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.
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:
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
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 link opens in a new window,4 but they all generally aim to help reduce negative emotions, slow down the heart rate and regulate breathing:
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.link opens in a new window American Psychological Association, n.d. Web. 08 May 2017.
2 Lipka, Michael. "5 facts about prayer. link opens in a new window" Pew Research Center. N.p., 04 May 2016. Web. 08 May 2017.
3 Routledge, Clay. "5 Scientifically Supported Benefits of Prayer. link opens in a new window" Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 23 June 2014. Web. 08 May 2017.
4 "Meditation: Take a stress-reduction break wherever you are. link opens in a new window" Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 19 Apr. 2017. Web. 08 May 2017.