How Practicing Spiritual Disciplines Can Positively Impact Your Mental Health

photo of a woman in plaid sitting peacefully by the water at sunset. Her spiritual disciplines have led her here and have positively impacted her mental health.

Throughout church history, people who know Jesus as their Lord and Savior have practiced spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines are habits that help a Christian grow spiritually. These activities deepen a person’s relationship with God so they can be conformed to the image of Jesus

But did you know that the same disciplines that feed and deepen your spiritual soul can also positively impact your emotional and mental health? Let’s look at how. 

What Is a Discipline?

Merriam-Webster defines a discipline as an “orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.” In that sense, discipline is an action, not an attitude.  

When you practice a discipline, you develop yourself through self-controlled activity, exercise, or instruction. Like an athlete or musician, you practice repeatedly — even when you don’t feel like it. Practicing a discipline is not always easy or fun. But you still do it because of the eventual reward.  

And even though disciplines involve action, they’re not an end in themselves. In other words, practicing a discipline isn’t about trying to conform to “acceptable” actions you impose on yourself or that others set for you. Instead, the motivation behind disciplining yourself is to gain mastery in a specific aspect of your life.  

What Is a Spiritual Discipline?

Spiritual disciplines, explains professor Don Whitney, “are habits of devotion, habits of experiential Christianity that have been practiced by God’s people since biblical times.” 

As Christians, then, the goal of spiritual discipline is to bring us into a closer relationship with God. Again, it’s not about legalistically following a set of rules. Rather, we discipline ourselves — train ourselves — for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). Doing so helps us become the people God created us to be — and helps us stay emotionally and mentally balanced. 

Richard J. Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline, breaks down spiritual disciplines into three categories: inward discipline, outward discipline, and corporate discipline. We’ll use that framework here to look at each of these areas and how they relate to mental health. 

The Connection between Inward Spiritual Disciplines and Mental Health

Inward spiritual disciplines offer many benefits to your mental health. Some common inward spiritual disciplines include:

  • Reading the Bible. 
  • Studying the Bible. 
  • Memorizing verses or passages of Scripture. 
  • Meditating on sections of the Bible or other spiritual writings. 
  • Journaling. 
  • Praying. 
  • Fasting.

Reading, Studying, and Memorizing 

Reading, studying, and memorizing the Bible are known to do the following. (And the benefits increase when you use a physical book* rather than a digital version!)

  • Reduce stress. 
  • Help alleviate depression. 
  • Sharpen focus and concentration.  
  • Help develop greater empathy. 
  • Increase self-discipline. 
  • Help prevent memory loss. 
  • Give goals to work toward. 
  • Build knowledge and deepen wisdom. 

Journaling and Meditation

Journaling and meditation (also called mindfulness) have been proven* to:

  • Improve focus and concentration. 
  • Reduce stress. 
  • Manage anxiety and depression. 
  • Control pain. 
  • Help process past traumas.  
  • Help fight addictions. 


Fasting has many physical benefits.* (Check with your doctor before fasting.) Among other things, fasting can:

  • Sharpen thinking. 
  • Improve memory. 
  • Lower high blood pressure. 
  • Brighten overall mood. 

The Connection between Outward Spiritual Disciplines and Mental Health

Outward spiritual disciplines help you keep your mind and emotions stable and balanced. They also remind you that God’s purpose for your life extends beyond you. Outward spiritual disciplines include:

  • Giving money or time. 
  • Being generous. 
  • Serving others. 
  • Being thankful and expressing gratitude. 
  • Spending time in solitude (time spent in silence or purposeful times of resting). 
  • Choosing simplicity (reducing unnecessary complications and overcommitments).  


Research suggests that the activities of giving, being generous, and serving others can support positive mental health* because they:

  • Improve mood. 
  • Increase enjoyment in life. 
  • Lead to being better grounded and more optimistic. 
  • Reduce stress and depression.  
  • Increase connection with others. 
  • Reduce loneliness. 
  • Improve sleep, which helps brain function. 
  • Improve relationships with others. 
  • Reduce blood pressure, which can reduce levels of stress and anxiety. 


Solitude is purposeful time away from all distractions of life — people, screens, and social media included! Whether you think of solitude as “down time” or “white-noise time,” it means being alone in silence whether that’s at home or out in nature.  

Just as sleep is an important period of rest to keep our bodies healthy, silence and solitude provide important rest for our souls and minds. Practicing daily solitude even for 10 to 20 minutes is beneficial. And spending a full day in solitude every month or so can help even more.  

