it comes to religion and how you choose to incorporate it into your life.

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)... There are just some kind of men who- who are so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (edited because who('re) appears as a naughty word to our word filter)

Wishing you all the best,
-Team SG

Find your balance


socalpoppy's picture

This is why I follow Jesus instead of the Christian religion. He came to change religion from being a list of rules, does or don'ts. That is often the only way we humans think we can commune with God. It is not true. There is forgiveness. Our connection to God doesn't depend on what WE do only what Jesus DID to free us from the Law (the rules). Our only command is to LOVE. Love God and love the people around us. No other rules. Just love. We are free.

Jennipain's picture

Thank you SG for posting this for the people how celebrate this holiday. xo

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