In a recent study, scientists found children who reported having some level of spirituality or religion in their lives were found to be happier. This study was shown to parallel others done among adults as well.
Not only were the spiritual or religious individuals happier at the time of the study, but they also proved to have a higher likelihood of future happiness than those who were not spiritual.
So, the question is, how happy are you?
According to religionists and even science, there’s at least one simple way to feel happier today: pray.
Below are 11 potentially surprising benefits of prayer you may never have considered.
1. A Way to Handle Stress
Find yourself feeling a little overwhelmed at work? Relationships got you pulling your hair out?
Whatever your cause of stress might be, meditation and prayer are age-old methods for coping.
The University of Florida even published a study about seniors who used prayer to cope with the stresses of age and life. The study found prayer was their number one “alternative” remedy for stress coping.
Pretty cool, eh? 96% of older adults in the study reported using prayer as their most effective way to improve mental and emotional health and feel less anxious about various problems.
Prayer might not be able to tackle that long list of to-dos for you, but it can certainly bring you peace of mind and a sense of calm and help to get you started on it.
Having communion with a higher power can also lower your heart rate, give you a chance to refocus and asses whatever is causing your stress. Prayer can help you talk through a method for coping with or handling the stressor.
2. Reduce Pain
This is a remarkable benefit of prayer. Think about it, how many hospitals have you noticed that provide a room for prayer? Lots.
Prayer is a proven method for helping individuals suffering from pain, especially chronic illnesses.
Having a specific time set aside for religious meditation or prayer has been shown to be more effective at reducing pain and increasing one’s tolerance for it than non-religious meditation.
Interestingly, prayer can reduce both physical aches and pains and emotional hurts. Taking time to open up your heart and mind about what is ailing you, whether physical or emotional, is akin to therapy.
Why not save yourself some time and money on expensive counseling sessions and simply kneel down at home?
Describing what is bothering you or how the pain feels can act as a relief to your mental and emotional injuries.
3. Live Longer
Looking for that elixir of life? Ok, so prayer won’t exactly make you live forever… but it just may lengthen your time here.
Prayer has been shown (perhaps in part to all the other benefits of prayer working together), to lengthen life-spans of those who do it regularly.
Whether it’s due to a decrease in stress, a sense of happiness and well-being, or just peaceful quiet time on the regular, those who pray tend to age better and die later in life. Sweet!
4. Strengthen Relationships
Admit it, it’s kind of hard to harbor negative feelings for someone if you’re praying they have a good day or safe travels.
Including a friend or family member in your prayers makes it easier to forgive them or let old hurts go. It helps you feel closer to them as you think about their needs or hopes.
Couples who pray for each other are shown to be less likely to be unfaithful.
Many studies also show couples who are more willing to sacrifice for each other report greater relationship security and satisfaction. Taking time to pray and put your partner’s needs high on your prayer list can strengthen your bond.
You may even find yourself gaining insights or ideas as to how to help someone you pray for or improve your interactions. Reflection and prayer are a perfect method for relationship evaluation.
5. Fight Disease
Whaaat…? You’ve been avoiding processed foods and smoking for nothing? Not really, all your normal wise health practices are still important to fighting off and preventing disease.
But, including prayer in your healthy lifestyle is also proven to help prevent certain disorders or hormone levels that can lead to disease.
For example, prayer helps reduce your blood pressure. The relaxation that occurs during regular times of prayer helps trigger other disease-fighting genes to kick into gear.
Harvard Medical School showed how relaxation during prayer led to bodies more able to ward off cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and even infertility.
The calm, mindfulness that occurs during prayer helps the body on a genetic level as it reduces potentially harmful hormones like adrenalin and cortisol. You might want to ask yourself, “do you need prayer?“
6. Helps with Symptoms of Depression
While those suffering from clinical depression may need a physician’s and/or therapist’s help, prayer is also a great tool for helping fight negative symptoms of depression.
Prayer increase levels of the hormone dopamine in your body. It can boost your personal sense of well-being and peace. Prayer helps individuals feel there is a greater meaning and purpose to life.
With the increased release of dopamine that often occurs during meaningful prayer, you may experience greater feelings of motivation, hope, and cognition.
Healthy levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, are also known to combat feelings of anxiety and depression. Prayer can help you feel that you have a source for help and that you are not alone in your struggle.
Brain scans show the thinning of certain areas of the brain that can sometimes occur in cases of severe depression is found to be strengthened in those who pray regularly.
7. Help Prevent Poor Decisions
When you’re considering whether to move cross country for that new job, break-up with a significant other, go out on a limb and start your own company, it’s nice to have time to really think things through.
Prayer is a great way to verbalize and think through every aspect of potential choices.
Praying regularly gives you an opportunity to come to know your own mind better and what you feel will really make you happy. Prayer lets you talk through pros and cons as well as seek counsel from a higher power.
Even the simple act alone of saying things out loud can help you visualize what a certain choice will end up as if made.
8. Eliminate “Noise”
Today we have just about everything you can think of to distract us. Cellphones, iPads, t.v.’s, emails on your watch, there’s hardly a moment free to just think your own thoughts.
Prayer can be that moment.
Setting time aside each day to have peace and quiet and to pray and verbalize your thoughts and desires, can help you figure out what things matter most.
Are you spending too much time in one area of work or life? Do you need to get a break? Do you need to talk to your mom more?
Prayer opens up space in your day to let important questions like these have room to enter. Not only this, but being constantly plugged-in to a device, newsfeed, or television can wear you down.
Prayer can give your mind a break and help you enjoy a little quiet time.
9. Boost Your Confidence
You read that right. Prayer can help improve your feelings of self-worth. During prayer, you have a chance to honestly and privately assess what your own strengths and weaknesses are.
Sometimes during quiet reflection, you have more ability to recognize what you are actually doing well in life.
Prayer is also a good way to give yourself a boost before an important event. Are you presenting before the board at work and need a little encouragement? Whisper a prayer!
Are you finally about to ask that cutie at the coffee shop out but need some courage? Whisper a prayer! You get the idea.
Having a feeling that you’re not alone in your efforts is a nice way to increase your resolve to do hard things. When you do good, you feel good. Prayer helps boost your self-confidence
10. Learn to Listen and Find Answers
Prayer is a great way to attune yourself to God and His will. Do you have questions about who you are, where you came from, and what you are doing here?
Prayer can lead you to discover answers to life’s most meaningful and important questions. It allows you to open up a pathway of communication with your Father in Heaven.
You can come to know God better as you speak with him and listen for his answers. Prayer can lead you to look for responses from God in your daily life and the events of it.
It can help you become a better listener in general, thus improving your relationships with others as well. There’s really no downside to prayer.
11. Relieve Guilt
Regardless of your religious beliefs or the state of your spirituality, most people feel a sense of guilt when they’ve hurt someone or done something they know to be wrong.
Prayer gives you a chance to seek forgiveness and feel clean again after making mistakes.
In combination with trying to undo or right your errors, prayer can give you needed validation to move forward from a mistake.
Are there More Benefits of Prayer?
While this list of 11 benefits of prayer may seem quite long, it only scratches the surface. Prayer is a great way to improve your overall health, well-being, and happiness.
For more ideas on how to live a happy, healthy life, check out our post on the importance of getting in touch with your creative side to feel happier. Enjoy!