Time spent in silence away from others can: 

  • Increase empathy towards others. 
  • Allow the brain to rest and reboot.  
  • Reduce stress. 
  • Provide undisturbed time and space to problem-solve.  
  • Allow time to make decisions without feeling rushed or pressured. 


Choosing to live simply benefits you and others.* It means you manage your schedule and material possessions in a way that they don’t feel cluttered or complicated. And when you’re not feeling harassed by your calendar or belongings — and you’re not feeling tempted to keep up with the Joneses — you can enjoy what’s in front of you. 

Choosing simplicity can: 

  • Foster creativity and improve concentration. 
  • Reduce stress and muscle tension. 
  • Increase opportunities for experiencing joy and well-rounded living. 
  • Create margin to invest in and improve relationships.  
  • Lessen financial stress.

The Connection between Corporate Spiritual Disciplines and Mental Health

Activities that help you physically connect with other human beings are known as corporate spiritual disciplines. 

Regularly meeting with others in person — whether for a sports event, a support group, or a church worship service — can improve mental health as well as overall life satisfaction. And the benefits to your emotional and mental health increase when a gathering includes fellowship, celebration, and accountability.  

Corporate spiritual disciplines include activities where you gather collectively for: 

  • Worship. 
  • Encouragement. 
  • Teaching and guidance. 
  • Accountability and confession of sin.  

Practicing corporate disciplines regularly can:

  • Bring a sense of oneness and connectedness. 
  • Reduce loneliness. 
  • Increase empathy. 
  • Increase a sense of well-being. 

Grounding Techniques for Mental Health

Sustaining good mental health requires being grounded.  

Being grounded means being mentally and emotionally stable, practical, sensible, and realistic. And stable emotional and mental health requires regular reminders of what is real and true.  

Spiritual disciplines — inward, outward, and corporate — are solid mental health grounding techniques that can keep you tethered to what’s real and what’s true. How? 

  • Reading, studying, and memorizing the Bible grounds you to God’s truth and what He says is reality (Psalm 119; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). 
  • Being thankful grounds you in the fact that you’re ultimately dependent on God for your very life (Philippians 4:4-7). 
  • Gathering with other like-minded people grounds you to your humanity and the humanity of others. You’re grounded to the reality of being part of a bigger story — a story written by God, not you. It reminds you that you’re not alone in this world and it fosters a greater sense of meaning in life (Acts 2:42-44; Ephesians 4:25; James 5:13-16). 

Spiritual Disciplines and the Whole Person

The end goal of practicing spiritual disciplines regularly is to help you deepen your personal walk with and connection to Jesus Christ. At the same time, spiritual disciplines can support your mental health.  

That’s because God created humans as physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual beings. And He made the human body, mind, and spirit to work in unity as an integrated, whole being.  

Regularly practicing spiritual disciplines will take time, effort, and energy. But it will become easier as you make the disciplines a habit and as you start to recognize their benefits to your spiritual and mental health. 

So, when you’re thinking about your mental health, ask yourself, “How many of the spiritual disciplines am I currently doing?” Think about which disciplines you can start — or pick back up — to keep your emotional and mental health strong and thriving. 

We’re Here to Help

Maybe you have questions about the Gospel and what it means to follow Jesus. Or maybe you’ve been a Christian for a long time but the idea of spiritual disciplines is new to you and you’re not sure where to start. We’d be glad to talk with you!  

Call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department  at 1-855-771-HELP (4357) for a free over-the-phone consultation. Our licensed or pastoral counselors would be honored to listen to you, pray with you, and offer biblical wisdom. They can also refer you to a professional counselor in your area for deeper discussion. In the meantime, we recommend reading Richard J. Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline.  

* Links to secular organizations don’t mean that their content necessarily aligns with Focus on the Family’s perspective in all areas. We offer them for informational purposes only.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer. 

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Revised) 

Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ – 20th Anniversary Edition 

The Practice of the Presence of God 

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy With God 


Fasting as a Spiritual Discipline 

Praying the Psalms as a Spiritual Discipline 

Questions and Concerns About Contemplative Prayer 

Keller on Quiet Times, Mysticism, and the Priceless Payoff of Prayer 

Dynamic CTA Template Below


About the Author

Read More About:

You May Also Like

Husband and wife laugh as husband playfully pushes wife in cart inside grocery store
Emotional Health

6 Ways to Make Your Marriage Happy

Happiness is in short supply for too many couples. And the reason may be that they don’t work at it. Happiness, after all, is not something that happens; it’s something you make.

Preparing for the Holidays

Advent for Your Kids

Advent is a fun, faith-filled way to keep the family focused on Jesus throughout Christmas. Learn how to make Advent for your kids!