Whenever I start talking about anything that has possible religious connections, I know I need to tread lightly. Like politics, religious discussions can become heated and passionate. Please understand that this email is about a simple act you can do that also has health benefits.
That simple act is praying. The importance of prayer can go far beyond your spiritual well being.
It seems like the world today could use some divine intervention. At the time of my writing this, there are the simultaneous problems of the Coronavirus Pandemic and the widespread protests. Many countries around the world are struggling.
The Importance of Prayer and your Health
Besides trying to help the country (and possibly the world), prayer can be a way to help yourself. In his book “How God Changes Your Brain”, Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg shows the importance of prayer. He demonstrates how prayer can actually alter your brain and your health. Dr. Newberg and his co-author Mark Robert Waldman write that prayer may actually help in the following areas:
- Prayer and spiritual practice reduce stress.
- Just twelve minutes of meditation per day may slow down the aging process.
- Contemplating a loving God rather than a punitive God reduces anxiety and depression
- Prayer increases feelings of security, compassion, and love.
- Fundamentalism, in and of itself, can be personally beneficial
- Prejudice generated by extreme beliefs can permanently damage your brain.
- Intense prayer and meditation permanently change numerous structures and functions in the brain
- Prayer can alter your values and the way you perceive reality.
They base their conclusions on multiple brain scans and studies of people based on their religious practices. Some of the studies showed that regular prayer or meditation can bring about actual physical changes to the frontal lobe of the brain. Dr. Newberg found that people who prayed regularly for 15 years or more had thicker frontal lobes than people who didn’t.
The frontal lobe is responsible for many different requirements:
- Motor function
- Problem solving
- Impulse control
- Rationality, and
- Social and sexual behavior.
Many of these areas decline as we age. Prayer may help fight that decline.
Your Mental Health and Prayer
Prayer also helps your psychological point of view. Dr. Newberg writes in the book:
“If you allow anger and fear to dominate, you will lose the neurological ability to think logically and act compassionately toward others. In fact, it is nearly impossible to find peace and serenity if your mind is preoccupied by negative, anxious, or hateful thoughts.”
He emphasizes the importance of prayer in resolving these toxic thoughts. As your ability “to think logically and act compassionately” returns, you may also see some helpful physical improvements:
- Less anxiety
- Less sadness
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved sleep
- Better digestion
- Calmer breathing
All these benefits can accrue to you regardless of your religious preference. Even if you are an atheist, you can say a prayer of thanks to the universe for the wonderful life you’ve been given.
If you’re praying already – great! If not, why not give it a try?