Recently, I was discussing with my friend about the health benefits of prayer. From what I have reviewed, the findings may surprise you. Regardless of background, economic level, and belief, prayer and meditation seems to contribute to a healthier existence.
The National Institute for Healthcare until a few years ago flat out refused to even review a study that had the word prayer in it. According to WebMD the NIH is now funding a study through their Frontier Medicine Initiative. The article, based on recent neurological studies, suggests that their is a definite link between prayer and health.
It is interesting to note that increased funding for these studies have almost doubled over the past 10 years. Dr. Harold Koenig, author of the Handbook of Religion and Health and the associate Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at Duke University documents nearly 1200 studies. His findings show that people, who are prone to this practice, are stressed out less, get sick less, drink less, and are less angry.
He focused specifically on meditation to understand how mind affects the body. It is believed that by radiating loving-kindness to other human beings, nurtured a benefit to those it was directed to as well as the practitioner. That, this sharing practice has by all accounts produced amazing changes both in perception, depth, and health in the participants and has shown documented physical changes on MRI brain scans.
A study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania found, by repeating certain sounds and words called mantras (the Om) that the practitioner creates within himself, vibrations leading up to a change in consciousness, a “quietude” disconnecting the mind – body. When this happens, our limbic system which regulates relaxation becomes activated. This moves deeper still controlling our nervous system, heart rate, blood pressure, metabolism, and so on. Leading to being more relaxed, the body is now more evenly regulated.
While it may not be on bended knees or crossed legs, the expression of thankfulness, gratitude, a wish to be more gentle, less angry, addition of provisions for loved ones have all pointed to a hope or a target for that direction. I think we would all agree that the world is an amazing place full of wonders and impressive contributions. If nothing more, however the method, meditation and prayer can in fact lead to a healthier existence by simple psychological change.
Advancement and resolution should be in everyone’s vocabulary. To desire and contribute to a better world whatever the technique is necessary, the more on board this ship, the better. There is an agreement in each that suggests by participating in an earnest hope, whether individually or collectively and whatever word is chosen to describe it, the same conclusion is reached.
True Life Story of Mr. Y
The older gentleman I will call Mr. Y grew up in a church home and wandered away from most of the practices he had learned as a young boy, but mentioned how throughout his life he has always had an internal dialog. He started drinking heavily and as a result, lost his family, job, and self worth. He said that he had been silently crying out during that time for help but no-one lifted a finger. Everyone was too busy pointing one.
He referenced his last evening of drinking and during a blackout, he came to believe the power of healing. Now I don’t know if his story holds truth, there is no obvious reason for me to doubt him but before me, stood a man dressed professionally who spoke articulately and insisted that he was given health and freedom from alcoholism from the sincere quiet prayers that were made.
In the West the majority of folks are familiar with the terms prayer and meditation. As more and more findings from studies about the positive effects of change because of these practices are released, the indication is that “prayer” can support health – thereby giving life. The offset of stress, an increase in trust, further development with self control are changes we could all use. We eat foods that are healthy, we exercise, and get the recommended amounts of rest. Maybe we could add an additional activity as well. Prayer and meditation does not appear to have a downside.
Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com