Stress Less Through Prayer and Meditation
Alli Walsh, Social Media Strategist
Stress Less Through Prayer and Meditation
We all experience stress some time or another. And we know that chronic stress has a negative impact on our physical and mental health. Are we doing enough to manage it?
Many people consider regular prayer and meditation important parts of stress management. May 4 was the 2017 National Day of Prayer—and May is National Meditation Month—so there’s no better time to consider easing our stress with some spiritual mindfulness. Let’s find out why.
What you need to know about stress
First, take a closer look at stress and why it has the potential to wreck havoc on our lives. The 2015 Stress in America survey1 from the American Psychological Association found that on a scale of 1 (little to no stress) to 10 (a great deal of stress), the average level of stress for women was 5.3 and men 4.9. Importantly, more than one-third of adults (34%) report that their stress increased over the past year.
What are we stressed about? Most commonly:
- Money – 67%
- Work – 65%
- Family responsibilities – 54%
- Personal health concerns – 51%
- Health problems affecting the family – 50%
- Economy – 50%1
The good news is that adults today are significantly more likely than last year to recognize the connection between stress and physical and mental health.1 That means we’re more aware of the signs of stress—feeling nervous or anxious, sad or depressed, constant worrying, irritability or anger—and perhaps we’re motivated to do something about lowering our stress levels before they start negatively impacting our food choices, sleep quality and personal relationships.
When it comes to stress relief, people tend to listen to music, exercise, walk, surf the internet, relax with a movie or spend time with family. But they’re also incorporating prayer and meditation into their anti-stress toolbox.2
Prayer and Meditation
Research has shown that more than half (55%) of Americans pray every day—and even 20% of the religiously unaffiliated say they pray daily.2 That’s because prayer connects people to a “higher power” that provides comfort and guidance, especially in times of stress. It has other benefits too. It has been shown to improve self-control, make you nicer, make you more forgiving, increase trust, and offset the negative health effects of stress—especially if the prayer focuses on the welfare of others.3
During meditation, the goal is to find serenity and calmness of body and mind and to reach a “happy place” where we have a new perspective on stressful situations. There are many different types of meditation, including these described by the Mayo Clinic ,4 but they all generally aim to help reduce negative emotions, slow down the heart rate and regulate breathing:
- Guided meditation: A teacher talks through the process of forming mental images of places or situations you find relaxing.
- Mantra meditation: Silently repeating a calming word, thought or phrase (can be a prayer or devotional text) to help push out distracting thoughts
- Mindfulness meditation: Focusing on the flow of breath, observing thoughts and feelings without judgment, and staying in the moment
- Qi gong, tai chi, yoga, and walking: Incorporating movements, postures, and breathing to balance your body and mind.
Prayer and meditation often go together—they’re complementary. But when used to offset stress, they take your health and wellness to a better place.
1 American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association, n.d. Web. 08 May 2017.
2 Lipka, Michael. "5 facts about prayer. " Pew Research Center. N.p., 04 May 2016. Web. 08 May 2017.
3 Routledge, Clay. "5 Scientifically Supported Benefits of Prayer. " Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 23 June 2014. Web. 08 May 2017.
4 "Meditation: Take a stress-reduction break wherever you are. " Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 19 Apr. 2017. Web. 08 May 2017.
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