5 Health Benefits of Prayer, Meditation and Spirituality

Posted by on April 26, 2019 in Alternative Health Care, Health with 0 Comments

By Jillian Levy | draxe.com

1. Lowers Inflammation

For many people, the simple act of praying results in a greater sense of well-being. But how does slowing down and becoming more in touch with a higher being or your “true self” help you live a healthier life? The answer has to do with chronic inflammation caused by stress.

Inflammatory responses are the body’s natural reaction to stress, but unfortunately, inflammation is at the root of most diseases too, especially when it reaches high levels and isn’t controlled. That stress can come in many forms — whether it’s a poor diet, not getting good sleep or holding a stressful job.

Small amounts of stress can be a good thing — for fighting off illnesses, helping us heal, or preparing us for an important event or work obligation, for example — but when we chronically trigger inflammation, our bodies can turn on themselves and essentially start attacking our own tissue. There’s a lot of strong evidence showing that elevated stress hormones, such as increased cortisol, can lead to hormonal imbalances; low immunity; and increased rates of infection, food cravings, and anxiety and depression for this reason.

2. Raises Immunity

Many experts believe in the theory that there’s a strong relationship between chronic inflammation and aging, likely due to stress’s negative impact on the thyroid and adrenal glands, which can cause burnout or adrenal fatigue. Over time, the negative effects of inflammation build up to create conditions in the body that are a result of low immune function and promote age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. That’s because inflammation increases free radical damage and oxidative stress, which are the very causes of “aging.”

Slowing down, getting in touch with the things in life that really matter most and purposefully practicing relaxation techniques like healing prayer can help keep the chronic inflammation in check, immunity high and related diseases at bay. In fact, one 2012 study published in the Journal of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found that when researchers conducted a randomized blinded trial and added prayer to normal cancer treatment in 1,000 patients, the prayer-intervention group showed significantly greater improvements over the control group for the primary endpoints related to spiritual well-being, emotional well-being, and functional well-being. (2)

3. Increases Longevity

Want to know how to be happy and healthy, like some of the oldest living people in the world, such as those who live in the so-called blue zones? Many centenarians report that their spirituality is something that keeps them going every day, giving them a purpose to wake up in the morning. Some studies have shown that a spiritual practice maintained by older adults can act as a natural buffer against chronic stress and helps reduce the chances of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, strokes, and other common age-related conditions.

It doesn’t matter if you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu — studies have shown that attending religious services regularly, even as infrequently as once a month, can make a difference in how long a person lives. Amazingly, a 2010 study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior followed 3,617 people for seven years and found that those who attended religious services at least once a month reduced their risk of death by about one-third! As a group, the attendees had a longer life expectancy, with an impact about as great as that of moderate physical activity. (3)

The National Institute of Health Adventist Health Study had similar findings. After following more than 34,000 people over a period of 12 years, researchers found that those who went to church services frequently were 15 percent to 25 percent less likely to die at any age. Clearly, these results show that people who pay attention to their spiritual side know how to reduce stress and therefore have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, depression stress, and suicide, and their immune systems seem to work better. (4)

Healing prayer benefits - Dr. Axe

4. Reinforces Good Habits

Healing prayer and meditation both help increase “mindfulness,” which really means living in the present moment, letting go of limiting or challenging beliefs from the past, and getting to know your own thoughts and tendencies better. In recent reviews, changes in brain function during meditation and other mindfulness techniques have been documented using electrophysiology, single photon emission computed tomography, PET and functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Results differ somewhat, but in general, they show increased signals in brain regions related to the regulation of emotions; attention control; and increases in the release of the “feel good hormones” dopamine, GABA and serotonin. Reviews of the positive effects of the relaxation techniques known as “mindfulness-based stress reduction” (MBSR) have found that this type of practice can naturally decrease depression, anxiety, and psychologic distress in people with chronic diseases, plus it can reduce stress, ruminative thinking, and anxiety even in healthy people. (5)

As a result of making time for these mood-boosting relaxation practices, you’ll likely find yourself able to stick with other important habits related to a healthy lifestyle — for example, eating right, sleeping well, exercising, and spending time with and appreciating friends or family. These are all things that become easier when our mind is in a good place, our hormones are balanced and our neurotransmitters are working properly.

Even though in the U.S. and many other developed nations we generally hold working and being very productive in high regard, “burning ourselves out” and neglecting time to relax or take care of ourselves casts a wide, negative shadow on our lives and health. Creating a schedule when we meditate or pray daily at home, or joining an institution or community that exists to encourage us to do this, is a powerful way to regularly slow down, unwind and de-stress.

5. Puts Us in Touch with Our True Purpose, Which Fights Anxiety and Depression

Dr. Robert Butler and his research team led an 11-year comprehensive National Institute of Health-funded study that looked at the correlation between “having a sense of purpose” and longevity. (6) His team followed highly functioning people between the ages of 65 and 92 and found that individuals who expressed a higher purpose and clear goal in life — something to get up for in the morning and something that they felt truly made a difference — on average lived longer and were sharper than those who did not.

What do they mean by “a sense of purpose?” This can be something as simple as seeing and helping children or grandchildren grow up well, doing volunteer work that helps other people, or teaching younger people important life lessons. This is an effective way to reduce stress or fight depression and anxiety while increasing self-worth and self-esteem. The positive effects of such practices can also help fight other conditions related to stress like PMS and cramps, headaches, “the winter blues,” trouble sleeping, and so on.

According to researchers of The Blue Zones, a book that studied the habits of the longest-living people on earth, spirituality and purpose can help increase longevity because it helps people enter into a “Zen-like state of total oneness … you feel fully immersed in what you’re doing. It’s characterized by a sense of freedom, enjoyment, fulfillment, and happiness.”

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