Prayer’s Positive Impact on Mental Wellness

This article wasn’t written to convince you to prescribe to one religion or another, but simply seeks to highlight the benefits of a practice that spans nearly all documented religions and faith practices. It may help to define it first: a prayer is a form of meditation in which one desires to communicate with an entity revered as more holy or sacred than ones-self.  Nearly everyone has said a prayer at least once in their lifetime either whispered in a moment of frustration, fear, jest, anger or helplessness. Prayers can be an expression of our worries as well as an extension of hope for provision, protection, healing, and peace for the one practicing or someone in their life. Prayer can vary in style and can be scripture based such as The Serenity Prayer and The Rosary in Christian religions. There are also prayers of supplication, confession and, thanksgiving.    Dictionary.com states that prayer is, "a devout petition to God or an object of worship, a spiritual communication as in supplication (to make a humble entreaty), thanksgiving, adoration, intercession or confession." While Merriam-Webster defines prayer as, "an address (such as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought; a set order of words used in praying; an earnest request or wish." Despite how one would define it, it is an act that has spanned multiple generations and cultures and is easily accessible to anyone. Prayer can offer a multitude of benefits physically as well as emotionally. A recent study by Columbia University found that participating in regular meditation or other spiritual practice thickens parts of the brain’s cortex, which can guard against depression for those who may be pre-disposed.  When practiced regularly and in combination with healthy habits prayer can:

  • Help to reduce blood pressure

  • assist in managing symptoms of stress

  • increase optimism and feelings of peace

  • enhance one’s sense of purpose 

  • increase one’s faith, and

  • belief in benevolence and altruism

Researchers over at Oregon State University found that Spirituality helped to regulate emotions for those that struggled with managing their emotions. Thankfully there is no “right way” or wrong way to pray and can be employed by anyone, anytime from any religion. One can find freedom in surrendering any perceived control that we think we may assert over people and situations, relaxing in our complete and imperfect humanity. In doing so it clears our minds and hearts from negative or racing thoughts allowing us to tap into the most genuine parts of ourselves. Prayer can help develop acceptance in which we discover that despite our best intentions and endeavors we will make mistakes and at times not have all of the right answers.  Having a positive relationship or attachment to one's higher power increases the benefits of prayer but hey, don’t just take my word for it, listen to the researchers. A study at Baylor University which involved a little over 1700 participants concluded that those that prayed to loving God experienced fewer symptoms of anxiety.    Interestingly enough I prayed daily for several weeks about writing this article and the best approach to take with such a tender and private topic. This a result of those prayers...my first public article. My prayer is that my words have inspired you to consider taking just a few minutes out of your day to pray, meditate or just pause in the chaos of your day and bask in the beauty of the moment. If you are curious, there are multiple ways to get started with either prayer or meditation including numerous apps from IOS, Google Play Store, and YouTube Videos. The simplest way is to find a quiet spot in which you feel safe, without distractions, take a deep breath in through your nose, slowly exhaling from your mouth and begin your humble petition either in your mind or audibly. Try not to rush the moment but relax in the comfort, clarity and peace that follows.   Be well, be safe, be whole.



Learn more about the author of this article: Natalie Allen, MA, LCPC


10725 S. Western Ave.
Chicago, IL 60643
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