Enjoy a guest post by Jason Lewis. Learn more about Jason and the work he does over at Strong Well.
When it comes to stress relief and improving one’s well-being, there is no one-size-fits-all method. However, prayer and meditation come close to it, regardless of your religious faith (or lack of it). Unlike many medications, it has no negative side effects and is freely available to anyone at any time.
Besides improving overall mental health and reducing stress, prayer and meditation can:
help to develop a more positive outlook
improve and enrich the relationships in our lives
connect to a Higher Power (whatever you conceive that to be)
enable us to “let go” (a big plus for those who need to be “in control”)
All of this can result in better health all around. This guide presented by SilenceTeaches.com explains how.
What is Prayer?
There are many definitions and forms of prayer. It can include participating in rituals, daily scripture study, and doing devotions or prescribed prayer. However, it can also be as simple as focusing on something pleasing or of spiritual significance. In many traditions, the goal of meditation is to simply empty one’s mind of all conscious thought.
Regardless of what form it takes, there is a body of research showing the benefits of prayer. Admittedly, some of these benefits are also connected with a commitment to one’s faith and the community that also embraces it. In 2009, a study appearing in the Journal of Clinical Psychology indicated that patients suffering from depression who held a belief in a higher power responded better to treatment.
Varieties of prayer
There are two broad categories of prayer. The one that most people think of is the directed variety, in which one petitions the Deity or other Higher Power to grant a request, either for themselves or on behalf of another (such as a prayer for healing). The other category is non-directed, in which one does not have a specific request nor desires a certain outcome, but rather seeks Oneness or spiritual insight and awareness. Meditation is one example. Contrary to popular conception, meditation does not require mantras, mandalas, incense, or other accouterments although many people find them helpful. The primary goal of meditation is to clear one’s mind of all conscious thought and focus on simply being. Some people find it useful to listen to white noise during meditation. Only you can determine what works best for you, however.
The role of diet and exercise
Although the present discussion has been about spiritual practice, the fact remains that a healthy body goes hand-in-hand with a healthy mind and emotional outlook. It is no coincidence that members of many spiritual communities eat a plant-based diet and include physical activity such as gardening in their daily activities.
Therein lies a hint for people who believe they simply do not have time to exercise. There are many ways to work physical activity into your daily routine. One might be riding a bicycle rather than driving your automobile. Another could be taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or simply taking a stroll during your lunch hour.
The importance of self-care
The majority of self-care gurus now recognize the importance of prioritizing one’s self, and how it calls for a holistic approach that considers not only the mind and spirit but the body as well. Finding time for prayer and exercise may mean telling people “no” and risk alienating them, but the results for yourself will be well worth it.